Socializing environmental costs
Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr. (+15207) 7 years ago
In another thread, oddjob said the following:

No, Joe's point is that corporate "greed" is responsible for all the social ills, wars and natural disasters on the planet, which is ridiculous.

The "fair share" debate is a waste of breath on blind zealots who desire a capitalist-free world, so rather than that, perhaps you can expound on how government central planning will keep everybody fed and relieve the taxpayer of their burden?

The notion that corporate greed is not responsible for much of the environmental demise is USDA grade A bullpoop. Here is a story that illustrates why this is true:

CHEYENNE — An agreement between Wyoming environmental regulators, a gas developer and a bond surety company would put the surety company in charge of inventory and reclamation of as many as 143 small reservoirs containing groundwater from coal-bed methane wells.

The deal between High Plains Gas, Fidelity and Deposit Co. of Maryland and the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality heads to a vote Tuesday by the Environmental Quality Council, the department’s citizen review panel. The deal could allow troubled gas developer High Plains Dag Inc. to avoid having $2.2 million in bonds reclaimed by the state. However, a landowner group questions whether Fidelity’s significant role is a good idea.

“How we’re going to trust this company that has a financial interest to deal fairly with the landowner is a huge question. It seems the state should have revoked the bond entirely and dealt with it themselves,” said Jill Morrison with the Powder River Basin Resource Council.

Not pulling the bonds will save Wyoming regulators time and trouble starting with the inventory process, said Bill DiRienzo, discharge permitting program manager for the department.

“I think it’s a pretty good deal that we got for the state. Because if we forfeit, there’s quite a bit of work that needs to be done,” DiRienzo said Monday.

Questions about the agreement notwithstanding, the Environmental Quality Council vote is unlikely to be contentious. The panel’s role isn’t to approve or disapprove of the deal but merely to verify a settlement has been reached, not unlike a judge who signs off on a settlement involving parties in a civil matter, according to Jim Ruby, executive director of the Environmental Quality Council.

Sheridan-based High Plains is among several companies in distress following a bust in northeast Wyoming’s coal-bed methane industry. Low gas prices caused many developers to shut in their wells — and some to simply walk away without even plugging them.

Last fall, High Plains forfeited $8 million in bonds, and the state took possession of 2,300 of its idle coal-bed methane wells to plug and clean up. The wells added significantly to Wyoming’s unprecedented backlog of thousands of so-called orphan wells that will remain environmental hazards until they’re remediated.

State officials are keen to avoid a similar situation with orphan reservoirs.

Coal-bed methane development involves pumping groundwater off coal seams saturated with water and gas. Coal-bed methane reservoirs have been at best a mixed blessing for ranchers since gas drilling took off in the Powder River Basin 15 years ago.

The millions of gallons of groundwater created watering holes for livestock but also salt buildup and, in winter, ice hazards for cattle. Under a settlement signed in February, Fidelity will inventory the reservoirs and ask landowners if they want to keep reservoirs on their property.

After documenting which reservoirs need cleanup, Fidelity could ask the department to hire one or more contractors to do that work or do so itself. If the projected costs exceed $2.2 million minus the cost of the inventory, Fidelity could choose to surrender the bonds to the state.

Phone messages left with High Plains and an attorney representing Fidelity seeking comment on the proposal weren’t immediately returned Monday.


This is your classic case of boom and bust. Land owners in Wyoming get stuck with the after affects of the CBM boom. The state regulators are lazy and gutless and refused to do the right thing here and pull the bonds. These bonds were very minimal and won't come close to doing a respectiable job of reclamation. The taxpayers will end up cleaning up the mess or it will be left as is with nothing done. The City of Gillette will have to figure out how to meet the TMDL standards for water quality. The costs will be socialized.

Another example: The stock price of Arch Coal (ACI) has been fluctuating around a dollar per share. They are in great danger of being pulled from the NYSE. Peabody Energy (BTU) dropped below $5.00 today. Both companies have thousands of acres of reclamation work to accomplish. Arch has been sitting on land that should be released for 20 years. It won't meet the rather lax reclamation standards in Wyoming. Both companies were allowed to self-bond, which basically tells the State that "we're good for the money". How will these messes get cleaned up WHEN these companies fail? The truth is the won't get cleaned up or if they do, the tax payers will foot the bill. The costs will be socialized. Both companies have made billions creating the mess. Corporate greed kicked in and rather take the responsible course of action, the behind-the-obscene hedge-fund managers absconded with the profit and will leave the "cleanup" to others.

Corporate greed is responsible for these travisties. It's time they pay the price. We need to start working the reclamation costs into the ROI equation. If you can't profitable mine and reclaim, you shouldn't be allowed to use the ceremonial sharp-shooter to break ground.