Right now, coal companies pay what’s called an “Abandoned Mine Land” fee on each ton of coal. A decade ago, Consol Energy and other companies, including subsidiaries of Massey Energy and Arch Coal, filed a lawsuit against the government, claiming that they shouldn’t have to pay the fee for coal that’s being exported from the United States.
The companies have consistently lost in lower courts, and now, the Supreme Court has declined to hear arguments in the case.
Christopher Holmes is a spokesman for the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement.
“The message of this long-running legal saga is this: when companies mine coal on American soil, they’re obligated to pay those fees to the Abandoned Mine Land Fund, regardless of where that coal is sold,” he said.
The fund is used to reclaim mine sites that pre-date the passage of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.
“Essentially, the money is used to clean up mine sites, and we have hundreds and thousands of those throughout the United States that require that money, so this is a very big decision,” Holmes said.
If the coal companies had won the case, the government would have had to issue a refund for past fees paid.