July 5, 2016

Bloomberg has an indictment for you:

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.

The coal miners' pensions are insured by the feds and that program is going bankrupt, too--Democratic Senators from coal states are trying to help coal miner pension and healthcare plans stay afloat. The Hill reported in March:

“I think the coal miners in this country have been promised these benefits, these coal miners in this country have earned these benefits,” Cecil Roberts, international president of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), said at a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

Coal industry employees and their beneficiaries are provided retirement, disability and survivors benefits through the UMWA 1974 Pension Plan, which is federally guaranteed by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC). Retired coal miners can receive retiree health benefits through one of three multiemployer plans.

But the program is approaching insolvency due to losses during the financial crisis and the wave of bankruptcies in the coal industry. Roberts said that 21,000 people could lose their health benefits by the end of the year if Congress doesn’t act.

If the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation goes belly up, it won't be because Big Coal didn't pay their own executives or lobbyists enough money. Sad that no one makes a connection between paying off the rich and powerful... and leaving retirees to bankruptcy after the money is gone.

But this doesn't mean you let pensioners go hungry. Might be helpful to point out to these coal miners which party is standing up for them on the Senate floor.

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