November 2, 2016 Read More →

Coal Giant Peabody Energy, in Bankruptcy, Still Finds the Money to Pay Lobbyists

Curtis Tate for McClatchy:

Although Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal producer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April, it has still paid its lobbyists $1.2 million this year, according to federal disclosures.

Among the company’s lobbyists: several former congressional staffers and three former members of Congress, including onetime House Democratic leader and two-time presidential candidate Dick Gephardt of Missouri.

According to the filings with the House Clerk’s office, Gephardt and other Peabody lobbyists have visited the offices of members of Congress and federal agencies to press their case on a variety of issues of concern to the St. Louis-based company.

Gephardt’s firm also has lobbied for Prairie State Generating, the operator of a relatively new coal-fired power plant in southern Illinois that’s proved more costly and less efficient than originally envisioned. Earlier this year, Peabody sold its stake in Prairie State.

As Peabody and other coal operators have sought bankruptcy protection, they have laid off workers and closed and sold mines. They’ve negotiated to cut their contributions to pension and health care funds for retired employees. They’re also, in some cases, leaving state and federal taxpayers on the hook for the cleanup costs of their shuttered mines.

At the same time, however, they’ve sought to pay controversial bonuses to retain key employees. In June, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Missouri approved a $3.2 million bonus plan for 42 employees at Peabody’s headquarters.

Peabody is on track to spend $1.6 million on lobbying this year, a sharp decline from the nearly $7 million it spent in 2011.

Peabody paid the firm of Greenberg Traurig $260,000 during the first nine months of the year. Its lobbyists include former Republican Sen. Tim Hutchinson of Arkansas and former Rep. Al Wynn, a Maryland Democrat.

The company paid the Gephardt Group $150,000 through Sept. 30. Its lobbyists also include Gephardt’s former chief of staff, Thomas O’Donnell, and his former executive assistant, Sharon Daniels.

Gephardt represented St. Louis in Congress from 1977 to 2005, serving as both majority and minority leader. He also sought the Democratic presidential nomination twice, in 1988 and 2004.

Peabody also paid its own lobbyists $870,000 to advocate at the federal level through a subsidiary, Peabody Investments.

Full article: Business as usual? Bankrupt coal giant is still paying for DC lobbyists

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