People from across the state packed a Bureau of Lands Management “listening session” today. They showed up to tell BLM officials that its past time they closed loopholes in the coal leasing system that deny taxpayers their fair share of when it comes to coal leases on public lands. About 40% of America’s federally owned coal is mined in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, so the problems hit locals harder than most.
Bull Mountain rancher Steve Charter, who is also the Chair of Northern Plains, said the Federal Coal Leasing Program has been subsidizing coal for decades, allowing for non-competitive bidding, seizure of public lands, and withheld reclamation bonds. Coal companies are allowed to sell coal to themselves for cheap to avoid the true taxable value.
BLM has apparently agreed to take a look at reforming the program so coal companies pay a higher royalty to U.S. taxpayers for leasing and mining publicly owned coal, so we shall see what happens.
This was the only session in Montana. Another is in Gillette, WY on Thursday. I don’t expect people from Wyoming enjoy being ripped off any more than the rest of us.
This is not the first time unfair leasing practices have been under scrutiny. A month ago, Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke was caught trying to quietly preserve a loophole that would allow companies to dodge royalty payments owed to U.S. taxpayers and other loopholes.