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Chapter 11 for U.S. Coal Company

One of the oldest coal companies in the U.S. filed for bankruptcy protection to deal with it's $1.4 billion debt amid declining demand for fuel.  Westmoreland Coal Co. began in 1854 in Pennsylvania and operates in Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, North Dakota, Texas, North Carolina and Canada.  However, the mines in Canada are not part of bankruptcy filing.

“Nothing can stop America’s shift away from coal and toward clean energy, but the transition should be managed to ensure workers are treated with respect and that vital environmental obligations are honored,” said Mary Anne Hitt of the Sierra Club.  Westmoreland officials have previously said the company is fully bonded to cover future reclamation work at its mines.  They are the fourth major coal company to file for bankruptcy in the past three years.  Unless transportation can be arranged, when a coal-fired plant closes, the mine associated with it is also retired.  Sierra Club members, supporters and partners have worked to retire 150 coal-fired power plants in an effort to move the country away from fossil fuels.  According to EIA forecasts, overall US coal production is expected to decline over the next four years and about 21 coal mines could be closing in coming decades.    EIA coal receipts data show, there are 154 mines in the US that sold coal to just one US utility-scale buyer last year. An additional 44 mines sold their coal to just two such buyers last year, some of which are among the coal plants already slated for retirement.  As the demand for coal decreases, the operational costs of its ‘greener’ competitors also shrinks. 

But coal is not out for the count.  It is important to acknowledge that EIA data from July 2018 shows that coal and natural gas fueled almost 68.5% of U.S. electricity generated and coal increased from 27.36 percent in June to 28.18 percent in July.  

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