Government Report: Coal Companies Are Pocketing Millions At Taxpayers’ Expense

Jun 12, 2013

Credit Katie Campbell / EarthFix

The Federal government is missing out on tens of millions of dollars in revenue from companies that mine coal on public lands.  That’s according to a new report released by the Office of the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The new report details inadequate mine inspection practices and a lack of enforcement on the part of the Bureau of Land Management.

Almost half the nation’s coal is mined on public lands. To mine it, companies have to apply for leases with the BLM.  In the past two decades over 80 percent of the auctions for those leases in Wyoming and Montana coal country only had one bid.

But according to the report, the problems go deeper.

When the BLM assesses the value of a coal lease they are supposed to take into account how much that coal will eventually be sold for.

American coal exports have doubled since 2007. And so has the price of that exported coal when it’s sold on the international market.  But, the report says, the BLM doesn’t fully account for the extra money coal companies make when they sell the coal outside of the U.S.

And as U.S. coal consumption has decreased in recent years, more companies are looking to sell their coal abroad.  There are now three places in the Northwest considering export terminals to ship coal from Wyoming and Montana to Asia.

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