The mountains of Eastern Kentucky and the ingenuity of its people fueled America’s industrial revolution.
Those same Appalachian leaders are now fueling diversification efforts to reimagine the economies of the region by transforming abandoned mine lands and developing new opportunities in our coal communities.
Congressman Hal Rogers created the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Pilot Program in 2015, while Chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. The pilot program was so successful that it is no longer a pilot, and is now called the Abandoned Mine Lands Economic Revitalization (AMLER) program.
It’s responsible for giving funds to six Appalachian coal producing states and three Native American tribes that have the highest amount of abandoned mine land sites to provide economic development in and near former coal communities.
Through Congressman Rogers’ leadership, a total of $540 million has been allocated to eligible states and tribes since 2016, of which $140 million has been allocated to Kentucky. The grant program for Kentucky is administered by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet and the Federal Department of Interior’s Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation and Enforcement.
The impact of Congressman Rogers’ dedication to creating and fighting for this program is creating jobs across our region, bringing in new revenue, and supporting other investments in our coal mining communities.
The latest round of funding for Kentucky’s AMLER Pilot Grant Program is currently open through April 1, 2022.
Read on to learn how to apply.
The AMLER Grant Program
The Division of Abandoned Mine Lands (AMLER) protects Kentuckians from the negative impacts of abandoned mining projects that ended before 1982. The passing of time is simply not enough to undo the damage left behind — not even 40+ years later. Repairing what’s left behind is an active, ongoing effort funded by the federal government.
As our communities continue to recover from the coal industry’s retreat, the AMLER Pilot Program funds new economic opportunities for those left behind.
AMLER counts on federal funds to reclaim impacted areas in Kentucky. They partner with nonprofits and municipal groups to restore the surrounding environment to safer conditions.
Up to $25 million in grants are available.
How it’s different from the ARC POWER Grant
The ARC POWER Grant also works with communities impacted by coal-related job losses.
The main difference between the ARC POWER Grant and the AMLER Pilot Program is the terms of each grant. ARC requires applicants to come to the table with a funding match to qualify.
AMLER doesn’t require a match. This means AMLER will be even more competitive.
If you qualify for the ARC POWER Grant and the AMLER Pilot Program, you’ll want to apply to both — thoughtfully — to increase your chances of winning.
Plan your steps carefully as you get ready to apply.
Follow the instructions to the letter. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to create your materials. Have your application reviewed by an expert before you submit it.
Who should apply for the AMLER Pilot Program Grant
The AMLER will select projects that will create jobs, restore and protect environmental conditions, and support economic development.
In 2021, five Eastern Kentucky counties — Floyd, Harlan, Laurel, Morgan, and Perry — received a combined $14.2 million to revitalize former coalfields and create ongoing employment opportunities. The selected projects are diverse — from new water treatment facilities to CNC machinist job training.
What ties these distinct projects together is their community’s proximity to former mines.
An ideal applicant will prove they can reach some or all of the following outcomes in exchange for an AMLER Pilot Program Grant:
- 20+ jobs created
- Significant tourism development
- Strong likelihood of self-sufficiency post-funding
- Contributor to immediate economic growth
You’ll need to meet the following conditions to apply for the AMLER Pilot Program:
- The project site must have a connection to historic mining before May 18, 1982 (otherwise known as an AMLER Nexus).
- Your AMLER Nexus could be:
- Previously reclaimed AMLER lands.
- Areas adjacent to unreclaimed AMLER land.
- Communities impacted by coal production losses.
- Typically, the site will need to be within a half-mile radius of the nexus.
- Permitted Title V sites cannot apply for funds.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) provides case studies from past reclamation projects across the US that are also worth checking out.
How to apply: 4 tips
The AMLER Pilot Program Grant is for qualified applicants with established action plans. Sometimes applicants assume they can create an implementation plan after submitting an application. But this isn’t a good strategy. You’ll need to come up with a well-thought-out idea first — one that’s sustainable over the long term. Otherwise, your application isn’t likely to make it far.
This will be a competitive grant. If you have a plan for using the grant money effectively, and the project aligns with the AMLER’s mission, we encourage you to apply.
Tip #1: Reach out to your local Eastern Kentucky AMLER representative
Before you apply, you should consider reaching out to your local Eastern Kentucky AMLER representative: James Cable. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 606-594-4534.
It’s not a bad idea to ask for a review of your idea and ensure it’s a good fit. You may even be able to ask for tips for submitting a competitive application.
Tip #2: Reach out to your Area Development District representative
The Abandoned Mine Lands Economic Revitalization (AMLERER) Program website references the Area Development Districts (ADDs). Contact your ADD representative to gain valuable insight about the grant opportunity and increase your chances of winning.
Tip #3: Contact SOAR to get help with your project idea
SOAR is committed to supporting municipalities and nonprofit groups in Eastern Kentucky. We have experience in supporting ambitious teams like yours in winning funding. SOAR can help by providing feedback about your project idea. We’ll also help you explore whether your idea is a good fit for the AMLER Pilot Program grant.
Tip #4: Follow the application process carefully — and have a plan
The parties reviewing the AMLER grant applications make it clear on their website: Follow the instructions exactly. Don’t go over the required word count. Make sure you’ve reviewed your materials thoroughly before submitting them.
The SOAR team put together a guide to help you put together a competitive grant application. Check it out and follow the process to increase your chances of winning.
A pro tip from the SOAR team: Prove you can administer funds as soon as you receive them.
Having a plan ready to go will show the AMLER your idea has longevity — and will continue operating after you’ve used up your grant money.
Conclusion: Getting started
The 2022 AMLER Pilot Program grant application window is open through the close of business on April 1, 2022.
Now’s the time to start building out your gameplan to apply. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the SOAR team to kick off the effort. We’ll get you the help you need, including application resources and feedback about the materials you create.
Be sure to register for the SOAR Mini Summit in Ashland, KY, on March 7. The AMLER will be leading a presentation. You’ll have the chance to ask questions and hear about former grantee success stories.
Maybe someday, they’ll tell your story.
Don’t waste another moment — get started with your AMLER grant application today.