In a rare display of unity, members of the coal lobby joined with environmental advocacy leaders to raise concerns following Gov. John Kasich’s (R-OH) decision to raid the state’s coal mining reclamation fund.
In 2017, the state of Ohio was facing a heavy tax shortfall as a result of decreased tax revenues. In response, Kasich withdrew over $114 million dollars from 16 separate state agencies in order to fund more essential government functions.
The Ohio coal mining reclamation fund was among these and lost more than $5 million. Currently, there are no plans or provisions in place to replace the funds.
The fund is paid for by taxes collected from state coal mining companies, intended to reverse the damage done by mining over the past two centuries.
For over 200 years, Ohio has been a major center of coal mining in America. Mining was essential to the development of Ohio’s economy. While surface mining can be done responsibly, the depleted land often requires significant investment to repair. Should this not occur, environmental damage can extend well past the intended areas.
According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’s Division of Mineral Resources, as of 1972, the problems included:
- 1,300 miles of streams polluted by acid mine drainage
- 500 miles of streams affected by sediment deposition
- Nearly 119,000 acres of land in need of major reclamation efforts
- Hundreds of acres of land prone to deep mine subsidence
- Polluted domestic water supplies
- Hundreds of acres of landslides, among other problems
Since 1977, the fund has ensured that Ohio taxpayers do not pay for these repairs. With the money withdrawn, it is likely that these repairs will cease indefinitely or the cost will be shifted onto taxpayers.
Currently, Ohio employs more than three thousand coal miners. While the number of coal miners has dropped over the past several decades, coal production in Ohio has never been more efficient. The average coal miner produces 48 tons of coal in a single workday.
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