"The gloomier outlook for U.S. coal companies is raising questions about who will pay to clean up shuttered strip mines and open pits across coal country. With financial woes piling up for coal producers, environmental groups are warning that taxpayers could be on the hook for millions in restoration costs if mining companies can’t pick up the bill.
Arch Coal Inc. this week became the latest U.S. coal operator to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in a bid to cut its long-term debt by more than $4.5 billion. Plunging coal prices, sluggish demand and competition from cheaper natural gas are eroding revenues across the industry. The filing Monday arrives after Walter Energy, Patriot Coal and another large producer, Alpha Natural Resources, filed for bankruptcy last year.
The coal sector’s troubles are only expected to deepen as regulators clamp down on harmful pollution from coal-fired power plants. In China, the world’s largest coal consumer, coal imports slumped 30 percent in 2015 due to a slowing economy and the country’s push toward cleaner energy, data showed Wednesday."