(AP) — The growing number of bankruptcies in the coal industry make it increasingly likely taxpayers will get stuck with the huge environmental costs of abandoned mines.
Analysts say it's only a matter of when, where and how many more coal mines will close. Concerns are growing bankrupt coal companies can't meet their cleanup and reclamation obligations.
State and federal regulators for years have allowed coal companies to promise to clean up mines instead of setting aside money to do so. The practice is called self-bonding.
The Associated Press has counted up more than $3.3 billion in coal self-bonding obligations in nine top coal-mining states. That includes $2.3 billion in self-bonding by the three biggest coal companies in Chapter 11: Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Peabody Energy.