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Latest: Feds warn states against letting mining companies self-bond

Three major coal companies have filed for bankruptcy this year.


Three of the nation’s largest coal companies, Peabody Energy, Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal, filed for bankruptcy this year. All three are self-bonding, meaning that rather than posting cash or bonds up front to restore damaged land and water sources, they promised to pay after the mining was finished. Now they may lack the funds to cover their reclamation responsibilities, potentially leaving taxpayers stuck with billions of dollars in cleanup bills (“Coal company bankruptcies jeopardize reclamation,” HCN, 1/25/16).

In early August, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement released its first-ever policy advisory, warning state regulators against letting more companies self-bond. It also promised to tighten self-bonding rules to ensure that companies can cover the costs of reclaiming disturbed land. The agency says it plans to evaluate the energy market and a company’s financial state before approving self-bonds, and may create incentives to encourage timely reclamation.