Currently, a staggering 40% of America’s coal production comes from publicly owned land managed by the federal government. The worst part of the outdated coal leasing program is through loopholes and outdated royalty rates, coal companies are able to mine for coal on public land for pennies on the dollar.
Coal companies are not only destroying publicly owned land, polluting our air and accelerating global climate change, they’re not paying fair market value for the land itself. That’s right, we are literally giving away our publicly owned fossil fuels to mining and drilling companies, disregarding the damage they cause to communities and our climate.
These unfair loopholes directly impact the outdoor sports community, who call these public lands our home. With coal companies dodging their responsibility, we’re losing billions in revenue that would otherwise be invested in our communities.
If that’s not enough, these mines are destroying our public lands and the pollution from this cheap coal is causing health issues and accelerating global climate change.
For example, the massive strip mines on federal lands in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin generate over 60 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions – 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, making it a prime contributor to climate disruption.
This antiquated policy is not only propping up a failing industry, it’s also cheating American taxpayers out of more than $1 billion a year in revenues.
Recently, the Obama Administration put a three-year freeze on all new coal leases while they review their impacts, and what can be changed.
This is our opportunity to let them know that this review must end up with a permanent closure of these loopholes and setting fair market values, and coal companies paying for the future environmental and health impacts from the coal emissions, or the “social costs.”
In January, we traveled to the Powder River Basin area of Southern Montana to report on the issue. Here’s what we found: