Officials believe Cloud Peak will pay taxes


Although worried for the future for a financially troubled Cloud Peak Energy Corp., Campbell County officials aren’t concerned the Powder River Basin coal producer will miss paying millions of dollars owed for its 2018 tax bill.

County commissioners approved a payment schedule for Blackjewel LLC that, if the company makes its payments, will take care of about $8.6 million in back taxes owed along with paying a hefty 18 percent interest rate to the county.

Last summer, the county finally settled a nearly $13 million tax bill with Alpha Natural Resources, which went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization before emerging in 2016 and selling off the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines in Campbell County.

After hiring an outside legal firm to go after Alpha for $8.6 million for the final installment of tax owed for 2015 and millions more for 2016, the county settled with Alpha for about $4 million short of what should have been collected.

While the experiences with Blackjewel and Alpha have cost the county time and money, Commission Chairman Rusty Bell said he has no concerns Cloud Peak won’t pay its taxes on time.

“You know, the other two companies that went bankrupt — Peabody and Arch Coal — they never missed one payment and I would think Cloud Peak won’t either,” Bell said. “They’re more home-based here and I don’t believe they will go that route.”

County Treasurer Rachael Knust said Cloud Peak Energy is current on its taxes, having already paid about $8 million owed for the first half of 2018 production and has until May 10 to pay another $8 million.

“They are caught up and are not delinquent,” she said. “You know, there are always concerns about anybody paying their taxes, but so far there hasn’t been any kind of scuttlebutt or anything that they won’t pay theirs. … I really don’t have any concerns.”

When Arch Coal filed for bankruptcy in January 2016, it owed $34.5 million in taxes to the county and paid it all.

Cloud Peak is on the verge of bankruptcy after posting a $718 million loss for 2018 and being suspended from the New York Stock Exchange as the exchange proceeds with delisting the company.

“Even if we are concerned about it, there’s not a whole lot we can do,” Bell said.

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