Two executives with heavy interest in the state’s coal production sector say they are not surprised by Wednesday morning’s news that Missouri-based Peabody Energy Corp. (NYSE: BTU) has filed for bankruptcy. Peabody owns six coal mining properties in Gibson, Sullivan and Warrick counties and its Indiana work force totals more than 1,000. Indiana Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Energy and Environmental Policy Vince Griffin says, in addition to global economic concerns, the coal industry continues to be cramped by federal regulations. Griffin says the future of the industry is uncertain.
"The economic dynamic of this, cheap natural gas and the continued environmental controls on the industry all of those things added up makes for a very confusing puzzle going forward." Griffin says 80 percent of power used in the state is derived from coal-fired sources. "We’re still going to need coal. We’re going to need Peabody and they’re going to keep mining, so we’re being optimistic that they’re going to continue to employ the people that they’ve employed and continue mining coal and get through this." Griffin has said in the past and again contends the administration of President Barack Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have declared "war" on the coal industry and announcements like the one from Peabody are a result.
Peabody pointed to several major factors for the filing, including massive changes in the global energy landscape and a massive amount of dept it took on with a $5.2 billion acquisition of an Australian coal company five years ago.
The company says it plans to "continue in ordinary course of business," but Gibson County Economic Development Corp. Chief Executive Officer Todd Mosby believes there could eventually be "some attrition." He says he has not yet heard of any layoffs related to the bankruptcy, but says the area has more than 1,000 available jobs in several sectors should any separations occur. Mosby says the county is an "employees market" and efforts continue to attract workers and their families.
In Gibson County, Peabody says its three-mine Somerville Complex and Francisco Underground operation employ more than 450 Hoosiers.
The company says it plans to “continue in ordinary course of business,” but Gibson County Economic Development Corp. Chief Executive Officer Todd Mosby believes there could eventually be “some attrition.”
Indiana Chamber Vice President Vince Griffin says the future of the industry is uncertain.