Report: Most of the Coal Mined by the Three Biggest Coal Companies in the U.S. Belongs to the American Public

by Joe Smyth

The biggest coal mining companies in the country depend on subsidized federal coal, even as they attack federal climate and clean air policies.

Washington DC, March 17, 2016 – A Greenpeace report published today shows that the top three coal mining companies depend on federal coal for the vast majority of coal they mine in the United States. Using data obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the report calculates the amount of federal coal mined in 2014 by Peabody Energy, Arch Coal, and Cloud Peak Energy, and compares those figures to each company’s total US coal production. The results show that federal coal accounted for 68% of the total coal mined in the US by Peabody Energy, 83% for Arch Coal, and 88% for Cloud Peak Energy.

“Coal companies like Peabody are biting the hand that feeds, attacking federal policies like the Clean Power Plan even while they depend on federal coal for most of the coal they mine,” said Greenpeace Energy Campaign Director Kelly Mitchell, “Secretary Jewell should build on the moratorium on new coal leasing by permanently eliminating these corporate giveaways and realigning federal coal management with US climate commitments.”

Corporate Welfare for Coal graphic

The report, “Corporate Welfare for Coal,” also highlights a variety of factors that have allowed the coal industry itself to dominate federal coal management decisions. For example, under the “lease by application” process, coal mining companies have been allowed to make key decisions about how much federal coal to lease and mine. Coal companies have also found ways to avoid payments to taxpayer for access to federal coal, including through royalty rate reductions. In some cases, coal leases have been sold for a fraction of one cent per ton.

While coal companies have minimized their payments for publicly owned coal, this coal causes billions of dollars in damages – costs which are borne by communities, not the coal industry. Using the federal government’s mid-range social cost of carbon figures, the report calculates that the federal coal mined by the top three companies in the US in 2014 would cause $18.8 billion in damages when burned.

The report also includes data published for the first time detailing how mining companies have significantly underestimated the quantity of coal in some coal leases. For example, a coal lease that expanded a Peabody Energy mine in Colorado was estimated to contain 1.4 million tons of coal, but the company reported mining 2.5 million tons from that coal lease.

The report is available at http://www.greenpeace.org/usa/corporatewelfareforcoal

Contact: Joe Smyth, 831-566-5647, joe.smyth@greenpeace.org

By Joe Smyth

Joe Smyth is a media officer for Greenpeace USA's climate and energy campaigns.

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