The dispute over royalties paid for coal, natural gas and oil extracted from public lands centers over two issues: Are the royalties too low? Do we know enough about the accounting to assure the American taxpayer is getting a good deal? Amy Martin digs in, with some help from Taylor Swift.
New environmental regulations likely mean a shift away from coal to renewables and natural gas. But some say a significant reduction in coal-generated electricity would threaten this nation with brownouts and blackouts. Inside Energy investigates that claim.
The American public owns coal. About 40 percent of the coal mined in the U.S. comes from federal lands in states like Wyoming and Montana — technically the property of the American people. Companies pay the government fees, called royalties, to mine coal from federal lands. But some say they don’t pay enough, and that taxpayers are getting shortchanged by millions of dollars every year. The Department of the Interior has proposed new regulations that would require coal companies to pay more.
As part of a series of listening sessions held across the country, representatives from the Bureau of Land Management recently came to Gillette, Wyo., to meet with residents about the agency’s federal coal program. The meeting quickly turned into an impassioned discussion about the future of the coal industry. Janice Schneider, with the Department of the Interior, said the agency was looking for comments on “how the Bureau of Land Management can best manage its coal resources.” The other issue was whether or not the BLM should charge coal companies higher royalties for coal mined on federal land. Independent studies have found that coal companies may not be charged enough for federal coal.
Fossil fuel production on federal and Indian land is down over the past decade, in contrast to a big boost in production across the rest of the country. Why does it matter if the land that sits on top of fossil fuels – coal, oil and natural gas – is federal, Indian, or private? One word: money.
Inside Energy is a collaborative journalism initiative of partners across the US and supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting