Members of an Ohio House of Representatives committee took a first glance earlier this week at a bill aimed at directing revenue toward stalled mine reclamation efforts in the state’s coal producing area.
Democrat Rep. Jack Cera of Bellaire introduced House Bill 15 and provided sponsor testimony of the measure that would support abandoned mine reclamation, promote mine safety, and encourage the employment of laid-off mine workers.
Cera has proposed an allocation of 3 percent of the state’s kilowatt hour tax receipts to bolster dwindling severance tax revenue for abandoned mine reclamation and acid mine drainage abatement and treatment.
“The legislation also calls for earmarking an additional 0.75 percent of the kilowatt hour tax to the Mine Safety Fund to help with safety training for existing coal miners and for the operation of the Mine Training Center,” Cera told committee members. “The kilowatt hour tax generates about $450 million per year which goes to the General Revenue Fund.
“This bill then would add about $13.5 million to the reclamation work and about $3.3 million for mine safety. The $13.5 million would just about double what is available for the federal government for reclamation and allow a funding source to be in place in case that money dries up.”
HB 15 would mitigate water pollution that has resulted from acid mine drainage, the lawmaker added.
“By restoring these sites, we can help improve land and water resources adversely affected by pre-law coal mining practices, especially in eastern Ohio,” he said.
The legislation also requires the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to develop a bidding process that encourages the hiring of dislocated coal miners by companies contracted to complete mine reclamation work.
Cera characterized the balanced nature of his bill as it addresses some of the critical economic and environmental problems faced by communities in the coal-producing area of the state.
“This bill will help address funding problems for reclamation work, while also helping put displaced miners back to work,” he said.
He said the state finds itself in the situation “for a variety of reasons,” including regulatory issues and competition from other energy sources.
HB 15 enjoys the cosponsorship of four of Cera’s fellow House members.
It had not been scheduled for further hearing as of publication.