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Yesterday, the Department of Interior’s (DOI) Office of the Inspector General released a report confirming U.S. coal companies receive massive subsidies from U.S. taxpayers for mining leases on public lands. The Inspector General’s findings come on the heels of the Institute for Energy Economics & Financial Analysis 2012 report which revealed that the current Bureau of Land Management (BLM) leasing program cuts U.S. taxpayers out of billions of dollars in revenue.

Yesterday's Inspector General report faults the BLM for failing to take into account potential profits for coal export and for failing to follow an Interior Secretary Order intended to ensure unbiased evaluations of the fair market value for federal coal. 

The report explains, “Since even a 1-cent-per-ton undervaluation in the fair market value calculation for a sale can result in millions of dollars in lost revenues, correcting the identified weaknesses could produce significant returns to the government.”


Bill Corcoran, deputy director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign issued the following statement in response:

We are heartened by the DOI Inspector General’s thorough evaluation of the seriously flawed practices of the Bureau of Land Management’s coal leasing program. This report is the first step in giving Interior Secretary Sally Jewell the tools needed to facilitate a long overdue revamping of the BLM’s public leasing program.

The BLM has been operating outside of Secretarial orders for years, opening the floodgates for the fleecing of U.S. taxpayers by coal corporations to the tune of $30 billion of lost revenue. It’s a testament to how flawed the program truly is when 80 percent of coal leases granted by the BLM are done without a single other competitive bid, and companies like Peabody Energy consistently receive coal leases as low $1.10 per ton.

At a time when American families are still being asked to make difficult economic sacrifices, they are counting on our federal leaders to protect them from being short-changed by those who profit from skirting the law. Now, as we await the release of the Department of Interior’s investigation into coal royalties, we renew our call for a moratorium of all coal leasing on public lands. These federal agencies must get their houses in order to prevent predatory coal companies from further taking advantage of U.S. taxpayers and damaging our economy.

Visit EcoWatch’s COAL page for more related news on this topic.

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Environment America

From the Chesapeake Bay to the Puget Sound to the many smaller waters in between, America’s waterways are today one step closer to protection under the Clean Water Act, as the Obama administration is now in the final stage of issuing guidelines to restore critical Clean Water Act protections to the nation’s waterways.

“This is an important step forward for America’s waters and the people who depend on them and enjoy them,” said Shelley Vinyard, federal clean water advocate for Environment America. “Once these guidelines are final, everyone from the Great Lakes fisherman to the family visiting the shores of the Narragansett Bay will be able to reap the rewards of cleaner water.”

The guidelines come at a time when nearly 60 percent of the country’s streams, 20 million acres of wetlands, and 117 million Americans’ drinking water is at risk of pollution, thanks to two polluter-friendly Supreme Court decisions in the last decade. The guidelines, which were proposed last April, received overwhelming support from ordinary citizens, thousands of public health professionals, and hundreds of farmers, local elected officials, and recreational businesses—from Confluence Kayaks in Colorado to Angus Murdoch, a farmer from central Virginia.

The proposed guidelines are expected to be finalized by early spring, and were sent to the Office of Management and Budget on Feb. 22.

The industries primarily responsible for this pollution—mega-agribusiness, the coal industry, Big Oil and big developers, are fighting to block these guidelines. In fact, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a bill Feb. 16 that, if passed, would block the president and his administration from ever finalizing these guidelines, and would leave as many as 2.5 million miles of streams nationwide permanently unprotected.

“We are excited that the administration has taken this step toward restoring the Clean Water Act and has reiterated its commitment to protecting America’s waterways from pollution,” Vinyard said. “We are counting on the Obama administration to continue to stand up to big polluters, and look forward to working with them to ensure all Americans have clean water in which to swim, fish, recreate, and drink.”

For more information, click here.

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