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
The Lakers also will have the No. 32 pick for the NBA draft June 23, as well as up to $60 million in cap space to spend on free agency beginning July 1. Neither option provides as much expected impact as a lottery pick.Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who represented the franchise on the dais at a New York hotel on Tuesday, anticipated the worst-case scenario beforehand both to soften any potential disappointment and to improve the team’s karma.Fortunately for the Lakers, they experienced a much happier ending. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error NEW YORK >> After suffering countless losses that accounted for their worst season in franchise history, the Lakers still have managed to experience good fortune elsewhere.The Lakers ended with the No. 2 pick Tuesday in the NBA draft lottery, a selection they will not have to send to the Philadelphia 76ers for the second consecutive year.The Lakers could have kept the pick only if they landed in the top three, which had a 55.82 percent chance of happening based on having the second-worst NBA record this season.Had the Lakers not received a pick in the top three, they would have had to send it to the 76ers as part of the ill-fated Steve Nash trade with Phoenix in 2012. The Lakers also got lucky last year when they had the fourth-worst record and exceeded the odds by winning the No. 2 selection, despite holding only 12.6 percent chance of doing so.This year, the Lakers had a 18.8 percent chance of finishing with the No. 2 pick.That leaves the Lakers with a key asset they could use for various purposes.With the No. 2 pick, the Lakers are expected to choose whichever highly rated forward remains available, either LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram. The Lakers chose Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell with the No. 2 pick last year.The Lakers also could use the pick as part of a trade presumably for an established veteran. Although the Lakers are intrigued with the potential of Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., the team’s inexperience contributed to its 21-61 record in the 2015-16 season.