NMA: Keeping Coal in the Ground Is Pure Politics, Not Prudent Policy

As a series of public comment meetings get underway today in Wyoming, NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn issued the following statement on the Department of the Interior’s moratorium on new coal lease sales from federal land:

“There is no compelling need for a moratorium to ‘fix’ a program that isn’t broken. The current program is more than fair to taxpayers. In fact, the 12.5 percent royalty paid on coal leased from federal land is approximately 40 percent higher than royalty rates paid by coal mined on private land in coal states. On top of the royalties they pay to mine federal coal, companies also pay bonus bids and additional fees that together provide taxpayers 39 cents of every dollar of coal sales.

“Keeping federal coal in the ground is a political fix that will deny taxpayers any revenue from this valuable resource, while forcing state and local communities to suffer the loss of additional high-wage jobs and sharp budget shortfalls that will require either higher taxes, lower services or both.

“Despite the high costs, the environmental benefits of keeping federal coal in the ground are nil. The Department of Interior’s own reports show that all the coal mines on federal lands in Montana, Wyoming and North Dakota have no off site impacts.

“The fundamental fairness and value of the federal coal lease program was underscored in recent investigations by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General. While recommending targeted efficiency improvements, neither report identified fundamental flaws that would justify the wholesale changes called for by environmental activists and now suggested by the administration. In fact, the Department of the Interior previously rejected the very claims made by these activists.

“In congressional testimony on July 9, 2013, the Interior Department’s Deputy Inspector General agreed that the public is getting a fair return and often above fair market value for federal coal leases.”