Peabody Nears Bankruptcy, Just Transition Needed

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Road closure at Peabody's Rocky Branch Mine. Photo by Pam Richart, Eco-Justice Collaborative

This press release is from our friends at Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE).  We join their call for a just response for communities and miners as Peabody nears bankruptcy, unable to meet its bond obligations.  It's time to make that transition from a coal economy by funding employment and new economic opportunities; and revenues for land reclamation and mine clean-up. That's what our campaign to reinvest in the heartland can achieve, by means of an Illinois coal severance tax.

Read this compelling press release, and then consider signing MORE's petition, telling the Judge to prioritize a just transition in Bankruptcy Court.  

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
16 March 2016
Contact: Caitlin Lee, (713) 504-6866, caitlin@organizemo.org

Upon Peabody’s Skipping Interest Payments, Bankruptcy Near, Communities Impacted by Extraction Call for Just Transition Away from Coal Economies

ST. LOUIS -- Today, Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private-sector coal corporation based in St. Louis, skipped their interest payments, nearing bankruptcy. Peabody would be the latest major United States-based coal corporation to file for bankruptcy, following announcements from Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal in the last few months.

In response, community groups impacted by Peabody across the country are declaring the need, should Peabody file for bankruptcy, to prioritize the workers and pensions of mine workers; funds to transition communities and coal miners out of extraction-based economies, including reemployment and new economic opportunities; and money for land reclamation and mine clean-up.

When coal corporations have filed for bankruptcy in the past, such as Patriot Coal’s filing in 2012, the bankruptcy court has prioritized CEO payouts and payments to hedge funds, often cutting funds for workers’ pension and healthcare obligations. Groups across the country directly impacted by Peabody Coal demand that the bankruptcy court prioritize a just transition for workers and communities. Individual statements are below.

From 1974 to the present Peabody Energy along with the US federal government has forcibly relocated over 14,000 Dineh (Navajo) people from their ancestral homeland and has drastically depleted the Navajo Aquifer, continuing the violent settler colonial project. Many Dineh families still face harassment to this very day but remain strong while refusing to leave their homeland. Dineh groups have had a constant demand of reparations from Peabody for the company’s 40 years of cultural genocide on Black Mesa.

Statement from Norman Benally, Big Mountain/Black Mesa, long time Dineh (Navajo) activist:

I have been all over the country to see the places where Peabody mines -- from Appalachia to Indiana to Illinois to Wyoming. It is all similar stories of destruction of the land and local economies. We know that coal is over. Peabody should not be bailed out -- instead it is time for the company to shut down fully.

Communities that have been impacted by Peabody’s destruction need to be considered first and foremost as they talk about restructuring the company. We need resources to reclaim the land that they have ruined. Our communities, the ones most impacted by coal mining, could use money to invest in renewable energy and transition our economy away from the coal mine.

Statement from Danny Blackgoat, Big Mountain/Black Mesa, longtime Dineh (Navajo) activist:

For over forty years, Peabody has been involved in displacing Dineh (Navajo) people on Black Mesa. Peabody has caused the continuous suffering of Dineh people. It has been the intent of energy companies from the beginning to make Navajo people expendable.

We need the resources of Peabody to go first to people being displaced. And we need to shut down the whole Kayenta mine. The bankruptcy court will want to pay out CEOs first, but really those resources should go to the people directly affected -- not the tribal governments -- but the people affected by Peabody’s mine, the people who have resisted forced displacement, the people who Peabody has harassed for decades.

Statement from Dell Breeland, St. Louis resident and member of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE):

Peabody’s bankruptcy is no different than when the banks crashed our economy in 2008. Unless we stand up, the bankruptcy court will leave ordinary people -- coal miners and impacted communities -- out to dry, while CEOs make millions of dollars. We are coming together to demand a true just transition.

In 2010, Peabody took millions of dollars from our underfunded St. Louis Public Schools, all for a 10-year building lease. We know that by 2020 Peabody Coal won’t exist -- even if it reorganizes, the era of a corporate coal-run economy in St. Louis is over. We need our politicians to get back what Peabody owes for the school children of St. Louis, and even more so, we need to tell our politicians to move money towards a just and green economy, as outlined in the Sustainable St. Louis report, where low income residents are trained and employed in putting up solar panels and weatherizing houses.

Statement from Basmin Nadra, St. Louis resident and member of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE):

St. Louis coal corporations--Peabody, Arch, Foresight, previously Patriot Coal--regularly disregard the health, homes and livelihoods of average people and continue to build their empires by profiting from this oppression. Mayor Slay has aligned his office with Peabody since they moved here. The violent apathy of our elected officials to the very real struggles for survival in the face of coal is embarrassing and shameful. St. Louis has the opportunity to be a leader in Just Transition strategies; it is deeply troubling that they do not see this as imperative and continue to reside in their state of denial.

Statement from Judy Kellen, resident of Rocky Branch (Saline County), IL and member of Justice for Rocky Branch campaign:

I have felt each one of Peabody’s mining blasts from my house across the street. I have breathed in the toxic dust. The ground that Peabody has mined is not farmable. The water is ruined and streams are gone. Miners are out of work. And we are still here. Our experience shows that mining corporations do not have a problem sacrificing anything or anybody that gets in the way of their bottom line.

Our biggest fear from the beginning was Peabody leaving us in the dust, and that fear is growing stronger. If we could afford to leave, we would. But we cannot. This bankruptcy will send shockwaves throughout our already poor and unstable local economy, which is centered around coal mining. This bankruptcy positions Peabody to abandon their responsibilities to my community.

For well over a century, people in Southern Illinois have paid the price for coal companies. That must end today. We need guaranteed quality clean up of the land, so we can farm again. We need job training and investment in sustainable employment. No form of fossil fuel industry fits this call.

*Individuals can be available for comment -- contact Caitlin Lee at caitlin@organizemo.org for more information*

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