The cost of reclaiming abandoned mine lands is massive, but the fee that funds cleanup is set to expire in 2021 unless Congress extends it.
Two coal company bankruptcies in July resulted in retroactively withdrawn paychecks from coal miners and an unclear future for roughly 13,000 acres of unreclaimed mine land.
Although Central Appalachian coal production has seen a slight rebound since 2016, it may be short-lived due to export and transportation costs. Additionally, two coal companies filed for bankruptcy last fall.
Environmental groups claim in a federal lawsuit that Republic Energy is illegally operating a strip mine on Coal River Mountain by using a state permit that expired in 2011.
A bill that would change Tennessee’s status as the only active coal mining state that does not have state control of coal mine permitting and oversight has passed the state house and senate.
Increased coal exports contributed to minor gains in the industry for the first three quarters of 2017.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice is pushing for federal coal subsidies, but his companies have also amassed millions in fines due to worker safety and environmental violations.
In August, the U.S. Dept. of the Interior ordered the National Academy of Sciences to halt a two-year review of the human health impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining. The review’s budget was less than 1 percent of the department’s current grant spending.