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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 Staff Writer A new study may reveal the mystery behind violently exploding craters in the Siberian tundra. Last year, a 17th massive permafrost crater cracked open in the Russian arctic; the first was spotted in 2013, leaving scientists searching for a reason as to why it had appeared. The craters, the most recent 100 […]
by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer How much does a city weigh? You can’t put San Francisco on a scale, but new research from the US Geological Service estimates that the number is 1.6 trillion kilograms, about the same as 250,000,000 elephants. This isn’t just a clever math problem, though: all that weight is causing […]
by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer The state of Indiana is home to 80 pits of coal ash, the toxic byproduct of burning coal, more than any other state in the country. These pits are not lined, allowing the ash to contaminate groundwater and rivers across the state. As the Indianapolis Star reports, power companies […]
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