How a bankruptcy filing shielded a big coal company from California's climate-change lawsuits

Peabody Energy, the nation’s largest private-sector coal company, joined several of its fellow coal producers in bankruptcy in 2016. Its main goal was to wriggle out from under more than $10 billion in debt it had incurred to expand, even as demand was sharply falling.

But its bankruptcy filing has provided a collateral benefit: Peabody has been ruled immune from a lawsuit brought by three California jurisdictions blaming it and dozens of other fossil fuel companies for a sea level rise related to climate change.

The ruling came last month from U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Barry S. Schermer of St. Louis, who presided over Peabody’s bankruptcy. On Monday, the California plaintiffs — the counties of Marin and San Mateo and the city of Imperial Beach — filed a notice that they’ll appeal Schermer’s ruling to federal court.

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