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Massive Peabody, Arch Layoffs Underscore Need to Help Workers, Communities Transition from Coal

As Industry Declines, an Opportunity to Move Communities Toward Clean Energy, Sustainable Economies

Denver—With the coal industry announcing the laying off of nearly 500 workers in Wyoming, WildEarth Guardians is renewing its call for a full transition away from coal and for Arch, Peabody and other mining companies to commit to an orderly end to their businesses.

“Instead of helping workers and communities transition away from coal, Arch and Peabody executives are putting people out of jobs in a conceited attempt to stay in business,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.  “Rather than laying off workers, Arch, Peabody, and other failing coal companies should be stepping up to help miners receive the resources they need to move on to more sustainable and secure careers.”

The layoff of nearly 500 workers—including 235 at Peabody’s North Antelope-Rochelle mine and 230 at Arch’s Black Thunder mine—comes as industry is in steep decline because of dropped demand for coal and the accumulation of massive debt.  Earlier this year, Arch Coal, the nations’ second largest coal company, filed for bankruptcy and all indications are that Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal company, will also file for bankruptcy in the near future. 

Overall, the future for coal is bleak.  With the U.S. and the world striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect the climate, all signs point to the need to move away from coal as a source of energy.  Last year, a study found that to meet modest climate protection objectives, 90% of all U.S. coal reserves would need to remain in the ground.

“The reality is, there is no future for coal,” said Nichols.  “Its time for industry to acknowledge this and takes steps to wind down their coal mining operations in an orderly and compassionate way, not simply collapse and force communities and workers to suffer in the aftermath.”

Even the Obama Administration and Congress are recognizing the decline and are moving to support coal-dependent community’s transition.  Earlier this year, the RECLAIM Act (Revitalizing the Economy of Coal Communities by Leveraging Local Activities and Investing More) was introduced to unlock $1 billion in funding.

In letters to Arch Coal and Peabody Energy earlier this year, WildEarth Guardians called directly on the companies to ensure workers and communities are aided as they end their coal mining businesses.  Guardians also called on the companies to undertake expeditious reclamation of their mining operations.  The companies have yet to respond.

“These are hard times, but the path forward is to embrace transition and to hold Arch and Peabody accountable to helping make it happen,” said Nichols.  “For years, miners have kept the lights on in this nation, it’s the least these companies can do to help ensure they’re taken care of in this era of energy transformation.”

Arch and Peabody’s layoffs come even as the companies are paying millions to their executives.  Reports last month found Arch Coal paid more than $8 million in bonuses days before filing bankruptcy.  And in spite of a nominal pay cut, Peabody’s CEO continues to make more than $10 million annually.

“The coal industry is broken and the solution isn’t to fix it, it’s to get rid of it,” said Nichols.  “Now is the time for us all to get serious about seizing the opportunity to genuinely and completely move our nation to cleaner energy and more sustainable and secure economies.”


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