Here’s What A Coal Bankruptcy Looks Like For Locals

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Coal communities around Twentymile Mine in northwest Colorado faces economic ruin if the company running the massive coal mine goes bankrupt.

Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately owned producer of coal, announced Tuesday it may file for bankruptcy protection after missing an interest payment. The company is already trying to sell off assets such as the Twentymile Mine in Colorado to Bowie Resource Partners.

“A closure of Twentymile Mine would be devastating to northwest Colorado’s economy. It is one of Routt County’s largest taxpayers and many of the mine’s employees live in Moffat County,” John Kinkaid, the commissioner of Moffat County in Colorado, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We are doing everything that we can to diversify and grow our economy, but we must keep our current key industries going as well.  My son, Caleb, used to work at Twentymile. That job allowed him to get back on his feet financially after college graduation. These jobs are not abstract numbers here.”

A bankruptcy could require Peabody to start selling off assets or shutting down mines. Peabody reported $2 billion in losses in 2015, and the company claims to only have $900 million on hand.

The Twentymile mine employs 470 and has 34 million tons of recoverable coal reserves remaining. The mine has received several awards for safety and environmental responsibility. Twentymile was the second-most-productive coal mine in Colorado in 2105, and its potential sale illustrates just how desperate Peabody is to become financially solvent.

Peabody and other coal companies, such as Arch Coal and Alliance Coal, are being forced to contemplate drastic measures to save themselves. All three companies are being pummeled by low natural gas prices and Environmental Protection Agency regulations.

Environmental groups are already predicting Peabody’s downfall. Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network,, and WildEarth Guardians even sent a letter to the president of Peabody Energy stating that the company “is not viable in the long-term” and “take steps to ensure the company undertakes an orderly end to its coal business.”

“The writing’s on the wall, there is no future for coal,” Jeremy Nichols, a Colorado resident and a program director at the green group WildEarth Guardians, said in a news release. “It’s time for Peabody to acknowledge the realities of climate change and the need to keep coal in the ground.”

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