WASHINGTON, D.C. Sept. 16 2016- The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) announced today that it will begin the rulemaking process to better protect working families and responsible taxpayers from the reckless practice of self-bonding. Self-bonding is a dangerous loophole used by large coal companies that allows them to forgo purchasing reliable, third-party insurance to cover the cost of cleaning up their mines in the event that they go out of business. When self-bonded coal companies go out of business, local communities can be left holding the bill for millions of dollars worth of clean up costs for uninsured mining sites.

Today’s announcement came after OSMRE received a torrent of comments from tens of thousands of Americans — including many supporters of Sierra Club and other allied organizations — calling for an end to self bonding, which contributed to the subsequent issuance of a landmark guidance by OSMRE that recommended states move away from the practice. The office cited significant public concern, weak coal markets, and major coal bankruptcies for its decision to issue the guidance, with OSMRE Director Joe Pizarchik calling the it “clear direction” to states on the enforcement of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

In response, Mary Anne Hitt, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, released the following statement:

“The reckless practice of self-bonding needs to stop and OSMRE’s decision to move forward with stronger protections against this short-sighted practice is a solid step in the right direction.

“Families shouldn’t have to bear the financial burden of cleaning up toxic coal mining sites that threaten their health and cripple the budgets of their states. OSMRE made the right decision to move forward with the rulemaking process, but it’s also equally important that it follow through with protections strong enough to give real force to the thousands of voices who spoke up during the comment period that called for the practice’s end.

“As America continues to transition away from coal and toward a clean energy economy, it’s essential that we hold coal companies accountable to the communities surrounding their abandoned mines. Eliminating self-bonding is about basic fairness, and as OSMRE moves forward with its rulemaking, it must remember to be fair to working families and taxpayers.”