The three biggest companies extracting coal from Wyoming’s Powder River Basin won’t have enough money to clean up after themselves when their operations shut down, according to a joint report by the Western Organization of Resource Councils, NRDC, and the National Wildlife Federation.
“Those producers—Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Peabody Energy—have taken millions of tons of coal from federal lands in the Powder River Basin, the largest single repository of U.S. coal reserves,” IEEFA reports. The 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act allows them to “self-bond”, pledging assets to fund the clean-up after their mining operations wind down. But “these coal companies are all so heavily in debt and have such fast-declining net worth that, in truth, they lack the assets to qualify for self-bonding.”
The estimated US$2 billion in outstanding liabilities in the Powder River Basin alone exceed the three companies’ total market capitalization, Sanzillo writes.
“One of the most important findings of the report is that the federal self-bonding program is active in many states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Virginia, and Wyoming,” he notes. The research points to “ample evidence in the public record for regulators in each of the states to start asking more questions, or in many cases, just to start asking questions.”