As more and more coal companies go bankrupt, American taxpayers may be left cleaning up the mess they’ve left behind -- but that’s now how the law is supposed to work. Before a coal company can get a permit for a new mining site, it’s supposed to be required to put up bonds intended to cover the costs of reclaiming the mine site. This ensures the company is held accountable and the costs of cleaning up the damage are covered in case of bankruptcy.
But cleaning up mines can cost tens of millions of dollars at each site. Some mine operators have taken advantage of a loophole that allows them to avoid providing an actual financial bond and instead merely make an unenforceable promise that the company will reclaim the site. But when one of these mine operators goes out of business and can’t fulfill what amounts to a pinky promise, it’s left to taxpayers to bail them out and clean up their mess.
Allowing companies to self-bond means taking a bet that these coal companies are too big to fail, but we know those bets don’t pay well for the American people. We are already paying for coal with pollution and global warming. We shouldn’t have to pay to clean up the mines that coal companies abandon too. Tell the Department of the Interior (DOI) and Secretary Jewell that taxpayers shouldn’t be left holding the bill for abandoned mines when coal companies go bankrupt; it’s time to put a stop to self-bonding.