What happens when Big Coal goes bankrupt? Coal companies spend generations tearing up land, ruining communities, and pumping carbon into the atmosphere, and — in theory — it’s up to them to make repairs afterward. But if they declare bankruptcy, however, someone else — namely, the American taxpayer — may be left to clean up their mess. If one environmental group has anything to do with it, however, any loans Big Coal gets will be used for fixing the problems they caused.

The latest company to face a potential looming bankruptcy is Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal mine operator, Peabody shares plummeted 30 percent shortly after it released fourth-quarter results last year, and the company is now $6.3 billion in debt. Fellow coal monsters Alpha Natural Resources Inc. and Arch Coal Inc. have already filed for chapter 11, and if Peabody is unable to sells off its assets — including two coal mines in New Mexico and one in Colorado — it may soon do the same.

Peabody has a prospective buyer for its mine operations, but the buyer, Bowie Resources Partners LLC, missed the February deadline to secure financing for the purchase — and, if the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) has any sway, they won’t be able to find a bank to loan them the money at all.