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Editorial: Murray bankruptcy exposes folly of Ohio’s energy policy – Opinion – The Columbus Dispatch

Editorial: Murray bankruptcy exposes folly of Ohio’s energy policy – Opinion – The Columbus Dispatch

A perfectly predictable disaster is a step closer to happening in Ohio, and if it does we’ll have decades of bad Statehouse policy to thank.

The precarious financial position of Murray Energy Corp. means Ohio could find out, sooner rather than later, what happens when a giant coal company goes bankrupt and forfeits its abandoned mine sites without reclaiming the land. Likely it won’t be pretty.

For decades, Ohio hasn’t asked enough of coal companies. Rather than require them to secure bonds to cover whatever the cleanup cost might be, the state has allowed them to pay $2,500 per acre mined plus 14 cents per ton to support a reclamation fund — to pay for reclamation if owners abandon or forfeit mines.

It’s not enough, and that’s typical of Ohio’s tendency to favor private interests over the public. Now, with the steady decline of the coal industry, it could lead to a crisis.

Earlier this year a consultant’s report indicated that, if the top five holders of mining permits abandoned their mines, the cleanup cost would be nearly $560 million. Murray mines alone would account for more than $202 million.

The reclamation fund that’s supposed to take care of such eventualities? It contains around $21 million.

Meanwhile, plentiful and cheap natural gas, plus the rise (however stunted in Ohio) of renewable-energy technologies mean that fewer coal mining permits are taken out each year so the fund isn’t growing much, while coal companies become less financially stable.

All that raises the specter of a massive bailout by taxpayers, an environmental outrage, or both.

A Murray meltdown became more likely last Wednesday when the St. Clairsville-based company, one of the nation’s largest owners of coal mines, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The outcome isn’t certain, but if the end comes, it’s a pretty safe bet the General Assembly won’t have worked out a way to cover the cost of reclamation.

That cost should be included whenever the conversation turns to how much “cheaper” fossil fuels are than cleaner renewable technologies. Those who scoff at renewable energy development in Ohio generally omit much of the cost — in dollars, environmental degradation and public health — of extracting and burning coal and oil. Hundreds of millions in reclamation costs is a big example.

Murray Energy owner Bob Murray has become known as the pugnacious point man for the coal industry’s effort to deny the health and environmental costs and defy market reality. He allied himself with Donald Trump in 2016 and helped shape the fraudulent message that environmental regulation, not market forces, were killing coal and that a Trump presidency would bring coal jobs back.

It’s not as if Trump hasn’t tried; according to The New York Times, the Trump administration has rolled back or is trying to roll back more than 80 environmental regulations, and many were on Murray’s wish list, including pulling out of the Paris climate accord.

Murray’s bankruptcy filing exposes the truth: Wiping out environmental protection can’t save the coal industry. It only can hurt Americans and stunt our progress in the industries of the future.

Republican lawmakers in Ohio long have stuck to the same doomed strategy of propping up fossil fuel interests and insulating them from responsibility. Some day before too long, it might leave Ohioans with a giant costly mess.

Source: Columbus Dispatch

By:  Editorial 11/6/2019

Posted at 4:30 AM
Updated at 7:02 AM

LINK:  https://www.dispatch.com/opinion/20191106/editorial-murray-bankruptcy-exposes-folly-of-ohios-energy-policy

 

See the source image

Image result for picture - iron deposits in coal mine entrance

Image result for Pennsylvania Abandoned Coal Mines

Image result for Pennsylvania Abandoned Coal Mines

Image result for Pennsylvania Abandoned Coal Mines

Image result for Pennsylvania Abandoned Coal Mines

Source: Columbus Dispatch

By:  Editorial

Posted at 4:30 AM
Updated at 7:02 AM

LINK:  chrome-distiller://4f4c801b-60c0-4b41-b0df-8dc99fb1aa0d_b6b7ae2af6ed4c5bd43cad00cc1053dbc89c022a0898f0a46c482c4adcce2135/?time=351966302&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.dispatch.com%2Fopinion%2F20191106%2Feditorial-murray-bankruptcy-exposes-folly-of-ohios-energy-policy

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