Interior Secretary Says Coal Mine "Self-Bonding" An Issue

Dec 9, 2015

Aerial view of the Eagle Butte coal mine, owned by bankrupt miner Alpha Natural Resources.
Credit Google Earth

The Secretary of the Interior called coal mine self-bonding “a big issue” in testimony to a Congressional committee Wednesday.

Coal companies typically have to put up money before they mine, to guarantee cleanup, but self-bonding gives companies a pass if they are deemed financially healthy.

In the hearing, Democratic Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan said allowing self-bonding treats some coal companies as “too big to fail,” and pointed out that recent bankruptcies undermine that notion. She asked Interior Secretary Sally Jewell if taxpayers will be on the hook for bailing those companies out.

“There is no question that with the increased financial fragility of many coal mining companies, if they are self-bonded, that does potentially leave the states and the taxpayers at risk,” Jewell responded.

She added that the Interior Department is looking into the situation in collaboration with states, but did not provide any specifics.

More than $2 billion of Wyoming’s estimated $3 billion in coal cleanup costs are self-bonded.