Op Ed: It’s Time To Prohibit Self-Bonding By Coal Companies FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Caspar Star Tribune:This past month a completely unknown and unproven company called Blackjewel, LLC “bought” two of Wyoming’s oldest and biggest coal mines. More particularly, they were given the mines in exchange for assuming their cleanup risks and some hypothetical future royalties. They acquired the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines near Gillette from another new and unproven company called Contura Energy, spawned just last year when Alpha Natural Resources went through bankruptcy and spun off what it called its “crown jewel” Wyoming assets. Now the crown jewels aren’t looking so shiny and Contura is unloading them at a loss because these mines are liabilities. Instead, Contura will concentrate on its metallurgical coal business in the East.Hopefully, the one thing that should not be a problem going forward is bonding to assure clean up and reclamation of the mines. Thanks to a settlement agreement with the Department of Interior during Alpha’s bankruptcy, Contura wasn’t allowed to self-bond. Instead of continuing to hide, as Alpha had done, behind the chimera of a self-guarantee – really nothing more than an uncollectible IOU — Contura was forced to back Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr’s reclamation work with surety bonds and letters of credit from third-party financial institutions. Blackjewel should be required to do the same as a condition of the sale before the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) lets them take over the mine permits. This would insure there will be money available for reclamation jobs if Blackjewel were to walk away from its cleanup obligations while these bonds are still in effect.The recent history of the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr coal mines demonstrates one thing: their cleanup liabilities are nearly as high as (and possibly higher than) their value as operating mines. This loudly underscores that Wyoming regulators must not continue to allow self-bonding.If uncertainties and a down market continue to plague the coal industry as economists nearly unanimously predict, self-bonds will remain worthless promises and Wyoming will pay the price. Unless Wyoming prohibits them now, the next time mines change hands and weaker and weaker mine owners go bankrupt, we will not be so lucky.Self-bonding has no place in a regulatory scheme that was created to ensure the worst-case never happens. Taxpayers were never meant to be left holding the bag for hundreds of millions of dollars in reclamation work. America’s coal mining regulations were born in the late 1970s when abandoned and un-reclaimed mines were strewn across the country. Congress created an abandoned mine land fee to clean up past messes and required reclamation bonds to prevent future mines from being abandoned without reclamation. But the law also contained a loophole allowing states to accept self-bonds in the place of reliable third-party guarantees. Although Montana and other states showed the foresight to prohibit self-bonding, Wyoming became the No. 1 user in the country of self-bonding IOUs. Three years ago when Alpha, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal all declared bankruptcy, there was more than $2.4 billion of reclamation work in our state not covered by collectible insurance.With the lessons of these bankruptcies fresh in our memory, DEQ is considering an important step to update Wyoming’s reclamation bond rules. The update proposes to remove loopholes that allow companies to qualify for self-bonds when they really shouldn’t. DEQ’s proposed rules are an important change that would reduce risk to our citizens and our state treasury. Unfortunately, there will always be some risk from self-bonding until Wyoming totally eliminates the practice. As DEQ moves forward with their new rules, the agency needs to eliminate ALL self-bonding for ALL new coalmine permits and ALL permit renewals. Colorado has recently taken steps to limit self-bonding after the Peabody and Arch bankruptcies, and Wyoming should follow their example.–Bob LeResche is vice chair of the Powder River Basin Resource Council and a board member of the Western Organization of Resource Councils. He is a former commissioner of Natural Resources for the state of Alaska and executive director of the Alaska Energy Authority.More: Contura Sale Underscores Need to End Self Bonding
Press Association Tottenham midfielder Eric Dier is hoping to complete the perfect week by adding victory in the north London derby to his first England call-up. The crunch visit to Arsenal on Sunday is Spurs’ third game in six days, after Mauricio Pochettino’s side recorded victories over Aston Villa on Monday and then Anderlecht on Thursday in the Europa League. The Villa win stretched Tottenham’s unbeaten run in the league to 10 matches while Arsenal’s domestic form has also been strong, with the Gunners winning five on the spin and scoring 16 goals in the process. “That makes it easier and I know some of the lads there from younger age groups so I’m looking forward to it. “I couldn’t have imagined it to be honest. If you had told me this would happen when I was sitting on holiday I wouldn’t have believed you.” Dier has been a key part in Tottenham tightening up their defence this season, with Pochettino’s men conceding seven fewer goals than at the same stage last year. “The defence has played a lot of games (together) from the beginning of the season,” Pochettino said. “The collective effort is important to help them – the keeper, the fullbacks, the midfielders. “I think this season the balance is nearly perfect, but always we need to improve.” “It’s got everything – we’re in great form, they’re in great form,” Dier told Tottenham’s official website. “Apart from their result against Bayern Munich they’ve been doing very well so they’re a great team but we’ve been doing extremely well too. “We like to play a very intense style of football and they like to attack. It’ll be a good game to watch and hopefully we can be the ones enjoying it at the end.” Dier was named in Roy Hodgson’s squad on Thursday for upcoming friendlies against France and Spain as reward for an excellent start to the campaign in which the 21-year-old has shone in his new position of centre midfield. Used primarily at right-back and centre-half last season, Dier has quickly adjusted to his new role next to Dele Alli, who was also picked for England along with Spurs team-mates Kyle Walker and Harry Kane. “I’m really thankful to the manager for trusting me and believing in me in that position,” Dier said. “Getting the England call-up was a very proud moment for me and my family. It’s something you always dream of as a kid. “Hopefully I can go there, enjoy myself and do well. It’s always nice when you go with other boys from your club.