West Virginians Could Get Stuck Cleaning Up the Coal Industry’s Messes (ProPublica)

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    West Virginians Could Get Stuck Cleaning Up the Coal Industry’s Messes – By Ken Ward Jr. (Mountain State Spotlight) / Dec 1, 2023

    The state’s program for reclaiming abandoned coal mines has long been plagued with problems, but state and federal officials have done little to prepare for this reckoning.

    This article was produced for ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network in partnership with Mountain State Spotlight. Sign up for Dispatches to get stories like this one as soon as they are published.

    West Virginia’s fund to clean up abandoned coal mines is in such dire shape that it threatens to stick taxpayers with hundreds of millions — perhaps even billions — of dollars in cleanup costs. And yet, little is being done to turn things around.

    The bankruptcy of just one significant mining company could wipe out the fund, according to the state’s top regulatory official. And auditors for the Republican-controlled Legislature said at least five major companies were “at risk” of dumping cleanup costs on the state.

    At $15 million, the state’s fund for restoring land is at its lowest level in more than 20 years. The program’s latest published actuarial report in 2022 warned that a related water cleanup trust fund will lose half its balance over the next 10 years.

    CONTINUE > https://www.propublica.org/article/west-virginians-could-get-stuck-cleaning-up-coal-industry-messes

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