"The Obama administration is concerned that a subsidy of coal mine cleanup could leave taxpayers with multibillion-dollar liabilities, a U.S. Interior Department official said on Tuesday.
The program, known as self-bonding, allows some of the country's largest coal companies to forego insurance on a share of future mine cleanup costs.
Roughly $3.6 billion in self-bond liabilities could fall to taxpayers and righting the program "is a huge priority," said Janice Schneider, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management at the Interior Department.
The coal industry has been battered by new pollution controls and an abundance of natural gas in recent years with investors predicting some leading companies could fail."