Coal companies getting land deals at taxpayers’ expense

by Jason Schwartz

March 17, 2014

An active coal mine operation in Campbell County in the Powder River Basin. In the foreground explosive charges are set to break up the coal while coal is loaded in haul trucks in the background.

© Greenpeace / Tim Aubry

Big coal companies have never been known as the paragon of straight and fair dealings. Even in the last couple weeks, the EnvironmentaList has tracked their hall-of-fame penchant for shadiness, including garbage like: We all know coal companies are shady, so it's no surprise when they screw ordinary people out of money. But it never gets easier to stomach when government agencies out to protect ordinary people's interests show themselves to be looking out for dirty energy first. Recently, information has come out that coal companies have consistently paid bargain basement prices for land leases in the west, not just stripping pristine landscapes, but doing it on the cheap and depriving the American public of tax dollars. And the Bureau of Land Management has been in cahoots the whole time. Over atHigh Country News, Ben Goldfarb has outlined it expertly. We highly recommend you give the full story a look. Here's a taste:

"Coal boosters are fond of decrying the Obama Administrations supposed War on Coal and to be sure, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulationslimitingcarbon emissions from power plants arent doing industry any favors. But if there truly exists a federal campaign to depose King Coal, somebody in the administration forgot to tell the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM, of course, is the branch of the Department of the Interior that administers Americas public lands and leases out the resources, including coal, that lie beneath the surface. Around a billion tons of coal are extracted from federal lands annually (98 percent of which comes from Western states), and leases on those tracts generate around $1 billion in public revenues. That might sound like a good deal for citizens, but according to two recent government investigations, BLMs coal leasing program is actually riddled with flaws nearly all of which benefit mining companies at taxpayers expense."

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