Peabody Energy has always prided itself on being a good neighbor. On July 7, the company which filed for bankruptcy protecting in April, asked a bankruptcy court to allow it to pay property taxes around the country, saying its failure to do so has been a burden on jurisdictions where the mining giant was the key taxpayer.
In a motion filed earlier in federal court in St. Louis, MO, Peabody said it had incurred nearly $30 million in property taxes, some of that due this year and some next.
The Associated Press reported that the request could have a big impact in the communities where Peabody Energy operates, including Routt County, CO.
The school district that faced a financial crisis because Peabody missed a property tax payment last month got a $1 million-dollar bailout from the state board of education. South Routt schools will repay the money when Peabody pays its taxes.
“Peabody is a long-time employer in Routt County, and we pride ourselves on being a good neighbor,” the company said in a statement. “We’ve been made aware of the difficult situation caused by property tax payments missed as a result of our Chapter 11 filing, and have asked the court to authorize payment of property taxes.”
Tim Corrigan, a Routt County commissioner, welcomed the step not just because it made him “hopeful that we’ll see some money in the near future,” but because he saw it as a signal Peabody would emerge from bankruptcy and keep doing business. The company’s Twentymile Coal and a nearby power plant it supplies in Routt County are crucial to the region’s economy, Corrigan said.
South Routt schools took the biggest hit from Peabody's missed tax payment, but hospital, fire department and other operations also suffered, Corrigan told AP. He said the county could dip into its own reserves to help while awaiting payments from Peabody.
Peabody had followed Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources and others into bankruptcy proceedings as new energy technology and tightening environmental regulations led to mine closures and job cuts in several states.
In Wyoming's Campbell County, Peabody, Arch and Alpha are all big players. But Don Dihle, Campbell County School District No. 1's business manager, said the combined property tax bill for all three was a small percentage of his $130 million budget. Dihle said that despite their financial difficulties, they had paid a severance tax assessed on mining operations that was more important to his finances.