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Major Mountain West Coal Producer Files For Bankruptcy

A major U.S. coal producer filed for bankruptcy Tuesday morning.

Westmoreland Coal Company operates five mines in Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico. They employ more than a thousand people.

In a press release, the company said it isn’t laying off anyone or closing any mines right now.

Shortly after announcing bankruptcy, Westmoreland’s stock plummeted by more than 40 percent.

Westmoreland owns coal mines that are tied to U.S.-based coal-fired power plants, so they’ve been hit especially hard as the nation transitions towards cheaper renewables and natural gas.

“The company has indicated that it hopes to continue operating the mines,” said Peter Morgan, senior attorney with the Sierra Club. “But I question whether Westmoreland is going to be able to find anyone willing to buy these mines given that their economic model is just inherently flawed.”

The Trump administration has tried to bolster coal production in the U.S. by easing environmental regulations.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

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