Session on federal coal leasing takes place in Denver | CraigDailyPress.com

Session on federal coal leasing takes place in Denver

Patrick Kelly

A series of listening sessions on the federal coal leasing program continued Tuesday afternoon in Denver.

The U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management are hosting the sessions in an effort to seek public comment on how the BLM can ensure that the American taxpayers receive a fair return on federal coal resources.

BLM is responsible for leasing coal on approximately 570 million federally owned acres. Over the past 10 years, BLM-managed lands produced around 5.1 billion tons of coal valued over $72 billion. According to BLM, this production generated $7.9 billion in royalties and nearly $4 billion in revenues from rents, bonuses, and other payments.

Craig Mayor Ray Beck, Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association Senior Vice President Barry Ingold and WildEarth Guardian's Climate/Energy Program Director Jeremy Nichols were all given the opportunity to address DOI and BLM officials on Tuesday.

Beck said he focused his comment on bringing the human element into the conversation.

"The most threatening thing to our community and our economy right now is the federal government and the perpetuation of a never-ending onslaught of regulations creating the perfect storm that may leave our community on life support," Beck told the panel of BLM representatives.

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Ingold addressed the panel on behalf of Tri-State's 44-member energy cooperative.

"This discussion regarding an increase in the federal coal royalty rate is nothing more than a continuing effort to discourage the use of coal as an affordable and reliable source of power generation," he said. "We believe that if federal coal royalty rates are increased, it will only result in decreased federal coal production – resulting in less return on investment for U.S. taxpayers, less financial returns to state and local governments and increased electricity prices to our members."

On the other side of the conversation, Nichols advocated to keep coal in the ground, stating that is truly the only way for tax payers to receive a fair return.

"I understand the Department is seeking public input on royalty rates, fair market value, and other aspects of the coal program. I think the real reason we're here today, however, is because of climate change and the need to ensure our coal is managed consistent with our nation's carbon reduction goals," he said.

Reach Patrick Kelly at 970-875-1795 or pkelly@craigdailypress.com. Follow him on Twitter @M_PKelly.

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