COAL: Groups object to Alpha-W.Va. reclamation deal
Manuel Quiñones, E&E reporter
Published: Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Environmental groups are formally objecting to a deal between the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and bankrupt coal company Alpha Natural Resources Inc. over mine reclamation liabilities.

Last week, Alpha agreed to continue moving away from self-bonding in West Virginia -- under which cleanups are essentially guaranteed through the company's financial health -- and to post $39 million in additional financial assurances.

Today, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, the Sierra Club and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy filed an objection in Richmond, Va., U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

"The reclamation of surface mines is a critical obligation that Alpha must fulfill, not an extraneous cost to be handed off to the taxpayers. Today we're taking action to ensure that Alpha Natural Resources keeps to its responsibility and cleans up its own mess," the groups said in a joint statement.

Alpha has also worked out a deal with Wyoming regulators. Environmental advocates and the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement expressed concern about the move (E&E Daily, Dec. 9).

Alpha and states have described the deals as securing reclamation responsibilities while not further crippling the company's chances of going through reorganization and emerging from bankruptcy.

Beyond Alpha, groups are expressing concerns about Arch Coal Inc.'s reclamation liabilities. The company is negotiating with creditors to avoid a bankruptcy filing.

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