About the most dangerous place on earth is between a politician and a pot of money
When the University of Wyoming needed an extra $10 million for renovations to its basketball arena last month, state legislators turned to an unlikely source: a federal fund for cleaning up abandoned coal mines.
The fund was set up to pay for things like sealing up old mine shafts and dealing with collapsed tunnels and abandoned surface mines. But, as allowed under law, the university plans to use the money to fix up its Arena-Auditorium, where its Cowboys play, providing an exterior face lift and rotating the court 90 degrees.
The University of Wyoming plans to tap a federal fund for cleaning up old coal mines to renovate its arena, including rotating the basketball court.
The U.S. Interior Department is likely to fork over the money for the arena despite years of bipartisan efforts in Washington to close the spigot of federal dollars to states that no longer need so much money for abandoned mines.
In the fight to curb government spending, the Obama administration, the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction commission and a host of Republican and Democratic lawmakers have advocated cutting the $180 million in mine cleanup money that goes to four states and three Native American tribes that have largely fixed their abandoned coal mines.
The money keeps flowing, however, because efforts to stop it have been blocked by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the states that get the money. They say the money is theirs because the federal government collected it from coal-mining operations in their states.