Coal Companies Spent $95 Million on Lobbying Before Bankruptcies – by Jennifer A Dlouhy (Bloomberg News – June 28, 2016)

Five coal-mining companies spent $95 million to lobby U.S. lawmakers and more than half a billion dollars on salaries for top executives in the decade before they filed for bankruptcy, according to a report by an environmental group.

At the same time, the companies — Walter Energy Inc., Patriot Coal Corp., Alpha Natural Resources Inc., Arch Coal Inc. and Peabody Energy Corp. — benefited from a federal program that leases land for coal production at a discount. The environmental group, the Western Values Project, said in a report to be released Tuesday that the companies’ “excessive” spending shows the leases helped lobbyists and executives, not the public.

The five companies filed for bankruptcy over the past 13 months after natural gas became cheaper than coal and regulatory costs increased. Coal supplied 24.6 percent of U.S. electricity in April, compared to nearly 50 percent a decade ago.

The report was released ahead of a Tuesday public meeting in Pittsburgh on the future of the federal coal-leasing program. The Western Values group is pressing regulators to overhaul the program by making transactions more transparent and raising costs to better match the value of coal extracted from private land.

Five earlier public meetings, designed to help the Obama administration decide how to revamp the program to lease public land for coal production, focused on the environmental costs of burning the fossil fuel and the potential economic fallout for companies and communities whose livelihoods are tethered to it.

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