Report Says BLM's Coal Leasing Program 'Out Of Date'

Feb 4, 2014

A new report by the Government Accountability Office says the Bureau of Land Management’s coal lease valuation program is ‘out of date.’ The report says BLM offices around the country are not consistent in the way they calculate fair market value, don't always document the rationale behind accepting low bids and do not use independent reviewers to ensure calculations are correct.

It also says the BLM does not properly consider the export potential of coal when calculating fair market value of coal leases.

The Powder River Basin Resource Council’s Shannon Anderson says states get half of the revenues from federal coal lease sales and as the nation’s largest coal producer, Wyoming should pay attention.   

“The coal that’s being leased today isn’t going to be mined for another 10 years. So when BLM values the coal it’s leasing today it should be thinking about the potential of that coal into the future As the domestic market shrinks for coal, the future is really in exports. And some of that profit should be shared with the American tax payer, who owns this coal,” says Anderson. 

Stakeholders have expressed concern that coal is being undervalued in coal lease sales on public land, especially since most sales have only one bidder. Anderson says for Wyoming especially "stakes are high."

"We are the largest coal producing state and every dollar that we lose on a federal coal lease equates to significant revenue later down the road for Wyoming. So, you know, it’s really important that every ton of coal is valued appropriately,” she says. 

Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts requested the report. He’s now calling for a temporary suspension on new coal lease sales until the program can be amended.