WORC, groups urge coal reforms

WORC, Powder River Basin Resource Council, Northern Plains Resource Council, and the Natural Resources Defense Council submitted comments supporting the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) review of its coal program. The joint comments outlined issues and alternatives for the department to consider in the review. Groups nationwide generated over 250,000 comments supporting the review and reforms.

In addition to the technical comments, WORC helped to promote a letter, signed by three dozen organizations, to DOI outlining the following goals for the review:

Ensure a fair return to the American public for the leasing and mining of publicly-owned coal by increasing royalty rates and closing loopholes in coal valuation processes;

Increase transparency and public oversight of the federal coal program;

Prevent impacts of coal leasing, mining, and burning on the climate;

Better protect air, land, water, and wildlife resources; and

Address the legacy issues of decades of federal coal mining, including ensuring reclamation of leased areas before proceeding with leasing new areas.

Powder River & WORC challenge self-bonding

Last month, Alpha Natural Resources emerged from bankruptcy and agreed to replace $411 million in self-bonds for the company’s Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr Mines in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming with real third-party bonds guaranteeing payment for reclamation costs. Self-bonding lets a company provide a promise based on the balance sheets rather than a third-party guarantee.

WORC and the Powder River Basin Resource Council became involved in Arch’s bankruptcy proceedings because of concern over the company’s ability to reclaim the mine site.

“We hope this standard continues as Arch Coal and Peabody Energy exit bankruptcy as well,” said Bob LeResche on behalf of WORC and PRBRC. “Self-bonding has made Wyoming taxpayers potentially liable for hundreds of millions of dollars of cleanup work as coal companies declare bankruptcy.”

Arch and Peabody have reclamation bonding liability of $486 million and $726 million, respectively, for Wyoming coal mines.

DARK Act signed into law

President Barack Obama signed legislation known as the “Denying Americans the Right to Know,” or DARK Act, into law July 29. Passed by Congress in early July, the bill allows companies to conceal information about genetically engineered ingredients behind QR codes, websites, or 800 numbers instead of mandatory text where other food content information is provided. The bill also preempts state and local GMO labeling standards.

In an effort to defeat the DARK Act, WORC issued action alerts on the House and Senate bills and encouraged members and supporters to call the President and urge him to veto the legislation. Obama supported GMO labeling during his 2008 presidential campaign.

See how your Representative and Senators voted on this legislation.

–Western Organization of Resource Councils