As Wyoming’s coal industry decline worsens, the government is trying to fight the situation by helping workers who have been laid off from one of the country’s biggest coal companies. Gov. Matt Mead is requesting several state agencies to provide resources to 460 people who are now out of work.

Coal mining and processing represent one of the state’s major industries. The Wyoming Department of Insurance, the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, the Wyoming Business Council and the state’s Community College Commission are releasing joint plans in an attempt to relieve the serious trouble in which those energy workers are now immersed in.

Despite shifting energy markets, America’s largest coal company, Peabody Energy, still brought in nearly $7 billion in revenue in 2014, and paid its CEO $11 million dollars. Credit: Western Priorities

The authorities will focus on providing information and guidance on requesting unemployment insurance, training, health insurance, job opportunities and counseling service. The proprietors of Black Thunder and the North Antelope Rochelle coal mines, which are located in the northeastern part of Wyoming, announced Thursday they would lay off up to 15 percent of their workforce.

The North Antelope Rochelle is owned by Peabody Energy while Arch Coal owns Black Thunder. Peabody president Kemal Williamson said in a statement that they regretted the devastating impact their decision was causing on their employees and their families but claimed that the measure was necessary to “match production with customer demand”.

Williamson explained that the oversupply of natural gas and mild winter weather had been challenging the conditions of the nation’s coal industry, which has suffered severe shipment declines this year. That has led his company to believe stockpile reductions are excessively higher than expected, he said.

Peabody Energy, the largest publicly traded coal company in the world, had to appeal to creditors for 30 additional days to pay its debts, according to a report by the Washington Post. Two other large U.S. coal companies have declared bankruptcy within the past semester.

Statements filed by Peabody last year with the Securities and Exchange Commission show that the company has cleanup obligations of about $1.4 billion guaranteed by self-bonding. Arch Coal, the country’s second-largest coal firm, has self-guaranteed liabilities exceeding $485 million in reclamation costs, as the Washington Post reported.

Over the past year, Peabody stock prices have decreased by more than 97 percent and by Thursday the coal behemoth’s market value was lower than $44.3 million.

The coal industry’s decline increases the chances of damage to the environment

On the other hand, smaller companies which have no chance to have similar outcomes have either defaulted or skimped on cleanup obligations, which has resulted in abandoned strip mines. Some are now sources of water pollution as they perpetually leak acid and other toxic wastes into groundwater supplies.

Source: Washington Post