New York’s Attorney General reached a historic agreement with Peabody Energy Corporation this week over the coal giant’s false statements about the environmental impact of its business. A. G. Eric T. Schneiderman announced yesterday that the agreement will force the coal company to rescind earlier attempts at downplaying the very real and harmful effects of coal combustion, and replace them with factual reports. Peabody, which supplies 10 percent of America’s electricity with its coal, has committed to rectifying its missteps.

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An investigation conducted by the A.G.’s office found that Peabody, the largest publicly traded coal company in the world, violated New York laws prohibiting false and misleading conduct in the company’s statements to the public and investors regarding financial risks associated with climate change and potential regulatory responses. Essentially, Peabody tried to claim that it wasn’t really possible to determine the financial impact of future climate change regulations. It doesn’t take a coal company executive to realize that’s just not true. As one of the dirtiest fossil fuels on the planet, it’s obvious that regulations limiting or barring coal consumption would have monetary ramifications for the biggest dog in the race.

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The agreement with the A.G.’s office will require Peabody Energy to revise shareholder disclosures filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and ensure that new documents affirm that “concerns about the environmental impacts of coal combustion… could significantly affect demand for our products or our securities.” Peabody further agreed that all future disclosures and reports would be issued in compliance with the terms of this agreement. Essentially, after being caught more or less red-handed, the company has promised to never, ever, ever do it again.

Schneiderman said in a statement that the investigation and subsequent agreement will promote accountability, not only within the coal company but also by its investors. “As a publicly traded company whose core business generates massive amounts of carbon emissions, Peabody Energy has a responsibility to be honest with its investors and the public about the risks posed by climate change, now and in the future,” he said. “I believe that full and fair disclosures by Peabody and other fossil fuel companies will lead investors to think long and hard about the damage these companies are doing to our planet.”

Curious parties can read the agreement, which is in the form of an Assurance of Discontinuance, here.

+ New York Attorney General’s Office

Images via NYAG’s Office and Wikipedia.