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Changes To Self-Bonding Rules Sent Back For Review

DEQ's Land Quality Division Advisory Board meeting in Gillette while webcasting in Cheyenne and Jackson members
Cooper McKim
Wyoming Public Radio

Rules that would have placed limits on self-bonding will be sent back to the Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Land Quality Division following a meeting of its advisory board Wednesday. Self-bonding is a way for mining companies to guarantee clean-up costs without putting money down.

The Wyoming Mining Association gave additional feedback during the board meeting, as did a representative from Tri-State Generation and Transmission. Members of the Powder River Basin Resource Council spoke as well, including staff attorney Shannon Anderson, who recommended several semantic changes as well as a shift in the real property bond.

In self-bonding rule changes, Anderson said it’s “important to limit real property bonds to no more than 75 percent,” adding that’s also a risky financial assurance method if a company goes into forfeiture.

Pat Joyce, assistant director of the Wyoming Mining Association, voiced criticism over the proposed changes and asked the board for a combination of the existing rule and the proposed ones.

"Members don’t want to lose this as a viable tool. Respectfully, we ask the board to return the proposal,” Joyce said.

Following the comment period, board member Phil Dinsmoor voiced concern over the current proposal's strictness on mining companies. Specifically, how the DEQ planned to determine how much self-bonding a coal company could do using a credit rating rather than an end-of-year audit. Dinsmoor said that could take away self-bonding as an option entirely.

“The risks that we see with the proposal, we the mining industry, are that the majority of mining companies probably would not qualify for self-bonding and so it becomes a takeaway at this point,” Dinsmoor said.

Another concern was a 10-year lifespan requirement for a company to qualify for self-bonding.

Kyle Wendtland, administrator of the Land Quality Division, said, “I think that having this come back to the division to have another look at it was prudent just because it is such a complex issue.”

Wendtland added that self-bonding is a privilege, not a right. The LQD may change the proposed self-bonding rules based on the meeting. The division will then put together a presentation for the board when it meets again in several months.

Before Wyoming, Cooper McKim has reported for NPR stations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and South Carolina. He's reported breaking news segments and features for several national NPR news programs. Cooper is the host of the limited podcast series Carbon Valley. Cooper studied Environmental Policy and Music. He's an avid jazz piano player, backpacker, and podcast listener.
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