August 22, 2019
In a precedent-setting Public Records Act case, a Wyoming District Court judge has ruled in favor of Powder River Basin Resource Council (Resource Council), ordering the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to release land appraisal documents directly related to Contura Coal West’s bond renewal for the Belle Ayr coal mine in Campbell County.
“In short, the court concludes the appraisal was ‘made for’ a governmental agency (DEQ) as an important part of the reclamation bonding process, and that the public possesses a strong interest in knowing that the mining company posted adequate collateral to secure its reclamation obligations,” Judge Steven Sharpe wrote in his decision.
“We are pleased that the judge agreed with us that this needs to be an open, transparent process in order to protect Wyoming’s taxpayers from taking on too much risk. Contura is the first coal company to use a real estate bond for reclamation, but they may not be the last, and we need to know that companies are being up-front in this important process. Had this appraisal been allowed to remain confidential, it would have set a dangerous precedent for other coal companies to do the same,” said Joyce Evans, Resource Council Chair. “The Wyoming people would have remained in the dark, not knowing if they were getting a good deal or not. Ensuring that mines have adequate bonds in place for reclamation and cleanup is vital to the well-being of our state.”
A copy of the decision is available for download.
For further background, the February 2019 press release from the initial filing is available at www.powderriverbasin.org/2019/02/07/powder-river-files-complaint-against-deq-for-public-records-act-violation/.
The Powder River Basin Resource Council, founded in 1973, is a family agriculture and conservation organization in Wyoming. Resource Council members are family farmers and ranchers and concerned citizens who are committed to conservation of our unique land, mineral, water, and clean air resources.