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AML money major topic in House debate

Nov 4, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., said she was offended when House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers failed to return her phone calls about Abandoned Mine Land money in Wyoming.

The AML program imposed a 35-cent tax on each ton of coal produced in Wyoming and other coal states. The U.S. Senate in September approved a resolution to cap Wyoming's AML funding at $15 million a year -- a fraction of the $150 million annual payment the state was getting previously.

During a Thursday debate at Central Wyoming College, Lummis said the AML decision was made "in the middle of the night" without consulting any of Wyoming's congressional delegates.

"(We) didn't know it'd be part of the equation," Lummis said. "When our senators discovered our money had been taken, they made every effort to (stop it). When the opportunity later came for me to ask the House committee chair on appropriations not to side with (the decision) he would not take my calls. I'm offended by that."

If she and her counterparts in Congress -- Sen. John Barrasso and Sen. Mike Enzi -- had been asked to help lower the nation's deficit by contributing some AML money, Lummis said they may have been agreeable. Instead, she said representatives in Washington, D.C., chose to "cannibalize" Wyoming's money during a midnight meeting.

"That was trust money that was due to us," Lummis said. "It's money we'll work hard to try to get back."

Democrat Chris Henrichsen, who is challenging Lummis for her Congressional seat this election, said his first priority in Washington, D.C., would be to get Wyoming's AML money back.

"I think that should have been a bigger priority," he said, criticizing the state's current delegation. "We've been focusing too much on partisan causes and electing presidential candidates when (the AML money) should have been priority No. 1."

Lummis insisted that Wyoming's delegation is not to blame for the loss of AML money.

"You don't even know the money has been taken until 3 a.m. and the ink is signed ... that's not screwing it up," she said. "That's people looking at money from one state and saying, 'Here's a state that doesn't need it.'"

Constitution candidate Daniel Clyde Cummings and Country Party candidate Don Wills defended Lummis and her colleagues, too.

"Our delegation didn't do anything wrong; it's how Washington works," Wills said. "We shouldn't have given (the federal government) the money in the first place."

Libertarian Richard Brubaker of Riverton also is running to unseat Lummis. A video of the candidates' debate is available at wyomingpbs.org/decision2012/.

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