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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 Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The earth is collapsing under Russia’s northeastern towns as global warming melts the permafrost beneath them. Permafrost occupies 65% of Russia’s landmass, making this massive thawing particularly destructive. “There isn’t a single settlement in Russia’s Arctic where you wouldn’t find a destroyed or deformed building,” said Alexey Maslakov, […]
By Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer Heirs’ property is a type of land ownership whereby property is passed down without a will, and it’s one of the main reasons Black families in the US are losing their land. But the Mobile Basin Heirs’ Property Support Initiative announced yesterday could help families in Mississippi’s Mobile Bay […]
By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer The White House announced Friday that President Biden will use his executive authority to restore protections for three national monuments drastically reduced during the Trump Administration. He will reestablish and increase the boundaries of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, both of which are in Utah. The orders […]
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