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April 17, 2013

Big Coal Profits Off Taxpayers While Pushing Exports that No One Wants


Big Coal has a dirty little secret: For coal mined in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of Montana and Wyoming, transported to the coast, and shipped to East Asia, the industry only pays government royalties at the time it’s mined and not when it is actually sold overseas, when the price can "increase more than fivefold," reports Associated Press, "saving them millions of dollars in the process."

The Interior Department is investigating and considering a new royalty payment system after two U.S. senators raised the point that taxpayers are the ultimate losers in this scheme. Meanwhile, Big Coal is enabled by a complacent Bureau of Land Management, which is leasing out PRB coal at rock bottom prices to boost industry profits. No wonder why coal companies are rushing a number of proposals to expand their exporting operations up and down the Pacific Northwest.

PRB leasing should cease until we learn more from the investigation and the federal government considers the massive climate impacts from such mining. Coal from PRB accounts for 13 percent of U.S. climate changing emissions. The federal government has leased more than 2.1 billion tons of PRB coal between 2011 and 2012, directly causing the release of more than 3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide. Without a moratorium, the potential for another 3.5 billion tons of new coal mining could happen.

Applying fair market practices to how Big Coal does business will reveal that the industry has been relying on special favoritism for far too long. Thousands upon thousands of families in communities across Washington and Oregon have made it loud and clear that they don't want miles-long coal trains snaking through their neighborhoods and polluting their cities and crops. They know that a clean-energy future will do more for local jobs, public health, and the climate crisis.

--Bill Corcoran, Western Regional Campaign Director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign


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