War on Coal: Government Wants to Stick Bankrupt Coal Companies with ‘Clean Up’ Costs

Coal Train in West Virginia. Photo by Bob Wilcox.

This story, perhaps more than any other I’ve seen recently, is a perfect example of the hypocrisy and absurdity of liberalism. The New York Times reports today that regulators are concerned taxpayers will end up getting stuck paying for coal-related clean up the Appalachia region, which is expected to cost about $1 billion:

The regulators worry that coal companies will use the bankruptcy courts to pay off their debts to banks and hedge funds, while leaving behind some of their environmental cleanup obligations.

The industry asserts that its cleanup plans — which include turning defunct mines back into countryside — are comprehensive and well funded. But some officials say those plans could prove unrealistic and falter as demand for coal remains weak.

Because so many coal companies have gone bankrupt over the past decade, it’s unlikely they will be able to pay for the costs of the clean up, and regulators believe the owners of coal companies will try to wrangle their way out of paying in court.

What the Times fails to point out, however, is the reason why the coal companies went bankrupt in the first place. In many cases, regulations implemented by the Obama administration were to blame, as the following from Steve Milloy at Breitbart explains:

Even before Obama vowed to “bankrupt” the coal industry in a 2008 interview with the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle, the coal industry had already allowed the seeds of its destruction to take root. It had failed to believe global warming hysteria was an existential threat. The industry thought the demand for cheap and reliable electricity combined with the power of politicians representing coal states would suffice as a defense against attack. But contrary to the myths propagated by global warming activists, the coal industry was never a serious funder of climate skeptics.

This strategy was completely upended when decidedly anti-coal Obama became president and Republicans lost control of Congress. Not only did an unprecedented coal industry-hating “progressive” government come to power, but also an up-and-coming new technology for producing natural gas was coming into its own. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, commonly referred to as “fracking,” began to change the U.S. energy market.

With respect to the anti-coal Obama administration and Congress, the coal industry thought that problem could be managed. Maybe even a deal could get cut. A senior Peabody executive told me in the spring of 2009 that it supported the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill because it would settle the issue and provide a path forward for the industry. At this time, much of the coal industry was operating under the illusion that carbon dioxide emissions could be affordably captured and stored underground, so the modest emissions cuts contemplated by the bill could be achieved.

So, let’s get things straight: The left destroys the coal companies and is now angry they don’t have enough money to pay for an environmental clean up? Just incredible … but not surprising.

Photo: Coal Train in West Virginia. Photo by Bob Wilcox.