By Andrew Follett
April 4, 2017 - Peabody Energy, the largest U.S. coal producer, has emerged from bankruptcy after reorganizing and is once again selling stock.
“Our financial focus will now be on reducing debt, targeting high-return investments and returning cash to shareholders over time,” Peabody CEO Glenn Kellow said in a press release Monday.
Peabody reported $2 billion in losses in 2015, with only $900 million on hand. The company declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April of last year.
“We look forward to this next phase in our company’s history,” Kellow said. “Coal remains an essential part of the energy mix, and Peabody is the largest U.S. coal producer while our Australian platform has access to the higher-growth Asia-Pacific region.”
Based in the U.S., Peabody has seemingly benefited immensely from a sharp shift in how the government regulates coal. President Donald Trump has rolled back burdensome regulations that have hurt the industry for years, leading one coal CEO to previously tell The Daily Caller News Foundation that “at least we’ve got a shot at it under Trump.”
In an executive order, Trump ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to pause its the Clean Power Plan for review. The plan greatly harmed the coal industry. Trump also signed legislation rolling back the Department of Interior’s Stream Protection Rule, which was rushed onto the books shortly before Obama left office. The rule would have made it much harder to mine coal on federal lands.
Environmental groups have long been predicting Peabody’s downfall. Greenpeace, Rainforest Action Network, 350.org, and WildEarth Guardians sent a letter to the president of Peabody stating that the company “is not viable in the long-term” and urging parties to “take steps to ensure the company undertakes an orderly end to its coal business.”
The coal industry has been struggling, and other American coal companies have faced financial problems too. Arch Coal filed for bankruptcy as well last January and coal companies including Alliance Coal have announced mass layoffs.
A 2015 study found the coal industry lost 50,000 jobs from 2008 to 2012 during Obama’s first term. During Obama’s second term, the industry employment in coal mining has fallen by another 33,300 jobs, according to federal data, 10,900 of which occurred in the last year alone.
Coal mining currently employs 69,460 Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some cast much of the blame for the job losses is directed at federal regulations aimed at preventing global warming, which caused many coal power plants to go bankrupt, resulting in a sharp decline in the price of coal.
Employment has fallen so drastically because coal production has fallen by 15 percent since 2008. Companies were forced by environmental regulations to shut down 400 mines and only opened 103 new mines in the U.S. in 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.