Press release: Powder River Basin ranchers support investigation of coal mine royalties – Jan. 4, 2013

January 4, 2013

Categories: Agriculture, Coal, Congress, News, Northern Plains Resource Council

Two key Senators ask Interior Department to look into whether coal companies shortchange taxpayers

Western Organization of Resource Councils press release

Farmers and ranchers living in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming welcome a congressional investigation into whether U.S. taxpayers are receiving full royalties from coal mined on federal lands.

U.S. Senate Energy Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and ranking member Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today are concerned about return to taxpayers from the sale of federal coal following media reports and studies citing flaws in the federal coal royalty collection process.

“Montanans have a lot of questions about the impacts of mining our coal, shipping it to West Coast ports, and sending it to customers in Asia,” said Walter Archer, a rancher from Olive, Mont., and Chair of the Northern Plains Resource Council. “But there is no question that taxpayers deserve a full and fair royalty payment when their coal is mined. If the only way coal companies can make money is to get this coal on the cheap from taxpayers, and send it overseas, that is a very bad deal all the way around.”

A letter to the Department of the Interior from the Senators cites recent Reuters news agency reports investigating how Arch Coal Inc., Peabody Energy, and Cloud Peak Energy account for royalties on federal coal from the Powder River Basin coal sold to Asian markets.

A study by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis found taxpayers missed out on an estimated $28.9 billion in revenues over 30 years because of failure by the Bureau of Land Management to get fair market value for federal coal mined in the Powder River Basin.

“Neighbors to Wyoming coal mines, like my family, have sacrificed a lot for Wyoming to be the nation’s leader in coal production.” said L.J. Turner, cattle and sheep rancher, from Wright, Wyo., and member of  the Powder River Basin Resource Council. “The least we deserve is to know that we’re not getting short-changed by the coal companies. We hope the Department of the Interior acts in the public interest and seriously considers the Senators’ concerns.”In April, U.S. Representative Ed Markey (D-Mass.) asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the federal coal leasing program. The last review of the program occurred in 1984. The GAO is conducting that review, and the Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General is also investigating the federal coal leasing program.

Last month, a GAO report raised concerns about management of royalty revenue from oil, gas, coal, and hard-rock minerals from federal lands.

The Northern Plains Resource Council organizes Montana citizens to protect water quality, family farms and ranches, and unique quality of life. The Powder River Basin Resource Council is a landowner and conservation group based in Sheridan, Wyo. The Western Organization of Resource Councils is a Billings, Mont. based network of conservation and family agriculture organizations, including Northern Plains and Powder River.

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