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House, Senate Democrats aim to nix coal company self-bonding

A new bill from Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate aims to reform federal laws that allow the coal sector to self-bond its environmental liabilities.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Penn., joined other colleagues in the House and Senate to introduce the Coal Cleanup Taxpayer Protection Act. A news release claims the bill would protect taxpayers from coal companies' "risky financial practices" by prohibiting any new self-bonds for coal reclamation. Existing self-bonds would be phased out when an operator's five-year operating permits were due for renewal.

"As coal companies emerge from bankruptcy, we should act now to avoid the mistakes of the past," Cantwell said. "That means coal companies need to set aside real resources for cleanup, not so-called 'self-bonds' that risk taxpayer dollars to clean up the mess these companies can leave behind."

Cantwell's release pointed out that some states such as Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana and Virginia already do not allow self-bonding.