While western communities and energy development have entered the 21st century, America’s coal companies are stuck in a hole of their own making. Bad investments and poor market forecasts have resulted in a failing industry in dire need of reform.
Publicly owned coal accounts for 40% of coal mined each year in the U.S. but coal companies are gaming the system to mine taxpayer owned coal at cut-rate prices. In Wyoming, coal mined on public lands gets sold for just $0.88 a ton. That’s 4.5 tons of coal for the price of a Big Mac.
Millions of dollars that could be used to improve schools, roads, and infrastructure in Wyoming and other western states are instead lining the pockets of coal CEOs.
Not surprisingly, coal industry executives are desperate to maintain this outdated, uncompetitive process that pads their bottom line. Over the past 10 years, coal companies have funneled $1 billion to their executives, and spent $208 million lobbying Washington to protect their profits. Now, miners are being put out of work while CEOs get bonuses.
Since 2008, coal company executives and PACs have made $6 million worth of campaign contributions to politicians who will serve their interests. All of this spending on Washington lobbyists and politicians has helped secure the $2.4 billion in federal subsidies that taxpayers are handing over to the industry through 2026.
The Bureau of Land Management is considering several potential reforms to the federal coal leasing program. These reforms include adjusting how royalty rates are assessed and addressing coal companies’ responsibility to clean up after abandoned mines and pollution from mining.
In a recent statewide poll, 57% of Wyomingites said they support some reforms to modernize our federal coal leasing program.
Today in Casper, Wyoming, BLM is hosting the first of a series of public meetings to hear from real westerners about the changes we need to see in our federal coal program. If you can attend one of the upcoming meetings, tell BLM that you want responsible management of our resources.
Wyoming politicians and coal companies should be protecting the people who own the land where they make their millions.
Fortunately, the BLM is exploring a review of the federal coal system. This review is necessary to make sure that taxpayers get a fair return from coal mined on public lands. It’s time to invest in Western communities, not coal CEOs.