Third-Largest US Coal Company Files For Bankruptcy

Wyoming Public Radio reports:

One of the largest domestic coal companies has voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Cloud Peak Energy warned of its financial problems in November of last year. By 2018, Cloud Peak had nearly no cash, were hundreds of millions of dollars in debt, and sold less coal than it had in years.

The company points to weak coal markets, while analysts add heavy investment into exports caused its problems too. Clark Williams-Derry, director of energy finance at Sightline Institute, an environmentally-focused think-tank, said the company’s big bets into Asian exports didn’t work out.

Think Progress reports:

Cloud Peak’s financial troubles reflect the broader realities of coal, which is being displaced by cheaper energy sources, including natural gas and renewables. Since 2015, major coal companies Alpha Natural Resources, Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, Mission Coal, and Westmoreland Coal have all declared bankruptcy amid falling profits and increasing concerns over long-term viability.

While that trend has continued through several presidential administrations, more coal plants closed during Trump’s first two years in office than during the entire first term of the Obama administration. In total, at least 50 U.S. coal plants have shuttered under Trump as of this month, according to a Sierra Club report released last week. The uptick reflects market realities but it also comes despite the White House’s best efforts to revive coal.