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Interior Department promises $260M for coal communities

Interior Department promises $260M for coal communities
Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., is shown speaking during her Senate confirmation hearing on February 23. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., said he will support her nomination. Photo by Jim Watson/UPI | License Photo

March 1 (UPI) -- The Biden administration announced Monday more than $260 million available to assist communities struggling with the decreased demand for coal.

The Interior Department said more than $152.22 million is now available through the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act's Abandoned Mine Land grant program. The department said it will also distribute $115 million through the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization grant program.

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"The Abandoned Mine Land grant programs provide an important opportunity to revitalize local economies, support jobs and address environmental impacts to communities from these legacy developments," the Interior Department's Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Laura Daniel Davis said in a statement.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said there is still "much work to be done" to clean up damage to lands and water in communities negatively affected by coal mining.

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"I will be reintroducing legislation to extend the AML fee, which is currently set to expire in September, to ensure this important reclamation work can continue without interruption," Manchin said. "I am also glad that West Virginia will receive $25 million through the AML Economic Revitalization grant program, which provides additional funding for economic development projects on abandoned mind lands."

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In the meantime, Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., has faced scrutiny in her bid to become the first Native American secretary of the Interior Department.

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., announced Monday that he will support Haaland, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe.

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"I am committed to working with Rep. Haaland, Republicans and Democrats on policies that help our state's economy grow, honor our outdoor heritage, and ensure that the federal government lives up to its treaty obligations to Arizona's tribal communities," Kelly said in a statement.

Haaland faced two days of intense questioning from Republicans on issues ranging from her views on fossil fuels to past Twitter posts she wrote about Republicans.

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