Northern Plains Resource Council discusses coal bankruptcy issues

Northern Plains Resource Council hosted its annual meeting tonight in Billings.  The council focuses on providing resources for family farms and ranches in rural areas.

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Northern Plains Resource Council hosted its annual meeting on November 9, 2019 in Billings.  The council focuses on providing resources for family farms and ranches in rural areas.

A main topic of discussion -- how some coal companies are taking advantage of miners after declaring bankruptcy.  Northern Plains brought in Joshua Macey, a coal bankruptcy expert.  Macey serves as a law professor at Cornell University and explains how coal companies are bending the law to exploit coal miners.  He says 70% of coal in the region is being mined by companies that have already gone bankrupt, and when these companies go broke, they take advantage of bankruptcy law by paying off bankers and creditors before paying workers' retirement and healthcare.

"It's simple economic fundamentals," says Macey, "and what's troubling is not as much that coal companies are going bankrupt, but they're using bankruptcy to ensure that financial creditors continue to get paid rather than other interests."

The council's new chairwoman, Jeanie Alderson, says she is excited to tackle these problems in her new leadership position.

"There are times where we're really divided, not just politically, but all kinds of divisions seem to be cropping up all around and I think a group like Northern Plains really helps us bridge and get back to kitchen tables and talking about stuff and working out homegrown solutions to big complicated problems," she says.

Macey says with coal on the decline, reclamation and renewable energy could potentially fill jobs lost to coal bankruptcies in Montana and Wyoming.

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