US Gov’t mulls raising royalties for coal mining in public lands

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

The US government flagged this week the need to modernize rules governing coal sales from public lands to offset the climate change effects of burning the fuel and give taxpayers a fair return.

In a preliminary report released Wednesday, which is part of a broad review of US coal sales, officials said the suggested changes include a possible hike of coal royalty rates and the imposition of compensation from mining companies, as publicly owned coal accounts for 10% of the country’s total greenhouse-gas emissions.

The proposed modifications will likely be blocked or revoked by President-elect Donald Trump.

The proposed modifications, however, will likely be blocked or revoked by President-elect Donald Trump, especially after the House Republicans passed last week a bill that allows Congress to kill in one fell swoop dozens of the so called  “midnight rules” — those rolled out in the last 60 legislative days of an outgoing administration.

Last year, the Interior Department imposed a three-year moratorium on new coal sales as a result of never-ending complaints from federal investigators and members of Congress that the program was short-changing taxpayers.

“We have a responsibility to ensure the public – including state governments – get a fair return from the sale of America’s coal, operate the program efficiently and in a way that meets the needs of our neighbors in coal communities, and minimize the impact coal production has on the planet that our children and grandchildren will inherit,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said on Wednesday.

“The only responsible next step is to undertake further review and implement some of these commonsense measures,” she added.

The report also offers recommendations for improving transparency of the leasing program, increasing protection for private surface owners and preventing wasted natural gas from mines.

The document comes as Republican leaders have made public their intention to revoke Obama’s rules setting stricter conditions to coal miners to lower the environmental impact of the activity on nearby streams, as well as regulations which goal is to keep the extractive industry out of environmentally sensitive areas.

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