The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

"The Biggest Coal Giant has Fallen": Peabody's Bankruptcy Sends Clearest Signal of Coal Industry's Deep Decline

Sierra Club reacts to Peabody Energy’s bankruptcy, urges former energy giant to keep its obligations to workers, clean up toxic mines


In the latest and possibly most significant news about the global coal industry's continuing decline, Peabody Energy, Inc., the world's largest private-sector coal company, announced that it has filed for bankruptcy today. A sustained downturn in both domestic and international coal markets had left the company saddled with enormous debts and no realistic hope of paying them back, leading the company to seek protection from its creditors.

Public interest organizations, including the Sierra Club, plan to keep a close eye on Peabody's bankruptcy proceedings, since many coal companies have used bankruptcy to shed responsibilities to workers, retirees, and local communities near mines. Due to reckless investments and bloated CEO salaries, company has more than $2 billion in mine cleanup liabilities, nearly $1.5 billion of which are unfunded, including nearly $900 million in Wyoming alone.

Peabody, once regarded as a titan in the American energy industry, is now just the latest in a string of at least 50 coal industry bankruptcies since 2012. Just two months ago Arch Coal, the nation's second largest coal producer, filed for Chapter 11 protection; and Alpha Natural Resources, the fourth largest coal producer in the US, declared itself insolvent last August.

In response, Mary Anne Hitt, Director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, released the following statement:

"The biggest coal giant has fallen, and Peabody Energy's bankruptcy should serve as a wake-up call to anyone promising that coal's glory days will return. As Peabody grapples with the reality that the world is turning away from coal, it's essential that it doesn't turn away from its obligations to workers, communities, and the environment.

"Unfortunately, Peabody has a history of spinning off its responsibilities into smaller companies that seem built to fail, while taxpayers are left holding the bag. We need to make sure the former energy giant is held accountable for every promise it's made and that its decline leaves its commitments in the best shape possible. In addition to Peabody doing its part, we also need Congress to do theirs -- which means investing more federal dollars in economic redevelopment and diversification in coal communities, shore up health care and pension plans for coal workers and their families, and ensure toxic mining sites are cleaned up and reclaimed.

"As we transition to the clean energy economy, it's essential that we don't forget the immense contributions that coal communities have made to America and that we secure every family's livelihood as we transition to new economic opportunities."

The Sierra Club is the most enduring and influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States. We amplify the power of our 3.8 million members and supporters to defend everyone's right to a healthy world.

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