Cantwell: ‘Demand a Fair Return on Coal at BLM’s Meetings’

Sen. Cantwell Encourages Attendance at Public Meetings on the Administration’s Process to Reform Federal Coal Leasing

July 9, 2015
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, urged taxpayers to get involved in the administration’s efforts to reform the federal coal leasing program and to attend this summer’s public meetings.   

“The American public should demand a full return on the federal resources that belong to them. Reforming this outdated, unbalanced program is increasingly necessary from a budget perspective, because taxpayers should not be subsidizing coal companies,” Sen. Cantwell said.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), within the U.S. Department of the Interior, leases federal coal and collects revenue from the sales of federal natural resources. Recent growth in the export market for federal coal, a lack of accounting for how federal coal drives climate change and inadequate self-insurance requirements have underscored the need to reform the program.

“You can typically lease a ton of coal from federal land for $1 or less. The taxpayers get $1. Then, years later, we have to deal with almost two tons of carbon dioxide from that one ton of coal, and the government’s current best guess is that two tons of carbon pollution will cost the American public over $70 in damages,” Sen. Cantwell said at a committee oversight hearing in February.  

It is a priority for Sen. Cantwell to reform the federal coal leasing program. The Interior Department published a draft rule in January to change the valuation methods that have been in place since 1989. Today, the department announced a separate series of meetings open to the public to begin a national dialogue on reforming the royalty rates and bonding requirements of the federal program. In May, Sen. Cantwell urged the department “to be more aggressive,” arguing that “taxpayers deserve a fair return on the sale of resources that they own.”

The department will hold meetings in Washington, D.C.; Billings, Mont.; Gillette, Wyo.; Denver, Colo. and Farmington, N.M.