Grijalva, Lowenthal Urge Dept. of Interior to Take Action to Protect Taxpayers and Environment from Big Coal Companies

Washington, D.C. – Forty-eight House Democrats – led by House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Ranking Member Alan S. Lowenthal (D-Calif.) – sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell today to thank her for reviewing the Interior Department’s broken coal leasing program and to highlight issues that still need to be addressed, including an accurate accounting of the program’s climate and environmental impacts. The letter urges Jewell to ensure that taxpayers receive a fair return from leasing public resources and do not have to pay mine cleanup costs when companies go bankrupt or walk away from old projects.

The Department of the Interior announced in January that it was initiating an ambitious and long overdue process to begin reforming the Department’s federal coal leasing program. The review is designed to “take a careful look at issues such as how, when, and where to lease; how to account for the environmental and public health impacts of federal coal production; and how to ensure American taxpayers are earning a fair return for the use of their public resources.”

The House Democrats’ letter states in part:

A comprehensive review is crucial to ensure that the American people are receiving fair value for the use of their resources, to increase transparency and accountability, to hold companies responsible for cleaning up mined lands, and to ensure that the federal coal program is not contributing disproportionately to environmental and climate problems.

Reports from the Government Accountability Office, the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General, and outside groups have highlighted glaring deficiencies in the Interior Department’s efforts to ensure that taxpayers receive a fair share of federal coal leasing revenue and are protected from paying for mine cleanup costs.

The combustion of coal from federal leases is one of the nation’s single largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. The costs associated with those emissions are rarely if ever reported, and are currently not factored into the price companies pay to extract the coal.

“The federal coal program unfairly subsidizes coal companies at American taxpayer expense,” Grijalva said. “Secretary Jewell has taken a critical first step to restoring some balance. The administration can and should do more to minimize the damage our public resource programs inflict on our communities and our planet, and I look forward to seeing these coal reforms spark a larger movement away from publicly subsidized resource extraction.”

“I firmly support Interior’s long-overdue review of the federal coal program,” Lowenthal said. “We have ample evidence, from the GAO and the Interior Department Inspector General, that taxpayers are not getting their proper value for the sale of federal coal. In the current flawed system, 90 percent of the so-called competitive lease sales have only one bidder; coal companies sell to themselves to pay lower royalties; and it is a flawed system that fails to take into account environmental costs. That’s not a good system for the American taxpayer.”

The full letter is available at http://1.usa.gov/28L0X7F

Press Contact

Media Contact: Diane Padilla

(202) 225-6065 or (202) 226-3522