Changes to U.S. coal mining royalties blocked

Coal barges on the Kanawha River in Charleston, West Virginia. (Image: Joseph Sohm | )

The Trump administration has made another pro-coal decision, this time relating to how Washington calculates royalties on coal mined from federal and Indian lands.

iPolitics reported on the weekend that the Interior Department has put on hold changes to the value of coal extracted from public lands, meaning current rules governing the industry will remain in place pending court decisions. The Obama administration had sought to change the rules – saying they were improperly calculated – and argued that the changes were to ensure that taxpayers were given a fair share of coal sales to Asia and other export markets.

Trump’s decision is likely to be controversial. IPolitics quotes a Montana rancher saying “This announcement is a gift to coal companies trying to avoid paying their fair share,” but some Western U.S. politicians are on board with it. Rob Bishop of Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, told the online news site the rule changes would increase electricity rates for consumers by forcing utilities to pay more for coal. “The Trump administration made the right decision to suspend this illogical and legally dubious rule,” he said.

On Feb. 16 President Trump signed legislation to end the regulation protecting waterways from coal mining waste. The Surface Mining’s Stream Protection Rule was enacted by Obama but was resisted by coal miners.

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