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Show Us the Money: GAO Request for Mining Revenues

September 23, 2011

CASPER, Wyo. - Two members of Congress from Western states say more information is needed as Congress makes decisions about the federal budget, and about opening up more land in Wyoming and other states to mining and drilling, under the argument that it's a good move for jobs and the economy.

Representative Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico, both Democrats, have made a request to the General Accounting Office for numbers related to development on federal lands, most of which are in the West.

Rep. Grijalva says we already know that hard-rock mining, including uranium, pays no federal royalties.

"How much has the taxpayer lost? How much is this land really worth? And what should be the parameters in the future in order to collect a fair return for the American taxpayer."

Debate about fees and royalties features concerns from mining and drilling companies that if fees are too high, they'll go to other countries - or, pass costs on to consumers.

Matt Garrington is deputy director of the Checks and Balances Project, a nonprofit group that tracks lobbying money. He says Wyomingites shouldn't be fooled by those industry threats.

"The fact of the matter is, is that we're seeing record development of oil and gas. If that development is going to happen on public lands, we should, at the end of the day, make sure that the American taxpayer is getting a fair rate of return."

Copper, oil, gas, coal, phosphate and gold are examples of minerals extracted from federal lands throughout the West that will be included in the report.

A copy of the letter is posted at grijalva.house.gov

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY