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A House committee in the coming week will consider a bill to help beleaguered communities in coal country.

A House Natural Resources panel will meet on Wednesday to discuss the RECLAIM Act, a bill from several Appalachian lawmakers that looks to inject federal funds into the region and help jump start economic activity there.

Members tried last session to pass a version of the RECLAIM Act, but they were not able to get the bill to the floor for a vote.

This session’s legislation — introduced by Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) — would redirect $1 billion from a federal mine clean-up fund to job programs in states like Kentucky, West Virginia and others, where local communities long supported by coal mining have faltered amid an industry downturn.

The bill would give cities and localities funding to invest in public infrastructure programs that would both put people to work and attract new jobs. It is designed to diversify the economy in coal-heavy parts of the country.

{mosads}The plan has powerful allies: Rogers was chair of the House Appropriations Committee until this year, and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has supported a Senate version of the bill.

But it could miss some key supporters in the executive branch this year. Former President Barack Obama had crafted his own economic support program for Appalachia during his presidency, and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton last year proposed something similar.

President Trump, though, has focused mainly on putting miners back to work in that industry rather than diversifying coal country’s economy.

“I went to a group of miners in West Virginia,” Trump said during an event this week, recounting a story from the campaign trail.

“I said, ‘how about this: Why don’t we get together, we’ll go to another place, and you’ll get another job, you won’t mine anymore. Do you like that idea?’ They said, ‘no, we don’t like that idea, we love to mine, that’s what we want to do.’ And I said, ‘if that’s what you want to do, that’s what you’re going to do.'”

Trump made those remarks while signing an executive order to roll back Obama’s climate change agenda. That action will continue to reverberate in the weeks ahead.

Trump’s order laid the groundwork for several administrative actions, including undoing the Clean Power Plan regulation for power plants and lifting a moratorium on public land coal leasing.  

The administration kicked off several of those efforts last week, but the ramifications of the measure are still sinking in, and could become clearer in the weeks ahead.

There are a number of lingering questions: What is the status of the Paris climate deal, for instance?

The White House on Thursday said Trump would decide on the U.S.’s involvement in the deal by May, even though his order essentially sinks the climate goals the U.S. committed to under Obama.

The former president worked well on climate with President Xi Jinping of China. Will the latter discuss the climate accord with Trump when the two leaders get together for the first time next week?

Another open question: How quickly will the Environmental Protection Agency move to undo regulations covered by Trump’s order? EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is already facing questions from the right on whether he’s moving fast and far enough to undo EPA mandates established under Obama.

Environmental opposition to Trump’s orders have began to crystallizes in earnest in recent days. Several groups sued over the coal leasing issue on Wednesday. Another coalition filed suit against the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline on Thursday.

Many greens have threatened litigation in light of the executive order. That means the White House is facing waves of environmental lawsuits. The only question is when those might arrive. 

Tags Barack Obama Hillary Clinton Mitch McConnell
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