Coal Companies Abandon Mines: Taxpayers Foot the Bill

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced today that it's distributing $395 million to states this year to clean up abandoned coal mines. $245 million is coming straight from the U.S. Treasury.  (Fees on coal production provide the other $150 million.)

That's nearly a quarter of a billion dollars directly from tax payers to clean up the messes left by coal companies that have abandoned their responsibilities to keep our land safe and our water clean.  The program has provided over $7 billion since the program began.

I am happy that this funding is going to clean up many devastated areas with $51.3 million slated to come to West Virginia this year. However, it's important to keep these costs in mind the next time coal companies like Massey Energy and the loyal politicians who represent them talk glowingly about the importance of coal to our economy.

There are many hidden costs associated with mining coal - especially when it's done irresponsibly. Sadly, folks who want West Virginia to be "Open for Business" at all costs and want to "Unleash Capitalism" never seem to include these costs in their bottom line.

When the government provides funding for social programs such as health insurance for children - it's decried as "socialism". But, when the government provides funding to clean up messes from corrupt corporations, those same budget hawks and government critics are eerily quiet.

For example, after much debate and overriding a Presidential veto from President Bush, the federal government provided $36 million to West Virginia for sCHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) in 2008 with an $8 million state match.

On the other hand, there was hardly a peep about today's action to give the equivalent a $51.3 million handout to offset the expenses that coal companies should pay themselves.

If that $51.3 million went to support programs for children and families, I bet the conservative elite and their followers would have had something to say about it.
Cross posted at WVaBlue.


All Click said…
Great post. I'm not from WV but live here so I obviously am not allowed to voice an opinion on coal. I am surprised at the complete lack of outcry though.

Have you seen the billboard outside of Charleston approaching I-77? Faces of coal. It makes me puke every time I see it. It basically states that without coal the world will explode and hell will open up.