Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement

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Congress canceled a set of coal mining regulations last week, just two months after they’d been passed. President Trump signed the repeal with support from Wyoming Governor Matt Mead.  

The Stream Protection Rule created a buffer zone around waterways and placed stricter requirements on companies to monitor and reclaim mine sites. But Wyoming’s Congressional delegation and Department of Environmental Quality called the decision an overreach that should not apply to the arid conditions of the Western U.S.

Stephanie Joyce / Wyoming Public Media

With the downturn in the coal market, the federal government is encouraging states to reconsider whether to allow coal companies to self-bond. Self-bonding allows coal companies to avoid putting up cash or other assurances to guarantee their cleanup obligations.

The practice has come under scrutiny in the last year as many of the nation’s largest coal companies have declared bankruptcy with more than $2 billion in self-bonded cleanup on their books.

In a strongly-worded letter sent Friday, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality accuses the federal government of “political theater.”

Peabody Energy / Wikimedia Commons

Responding to a federal inquiry, the State of Wyoming defended itself against accusations that it is allowing coal giant Peabody Energy to continue operating in violation of mining regulations.

Recent coal company bankruptcies pose a significant risk to taxpayers, the Secretary of the Interior told a U.S. Senate committee Tuesday.

Some of the largest coal companies in the country were never required to put up cash or obtain third-party insurance to cover their reclamation costs.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the federal government is concerned there is little cleanup money set aside as the coal industry slides deeper into financial trouble.