By Veronica Carter
The country's largest coal producer has reached a deal
with three states on how it plans to cover the cost of mine cleanups. Peabody Energy has filed for bankruptcy and the company has been allowed to self bond, which means it promises to pay for coal site cleanup without actually setting aside the cash. Environmentalists are calling it a win.
Environmental Law and Policy Center executive director Howard Learner said the cleanup money should not come from taxpayers.
"Our goal is very simple, that Peabody first of all set aside, either through a surety bond purchased or a separate trust fund, sufficient money to conduct the necessary required mine reclamation and environmental cleanup," he said. "That's Peabody's legal responsibility."
Learner said the deal Peabody reached with Indiana could see state taxpayers footing about 80 cents on the dollar to clean up the company's coal sites. Peabody's deal is also with Wyoming and New Mexico. So far, neighboring Illinois has not signed an agreement.
Earlier this month, a judge ruled that organizations such as the Environmental Law and Policy Center
can weigh in on any deal made. Learner said that could help keep Peabody accountable.
"What that really means is the court's attention is now focused on Peabody living up to its legal responsibility to fully fund the mine reclamation and hear the arguments about why those costs should not be shifted onto the public," he added.
The groups are expected to head back to court in mid-August. Peabody Energy filed for bankruptcy in April. In a statement This week, the company's president said Peabody is committed to its, quote, "reclamation obligations."