State regulators file rule requiring higher bonds for surface coal mines

Coal companies will have to post higher reclamation bonds for surface mines under an emergency rule filed by state regulators Friday.

The state Energy and Environment Cabinet announced the move, which will take effect immediately.

The state took action on an emergency basis to avoid the possible loss of federal funds and of the ability to set bond amounts, according to a news release.

Companies must post bonds with the state so that if the company goes out of business or fails to reclaim strip-mined land, there will be money available for the state to pay a contractor to do it.

Environmentalists and others have long complained that the bond amounts the state required were too low to cover the actual cost of reclamation in many cases.

The state has been discussing the issue of inadequate bonds for two years with the coal industry, environmentalists and federal officials, and state officials thought the emergency regulation was the best way to move the process forward, according to the release.

An ordinary regulation on the bond issue will go through a further review process, which will include public comment and legislative review, the cabinet said.