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BLM Report: Federal Coal Program Needs Reforms

A new report finds the federal coal program is in need of reforming. Most federally leased coal mines are on the Great Plains. (Doc Searls/Flickr)
A new report finds the federal coal program is in need of reforming. Most federally leased coal mines are on the Great Plains. (Doc Searls/Flickr)
January 12, 2017

BILLINGS, Mont. – A new report from the Bureau of Land Management highlights the many issues with the federal coal production program.

The report, released Wednesday, said the way coal mines are leased on public lands is in need of reform, and the program in its current form isn't giving taxpayers a fair return.

Steve Charter, past chair of the Northern Plains Resource Council, said the valuation and leasing of coal mines is not very transparent.

"When they undervalue these things its money directly out of the pockets of the states,” Charter said, "and that's money that could go right back into our community that we haven't been receiving full value for."

In 2016, the Obama administration halted new leases for coal mining on public lands. That moratorium is still in effect. Most federally-leased coal mines are in the Great Plains states of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado.

Federal coal represents about 40 percent of all coal mined in the U.S. The report also acknowledged that federal coal production makes up about 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Charter said the BLM's recognition of coal and its impact on climate change is a big step because the costs of climate change are enormous.

"It was just definitely way overdue that that be recognized,” he said, "because how can you assess coal leases and if that's a smart thing to do for the country if you're not looking at something that has such a huge effect as climate change?"

The report also offered recommendations to the next administration on how to reform the federal coal program. There has not been a major revision to the program in more than three decades.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT