Coal reclamation

Stephanie Joyce

West Virginia has settled a suit with Alpha Natural Resources over inaccurate revenue projections included in the coal company’s bankruptcy plan. In early November the state accused Alpha’s former top executives of fraud after it came to light that the company had $100 million dollars in undisclosed liabilities on its balance sheet. Those executives now work for Contura, which owns Alpha’s former mines in Wyoming.

Stephanie Joyce

The federal government is changing its rules for mine reclamation, to ensure there is money available for cleanup even when companies declare bankruptcy. 

In a reversal of its previous position, Arch Coal now says it would likely be able to obtain third-party insurance for its clean-up obligations in Wyoming, if necessary. 

Arch is currently allowed to self-bond its more than $400 million in reclamation obligations in the state, meaning it has promised to pay for future clean-up, but has not been asked to guarantee that promise with third-party insurance or cash. 

archcoal.com

Arch Coal has filed its initial plan for how it hopes to emerge from bankruptcy, but doesn't contain many details when it comes to reclamation and worker benefits.

Arch Coal filed for Chapter 11 in January, in the hopes of shedding some of its $4.5 billion in debt. The company’s restructuring plan outlines how various creditors would be paid—or not paid—if the plan is approved.

Stephanie Joyce

Wyoming regulators have asked for more time to respond to the federal government's concerns about potential lapses in state oversight of coal mine reclamation.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement sent two ten-day notices to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality on January 21st. The agency believes that two bankrupt coal companies, with hundreds of millions of dollars in outstanding clean up costs, could be in violation of federal mining regulations.  

Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality

As coal companies struggle to remain afloat, Wyoming regulators are reviewing the state’s rules for how companies put money aside for clean-up. 

 

Under threat of being held in contempt of court, a Wyoming advocacy group is backing down from its challenge of a bankrupt coal company's mining permits.  

The Powder River Basin Resource Council argues that Alpha Natural Resources shouldn't be allowed to renew its mine permit because it doesn’t have sufficient bonding in place to ensure mine clean-up, which is something that is required by law.

Department of the Interior

The Department of the Interior says taxpayers should not be saddled with the bill when it comes to coal mine cleanup, amid growing concerns over funding for reclamation as the coal industry’s financial health deteriorates.   

The issue revolves around a financial tool called self-bonding. It allows coal companies to mine without putting up money for cleanup costs if they can pass a test of financial strength.

Stephanie Joyce

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality says it will not meet with a landowners group that is concerned about Alpha Natural Resources' request to renew one of its mining permits.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council objected to Alpha’s application to renew its permit for the Eagle Butte mine near Gillette. The group says the permit cannot be renewed under state law because Alpha doesn’t have required reclamation bonding to cover clean-up costs. Under federal law, anyone with an objection to a mining permit is entitled to some sort of hearing.