Some spectacular numbers were reported by the Associated Press yesterday. Apparently the U.S. Department of the Interior is distributing $395 million this year to 25 states and 3 tribes for coal strip mine reclamation (that is, trying to make land look and act something like it did before thousands of acres were blasted into rubble down hundreds of feet from the surface). Since 1977, the federal government has spent more than $7 billion trying to restore 285,000 acres of land strip mined for coal.
But that’s not the good part. The really impressive number is this: of the $395 million that Interior will spend this year, only $150 million will come from fees paid by the coal industry based on production. The remaining $245 million comes directly from the U.S. Treasury – you and me, that is, the taxpayer. Did somebody say recently that they’re looking for ways to cut the federal budget? How about we stop paying to clean up somebody else’s mess?