Federal law requires that companies reclaim any land that they disturb through development. This law affects all energy and natural resource sectors, including coal mining, oil and gas mining on federal lands, and wind and solar development on federal lands.
Normally, companies are required to provide financial assurances in the form of cash or assets set aside to guarantee that the land can be reclaimed even if the company goes bankrupt. However, Congress allows the coal mining industry to demonstrate financial assurance through self-bonds, which are simply financial promises with no collateral to back them up.
Since 2015, billions of dollars of reclamation self-bonds have been jeopardized by coal company bankruptcies, subjecting taxpayers to the risk of picking up the tab instead.
Furthermore, a new report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) confirmed that the coal mining industry is the only industry in the country that is allowed to self-bond, raising questions about why the coal industry is allowed to play by different rules than other forms of mining and energy production.
The GAO report was requested by several U.S. Senators in the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources including Senator Maria Cantwell from Washington.
“GAO has now confirmed that coal companies are getting a sweet deal at the expense of communities and taxpayers,” Sen. Cantwell said. “It’s time the rules for coal caught up to the rules for other forms of mining and energy production.”
Clean Energy Action has spoken out against self-bonding for years (see here and here), and it is encouraging to hear that the word has spread to Washington!
The solar industry is growing rapidly in the U.S. and becoming increasingly popular among U.S. citizens as an obvious solution for clean, affordable power.
However, Environment America and Frontier Group recently released this report which reveals that at least 17 fossil fuel backed groups and electric utilities are working aggressively to slow the growth of the solar industry by undermining key environmental policies.
This work is well funded and being done largely behind the scenes, making it very dangerous, but hopefully state decision-makers will resist these efforts in favor of progressive legislation which serves the burgeoning solar industry.
“Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.”
–U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken
Last year, 21 youth filed a lawsuit against the federal government for violating the youngest generations’ constitutional right to life, liberty, and property through its part in causing climate change.
The U.S. government and fossil fuel industry moved to dismiss the lawsuit, but on November 10th, 2016 federal judge Ann Aiken denied this motion, affirming that the rights of the youth are at stake and allowing the case to go to trial.
Read more here.
A refreshing report published by the Overseas Development Institute this month concludes that:
“The evidence is clear: a lasting solution to poverty requires the world’s wealthiest economies to renounce coal, and we can and must end extreme poverty without the precipitous expansion of new coal power in developing ones.”
Read the full report here.