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Group questions Peabody Energy’s coal mine self-bonding

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — An environmental group is formally questioning Peabody Energy’s ability to fully bond its coal mines in Wyoming and elsewhere in the Rocky Mountain region, saying the St. Louis-based company has insufficient funding to qualify for self-bonding.

Bonding helps ensure funding is in place to fill in mines that close and restore them to a natural state. Self-bonding exempts companies from posting conventional bond in exchange for showing they have sufficient resources to pay for all potential mine reclamation.

St. Louis-based Peabody has almost $900 million in self-bonding obligations in Wyoming. They cover three big open-pit mines in the Powder River Basin, a region that supplies almost 40 percent of the nation’s coal.

“It’s time to stop letting bankrupt coal companies ride on the backs of the America public,” Jeremy Nichols with WildEarth Guardians said.

WildEarth Guardians filed its complaint Tuesday with the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Groups also have raised concern about self-bonding for Wyoming mines operated by St. Louis-based Arch Coal and Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources, two companies that recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The OSMRE has told Wyoming regulators to provide more information about its approval of self-bonding and bonding agreements for Arch and Alpha. The office is reviewing the Peabody complaint, agency spokesman Christopher Holmes said.

States reaffirmed self-bonding last year for all of Peabody’s self-bonded mines, Peabody spokeswoman Beth Sutton said.

Ongoing reclamation work at Peabody’s mines included 4,300 acres of mined land in 2014, according to Sutton.

“Peabody has an excellent record of land restoration and is routinely recognized for these programs,” she said.

In related news, Wyoming sees oil and gas jobs drop by 5,400 in 2015.

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