Washington, D.C. - Today, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) echoed the Sierra Club and other environmental and community advocacy groups in calling for a temporary suspension of the federal coal leasing program. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released the result of its investigation into coal leasing practices at the Bureau of Land Management, which confirmed earlier reports that coal companies have taken advantage of a lax bidding process for leasing coal on publicly owned lands, resulting in nearly $30 billion in loss for U.S. taxpayers. This is the second federal report, after the Inspector General’s report in June of 2013, showed significant financial losses from the troubled coal leasing program.
Senator Ed Markey and Representative Peter DeFazio produced a joint summary of the report, saying:
The Interior Lacks rigor and oversight in determining the fair market value of federal coal leases. Given the lack of market competition in coal leases, if the fair market value set by Interior is low, it can lead to significant losses for taxpayers. For instance, for every cent per ton that coal companies decrease their bids for the largest coal leases, it could mean the loss of nearly $7 million for the American people.
Bill Corcoran, Deputy Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, releases the following statement in response:
"For decades coal companies have exploited a flawed and lax federal leasing program to buy coal on public lands for pennies on the dollar, costing U.S. taxpayer billions and subsidizing dirty, coal-fired power plants that have contributed to health problems and premature deaths for thousands of Americans.
“This independent assessment shows why change must happen in the federal coal leasing program. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and the Bureau of Land Management owe it to American taxpayers to suspend the current leasing program until coal companies are paying a fair price for publicly-owned coal.
“For too long, Big Coal’s bottom line has taken precedent over the health and wealth of the U.S. taxpayer, resulting in a giveaway from the taxpayer and an abuse of our public lands. The problems which have been uncovered here deserve the strongest response from the federal government.
“We call for a suspension of all coal leasing on public lands until Secretary Jewell has addressed the problems raised by this report, and has overhauled the entire coal leasing program to ensure taxpayers receive a fair price from coal companies. We cannot afford to continue the current coal leasing policies that shortchange our strapped federal budget and damage our economy.”