In response to a federal inquiry about potential mining violations by bankrupt coal company Alpha Natural Resources, Wyoming regulators say they are in compliance with the law. But, regulators did note that the challenges created by "the dramatic decline in Alpha's financial condition... highlight certain systemic problems with self-bonding." Self-bonding references a financial tool that gives companies a pass on putting aside funds for clean-up if they can prove financial strength.
The issue, according to the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, is that Alpha is continuing to mine, even though it may not have sufficient reclamation bonding in place as required by state regulations.
In a letter, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality responded that it has taken a number of actions to correct the violation, including securing $61 million dollars out of the company's $411 million dollars in outstanding cleanup costs. The DEQ says that Alpha will have to put up assurances for the full sum. But that’s only if and when it eventually emerges from bankruptcy.