April 14, 2016

What Bankruptcy Of US's Biggest Coal Producer Means For Indiana

BARTB_PT/via Flickr

BARTB_PT/via Flickr

The bankruptcy filing of the nation's biggest coal company will likely have repercussions in Indiana.

St. Louis-based Peabody Energy will keep operating mines like Bear Run in Sullivan County, for now. But the bankruptcy could impact more than a thousand Peabody Energy employees across the state.

Peabody says it's $10 billion in debt, and this week filed for federal bankruptcy protection from its creditors. Like many coal companies, it's been squeezed by increasing regulatory costs, a global oversupply of coal and the rise of natural gas.

Peabody has more than a thousand workers in southwestern Indiana, and runs six mines there -- including Carlisle's Bear Run, which it says is the largest surface mine in the eastern U.S.

The move may also pose a threat to rural economies.

"For every 10 people employed in coal mining, there's another 13 jobs in addition in the economy of the region that are supported by the dollars that come out of coal mining," says Indiana Business Research Center director Jerry Conover.

That would translate to 2,300 jobs lost if Peabody shut down in Indiana, he says. The company has laid off workers here in recent years -- about 400 at various sites.

Still, Conover says Indiana is a well-regarded source of coal for the energy industry. He says the state might not be the first place Peabody looks to cut back.

"Many of the power plants in our state use Indiana Coal," Conover says.

Peabody has more mines in Indiana than in any other state. Those mines are still operating, and the company is looking for a solution in court.

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