So-called "self-bonding" is basically the coal companies' way of saying that they don't want to pay the cost of cleaning up their mines and would rather just distribute that money to their VIPs.
Which raises the question: If coal companies won't pay to clean up their mines, who will?
You and me, the taxpayers, of course!
Somebody has to clean up the environmental wasteland that is an old coal mine, and as The Washington Post reports, "In a bankruptcy" a judge can decide which creditors are paid and how much -- and state and federal governments could be left holding the bag for reclamation costs."
Big coal gorges itself in the boom years thanks in large part to the taxpayer subsidies that go to the fossil fuel industry, but when things go bad it tries to make "We the People" foot the bill.
What's going on here isn't unique to the coal or fossil fuel industries -- Wall Street did basically the same thing back in 2008 -- but what's unique about the fossil fuel industry is that it's one of only two industries in the world that doesn't pay to clean up its own waste (the other being the nuclear industry).
Instead of paying for the costs of their waste, both to the environment and in terms of its cost to poisoned humans, fossil fuel companies pass the costs of that waste on to the rest of us in the form of what economists call "externalities."
Some examples of "externalities" include things like the cost of cleaning up from climate change-driven severe weather events, the cost of pollution-related health problems from asthma to cancer, or in this case, the cost of cleaning up an old, deserted coal mine.
If we had, from the get-go, required coal companies to pay for taking out their own trash, we wouldn't be in the situation we are now, where Big Coal is, for all intents and purposes, blackmailing the government into cleaning up the mess it's created.
We would also probably be well on our way to kicking our fossil fuel habit once and for all.
It's time to make Big Coal -- as well as Big Oil and Big Gas -- pay to take out its own trash.
It's time for a national carbon tax.
It's that simple.
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