Coal companies are supposed to pay for the toxic cleanup of their mines.
But recent bankruptcies — including of the world’s largest coal company Peabody Energy — combined with an antiquated federal policy called self-bonding, could stick us with the bill for billions of dollars in toxic mine cleanup costs.
President Obama’s Office of Surface Mining is currently taking comments on a plan to strengthen these mine cleanup laws.1 This is an important opportunity to speak out in favor of holding coal companies accountable and making sure that coal giants like Peabody aren’t let off the hook for their toxic mess.
Submit a comment before the June 20th deadline: Don’t let coal companies off the hook for toxic mine cleanup.
"Self-bonding" allows coal companies to forgo private cleanup insurance if they possess sufficient financial resources. This policy is, in effect, a massive subsidy to the coal industry, allowing them to reap substantial savings over buying insurance on the open market, and trusting that coal companies will act in good faith to clean up their mess in a timely manner.
Federal regulators have continued to extend self-bonding privileges to coal companies even as they lack the assets to cover their cleanup responsibilities. Wyoming even went so far as to reduce Peabody Energy’s cleanup obligation by $138 million shortly before the company filed bankruptcy.2
Making self-bonding even worse, coal companies have effectively used the savings extended to them to fund an all-out assault on science and federal climate policies. Bankruptcy filings from Peabody Energy reveal the company has funded at least two dozen groups at the heart of the climate denial machine, and — even as the company has declared bankruptcy — will spend almost half a million dollars this year on a legal challenge to President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.3
The four largest coal companies alone have $2.7 billion in outstanding mine cleanup costs, and no insurance to defray the costs.4, 5 Three of them have filed for bankruptcy in the last year, threatening to leave billions in cleanup - on top of the $4 billion worth of mine cleanup the coal industry has already abandoned.
Last summer, more than 90,000 CREDO activists urged the Obama administration to hold Peabody Energy accountable for its cleanup. Now, the administration is considering a plan to strengthen self-bonding rules, so it’s vital to speak out in this moment.
It’s long past time to fix this broken system which has allowed coal companies to foist their toxic cleanup responsibility onto the public — while denying the dirty reality of their dirty product. Submit a comment now.
- "Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Seeks Public
Comment on a Petition Regarding Self-Bonding for Coal Mines," OSMRE, 5/18/16
- "Faced with massive cleanup bill, state lowers Peabody Energy self-bonds by $138 million," Casper Star Tribune, 4/30/16
- "Court Documents Show Coal Giant Peabody Energy Funded Dozens Of Climate Denial Groups," DeSmog Blog, 6/13/16
- "The U.S.’s Biggest Coal Company Can’t Pay To Clean Up Its Own Mines," ThinkProgress, 6/8/2015
- "Regulators Fear $1 Billion Coal Cleanup Bill," New York Times, 6/6/2016