February 11, 2019 Read More →

Wyoming landowners sue state over coal company bonding claims

Casper Star Tribune:

A northern Wyoming landowners’ group is suing the state for declining to prove that $27 million in ranchland used as collateral for a coal mine’s cleanup is really worth that much money.

The dispute concerns Blackjewel LLC, a relative newcomer to Wyoming coal country. The firm announced that it had acquired Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines from Contura Energy in December 2017, but in order to take full operation of those mines, the newer firm has to provide financial assurances — insurance or property that can be used to cover the cost of mine cleanup in Wyoming should the coal company go under.

To date that permit transfer has not taken place, but the bonds have been proposed. They are the same as the last coal company’s bonds.

Of the $247 million in cleanup liability at the two mines, $26.7 million is covered by real property: 20,000 acres of Campbell County ranchland owned by Contura. The Powder River Basin Resource Council is arguing that a 20,000-acre ranch in northern Wyoming isn’t worth that much cash.

The Sheridan-based group filed a public records request in October with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality — which had approved that the land be used as collateral — asking the agency to prove the property was valued at that amount. The state declined at the time, saying that the coal firm had requested its appraisal information be kept private. Now the landowners’ group, which has been critical of Blackjewel’s reputation for environmental failings in its past dealings in Appalachia, is suing the state for denying its public records request.

More: Landowner group sues Wyoming for withholding information on coal permits

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