Increasing Worry Over ‘Hundreds of Million, if Not Billions’ in U.S. Coal Mine Cleanup Costs

first_img FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Steven Mufson and Joby Warrick for the Washington Post:A worsening financial crisis for the nation’s biggest coal companies is sparking concerns that U.S. taxpayers could be stuck with hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in cleanup costs across a landscape of shuttered mines stretching from Appalachia to the northern Plains.Worries about huge liabilities associated with hundreds of polluted mine sites have mounted as Peabody Energy, the world’s largest publicly traded coal company, was forced to appeal to creditors for an extra 30 days to pay its debts. Two of the four other biggest U.S. coal companies have declared bankruptcy in the past six months.Under a 1977 federal law, coal companies are required to clean up mining sites when they’re shut down. But the industry’s plummeting fortunes have raised questions about whether companies can fulfill their obligations to rehabilitate vast strip mines in Western states — many of which are on federally owned property — as well as mountaintop-removal mining sites in the East.A number of smaller companies have defaulted or skimped on cleanup obligations, leaving behind abandoned strip mines and denuded mountains. Some are simply eyesores, unhealed scars on the landscape that can be seen for miles. Others are perpetual sources of water pollution, slowly leaking acidic and otherwise toxic wastes into streams and groundwater supplies.Now coal giants are facing outcomes similar to those experienced by some of the smaller companies. Several are struggling to make payments on debts for ill-timed multibillion-dollar acquisitions of their rivals in recent years. On top of that, they have been financially squeezed by competition from cheap natural gas and declining U.S. and Chinese demand for coal.The biggest coal companies typically pay third parties to ensure that mine sites are cleaned up in the event of financial hardship. But in recent years, many coal companies have relied on a cheaper technique called “self-bonding,” pledging only their own names and financial wherewithal to guarantee their cleanup obligations.With mounting losses and debt loads, the companies do not have enough money to pay for all their obligations, and self-bonding is “not worth [the] paper [it’s] written on,” Steve Jakubowski, a bankruptcy lawyer with the firm Robbins, Salomon & Patt, said in an email. In a bankruptcy, where Alpha Natural Resources is now, a judge can decide which creditors are paid and how much — and state and federal governments could be left holding the bag for reclamation costs.“There is a lot of liability out there and a lot of uncertainty,” said Shannon Anderson, a lawyer with the Power River Basin Resource Council, a Wyoming nonprofit group that supports tougher rules for cleaning up mine sites.Full article: Can coal companies afford to clean up coal country? Increasing Worry Over ‘Hundreds of Million, if Not Billions’ in U.S. Coal Mine Cleanup Costslast_img read more

Jakarta extends transitional restrictions as COVID-19 rate on rise

first_imgOn Thursday, Anies reported that the number confirmed cases had reached 27,863, with 981 deaths and 17,838 recoveries. He said Jakarta’s positive case rate —  the percentage of positive results from all tests — had hit 8.7 percent in the past week, a rise from the 7.4 percent recorded in the previous week.The latest weekly rate is above the figure recommended by the World Health Organization for relaxations, which is 5 percent or below.Anies said 65 percent of 4,456 isolation beds and 67 percent of 483 intensive care unit (ICU) beds for COVID-19 patients were occupied, with occupancy rates ranging from 40 to 50 percent in July.The Jakarta Public Order Agency recorded 64,036 violations against the mask-wearing provision from July 1 to Aug. 10.“Through this [PSBB] extension, together with the police and the military, we will focus on enforcing the rules, especially the use of masks in public,” Anies said.Topics : Car Free Day and public celebrations for Independence Day, especially competitions that could attract crowds, will be restricted.Jakarta started the transitional phase on June 5 as it started to gradually relax restrictions in the hope of easing economic suffering, with businesses and offices reopening under new health protocols. The governor, however, had hinted at the possibility of “pulling the emergency brake” and reimposing restrictions it previously eased should the number of infections continue to soar.Read also: Less fun and games as Greater Jakarta limits Independence Day events The nation’s capital has extended the transitional phase of large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) a fourth time, for another two weeks starting Friday, as Jakarta’s COVID-19 infection rate has shown no signs of slowing. “After taking into account all conditions, consulting with health experts and coordinating with Forkopimda [the Regional Leadership Communication Forum], we have decided to extend the transitional PSBB once again,” Governor Anies Baswedan said on Thursday.Anies said the city would tighten control over activities that might generate crowds in public spaces, especially on weekends and during the celebration of the 75th Independence Day.last_img read more