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Report: BLM Should Study Coal Export Markets

PHOTO:  A report from the Sightline Institute calls for BLM to recalculate "fair market values" for coal, based on growing export markets. Photo credit: United States Geological Survey (USGS)
PHOTO: A report from the Sightline Institute calls for BLM to recalculate "fair market values" for coal, based on growing export markets. Photo credit: United States Geological Survey (USGS)
July 25, 2014

LANDER, Wyo. - The coal market has changed. U.S. coal used to be mined primarily for domestic use, but markets overseas are growing as domestic demand declines. A new report from the Sightline Institute outlines that history and argues that the Bureau of Land Management should take it into consideration when setting "fair market values" for coal.

"By ignoring the economics of export," said report author Clark Williams-Derry, "BLM is essentially underpricing coal that's owned by the American public."

The report also delves into how Western coal has been specifically targeted for export, even from certain mines because of quality and location - and Powder River Basin coal makes that cut.

Williams-Derry said private companies are buying coal at very low prices and making a killing selling that coal to Asia. He called for changes, so the public sees more benefit from the sales.

"The best thing for BLM to do," he said, "would probably be to revise its policies to require a consideration of export sales when setting the fair market price of coal."

In general, coal sales are split 50-50 between the federal government and the state where the coal was mined. The report was produced in collaboration with the Western Organization of Resources Councils and the Powder River Basin Resource Council.

The report: "Unfair Market Value: By Ignoring Exports, BLM Underprices Federal Coal," is online at sightline.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY