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Why This Matters: The death of coal mining is coming faster than expected, even as the President has continued to try to prop it up. But the transition is going to be painful. In this case, the industry argued that these mines were different than the ones shuttered in West Virginia — the coal is “cleaner” and was supposed to have a longer wind-down period. The fact is that coal production in this region of Wyoming has plummeted from 462 million tons in 2011 to an expected 175 million tons next year simply because of lack of demand. And, as the Caspar Star-Tribune editorialized back in April, the region’s leaders just ignored the familiar warning signs. Vox explains the phenomenon well: “it is known as the ‘resource curse’ — economies rich in natural resources and dependent on export commodities tend to grow more slowly and perform worse on a range of social indicators, and they are left worse off when the resources dry up.” Worse yet, the company that owns these mines owes millions to the federal government in royalties and will likely not have enough money to clean up their mining mess. This kind of corporate mismanagement and profiteering off natural resources that belong to the public, while also leaving hard-working people in ruin, ought to be illegal.
Why Did Blackjewel Go Bankrupt?
According to Vox, by last week, it had “accrued $500 million in debts — to local vendors ($156 million), the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for royalties, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for violations, and several states for back taxes ($6 million in Kentucky; $1.6 million Virginia; $17 million in Campbell County, Wyoming). The Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines alone owe $60 million in royalties and $37 million in county taxes.”
Sadly, Jeff Hoops, who owns what is left of Blackjewel, also has a history of bleeding coal companies dry in West Virginia. The model is to “buy the mines (or assets) for cheap from a company in restructuring, thereby escaping health, pension, and environmental obligations; take out huge loans to keep the mines going; pay yourself and your executives handsomely from those loans; and then, when the mine goes under anyway, pay yourself additional bonuses for “managing” your own bankruptcy and walk away richer than you started.” According to Vox, Hoops is currently planning to build a 189-acre resort in his hometown of Milton, West Virginia — it will house a 3,500-seat replica of the Roman Coliseum that will be called the “Grand Patrician.” Hoops told the local Wyoming paper that, “no one is hurting more than me,” but the town’s Mayor, Louise Carter-King, warned, “If I were him, I wouldn’t show up in Wyoming.”
by Amy Lupica, ODP Contributing Writer The Trump administration is continuing its hail-Mary attempt to develop public lands, even as the GSA announces it will begin the transition of power to the Biden administration. Trump has embarked on a rushed effort to transfer ownership of south-eastern Arizona’s Oak Flat, considered holy by the Apache people, […]
by Ashira Morris, ODP Contributing Writer The American Farm Bureau Federation, which has actively pushed back on reducing emissions from its sector, has joined environmental organizations in the newly formed Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance. The plan, as InsideClimate News reports, is for the alliance to work with Congress and the incoming Biden administration to […]
The Maasai Mara is home to 25% of Kenya’s wildlife and the place of the greatest annual migration of animals on Earth. The land is owned by the indigenous Maasai people, who lease it to conservancies for tourism operations, which in turn fund conservation efforts that drive wildlife tourism. The conservancy conservation model that makes […]
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