Feds to hold ‘listening sessions’ on public land coal royalties

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The public will have a chance to weigh in on federal coal mining leasing practices.

Changes to leasing rules would benefit U.S. taxpayers

Staff Report

FRISCO — After a string of reports and investigations made it clear that taxpayers are not getting their fair share of money from coal mining on federally managed public lands, the Department of Interior last week announced it will hold a series of “listening sessions” around the country on the federal coal program.

The stakes are high — in fiscal year 2012, about 42 percent of the 1.05 billion tons of coal produced in the United States came from coal tracts leased under the federal coal leasing program.

One report from an energy think tank concluded that the federal treasury may have missed out on as much as $29 billion over the past 30 years because of the way energy companies and federal land managers account for those royalties. Another recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government’s accounting system does not “provide reasonable assurance that oil and gas are accurately measured.”

The late-July and August meetings will seek information from the public about how the BLM can best carry out its responsibility to ensure that American taxpayers receive a fair return on the coal resources managed by the federal government on their behalf.

Jewell first called for a dialogue on the issue in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies earlier this year.

“As I’ve said, it’s important to have an honest and open conversation about modernizing the federal government’s coal program,” said Jewell. “I have heard many concerns about how the federal government leases coal, the amount of royalty charged and whether taxpayers are getting a fair return from public resources. These listening sessions are an opportunity to better understand how taxpayers, stakeholders and local communities perceive the federal government’s coal program today and how we can improve and strengthen it for future generations.”

The BLM will host listening sessions in Washington, D.C., Colorado, New Mexico, Montana and Wyoming designed to further robust discussions about reforms to the federal coal program, including potentially raising the royalty rate applied. The BLM currently manages 310 active coal leases covering about 475,000 acres in 10 states. Roughly 40 percent of the coal produced in the United States comes from federal coal resources.

Additional information on the listening sessions follows:

·         July 29, 2015, 1:00-4:00 pm EST. Washington, D.C.: South Interior Building Auditorium, 1951 Constitution Ave, NW, Washington, D.C. 20245

  • August 11, 2015, 1:00-4:00 pm MST. Billings, MT: Hampton Inn, Lewis and Clark Conference Center, 5110 Southgate Drive, Billings, MT 59101
  • August 13, 2015, 1:00-4:00 pm MST. Gillette, WY: Campbell County Library, 2101 4-J Road, Gillette, WY 82718
  • August 18, 2015, 1:00 -4:00 pm MST. Denver, Colorado: Marriott Denver West, 1717 Denver West Blvd, Golden, CO 80401

·         August 20, 2015, 1:00-4:00 pm MST. Farmington, NM: Courtyard Marriott, 560 Scott Avenue, Farmington, NM 87401

The meetings in Washington, D.C. and Denver will have a livestream option for people to participate remotely. The meetings can be accessed at www.blm.gov/live.

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