The Billings Outpost

Fed rules, economy blamed for bankruptcy of Arch Coal

Black Thunder, Arch Coal’s largest mine, helps Wyoming lead the nation in coal production. Photo by EcoFlight
By ELIZABETH SHOGREN - High Country News

One of the nation’s largest coal companies, Arch Coal, filed for bankruptcy last week, making it the second company with large Western mines to seek Chapter 11 restructuring in recent months. 

The St. Louis-based company announced that it expects to continue to operate its mines and pay its 4,600 employees while it seeks a bankruptcy court’s approval for its debt restructuring. Arch said its lenders had agreed to reduce its debt by more than $4.5 billion, but that deal would have to be approved by the court.

Responding to its employees’ and retirees’ fears, Arch said it does not anticipate major layoffs or disruptions to its pensions due to the bankruptcy. But it conceded that market conditions may impact staffing.

The company operates two surface mines in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin as well as the underground West Elk mine in Somerset, Colorado. It has proposed opening a surface mine in southeastern Montana, the Otter Creek project. It also has mines in Appalachia and Illinois.

“Over the past several years, a confluence of economic challenges and regulatory hurdles has hobbled the coal industry,” John Drexler, Arch’s chief financial officer, said in a filing with a U.S. bankruptcy court in Missouri.  The company could no longer pay annual fees of $360 million on its $5 billion debt, given the “current depressed coal market.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 January 2016 15:36

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Nice library; now, get people to use it

By STEPHEN DOW - For The Outpost

The beginning of a new year is often a time when people and organizations try to find ways to improve. Despite being one of the largest and newest libraries in the region, the Billings Public Library isn’t immune to this process: During the Annual Library Board Retreat last Saturday, members of the library board discussed ways in which the Billings library could better serve its patrons in the new year and beyond.

“This is where we get to do a little dreaming,” said Board Chairwoman Stella Fong at the beginning of the meeting. “What kind of library does Billings need and want? What kind of library would you like to see?”

The meeting of the board kicked off a year-long strategic planning process in which the library will collect feedback from board members and patrons in order to decide how to best serve the community in the years to come. The process will end in December with the writing of a new strategic plan that will outline the library’s goals and objectives for Fiscal Years 2017-2020.

During the two-hour discussion, board members discussed a variety of changes that they would like the library to make in the next few years. These included more senior outreach, collaboration with community programs such as Montana State University Billings’ Chicks in Science, a focus on literacy programs and more resources for homeschoolers.

However, one theme was repeated by nearly every member of the board: There needs to be a focus on developing community awareness of the library and its programs.

This assertion may seem strange when you consider

Last Updated on Thursday, 14 January 2016 11:54

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What stirred readers in 2015?

By STEVEN DOW - For The Outpost

It’s a new year which can only mean one thing: It’s list-making season.

Newspapers across the country have spent the last few weeks discussing and debating the most significant events of 2015. However, there is often a flaw in the list-making process: The lists are inherently subjective and can thus be quite controversial. Often, reporters’ opinions don’t match up with what was truly significant to the general populace.

That’s what makes The Outpost’s “Best of 2015” a bit different: The following 10 stories were picked by you, the Outpost reader, through clicking on links to stories at our website (

These most-read stories of 2015 are a rather eclectic bunch. They include opinion pieces and hard-news stories and cover topics ranging from racism to the greenhouse at the Special K ranch. It’s an interesting mix to be sure – just as Billings is an interesting mix of people with different passions and concerns.

Without further ado, here are The Outpost’s 10 most-read online stories of the past year.

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 January 2016 12:55

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