Obama's 2016 budget includes an increase for MSHA, help for coal communities

February 3, 2015

President Obama’s 2016 budget blueprint includes a increase for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), protections for mine workers whose pension plans that are underfunded as well as funds for mine reclamation, clean coal technology and coal communities.

MSHA would see an increase of $395 million, roughly five percent, from the current level. The increase includes $8 million for coal mines, $1 million for standards development, and $4 million for educational policy and development. The White House budget also allows the agency to reallocate some funding to help pay for inspectors or investigations. The budget proposal will be taken into consideration by Congress. Fiscal year 2016 runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30.

The budget also includes protections for 100,000 mine workers whose pension plans are underfunded, plus help for those whose health insurance claims have been denied because of bankruptcy protections for the bituminous coal industry.

The proposal increases transfers from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement to cover pensions and health care, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

United Mine Workers of America supports the proposal, its president, Cecil E. Roberts, said Monday, noting that it provides a long-term fix without new appropriations.

Obama also wants to spend $1 billion over five years to address contamination and reclaim abandoned mines. Funding also would come from the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund.

His budget also would provide $2 billion in tax credits for new and retrofitted electric generation units with carbon-capture technologies that help meet new emissions standards.

The budget also includes a proposal for a new program aimed at bolstering coal communities as the nation’s energy consumption shifts to become more heavily reliant on natural gas. It would provide retirement security for mine workers and accelerated cleanup of abandoned mines at a cost of $55 million over two years.

The White House dubbed the new program the POWER+ Plan, an acronym for Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization.

Its funding would help coal communities diversify their economies, create jobs in other industries and provide job training and re-employment services to dislocated workers, according to budget documents.

The Labor Department would have $20 million to distribute to states that recently experienced plant closures or mass layoffs in the coal industry. States could use it to provide subsidized employment, job training and other services to help the unemployed.

Meanwhile, $25 million would go to the Appalachian Regional Commission, which would use it to help transitioning coal communities access capital, enter new markets and address barriers related to adequate water, sewer and telecommunication infrastructure.



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