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.”