Coal is important in Wyoming. Wyoming coal is important to the nation. It’s worth getting right how the federal government sells taxpayer coal to companies to mine.

So that’s why it’s important to learn from the recent federal review of the coal tract leasing process. The report sounded some serious alarms about how the federal government sells coal tracts to private companies to mine coal for sale.

In response, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat, called for the federal leasing program to be put on hold. That’s the wrong thing to do. But it’s worth reviewing the process and adjusting it to make sure taxpayers get their fair cut.

The Government Accountability Office’s investigation into the program identified numerous problems with how the government auctions off taxpayers’ coal. The investigation found that the Bureau of Land Management – which manages much of federal resources in the West, including Wyoming – unevenly valued coal across various state offices. It also didn't properly calculate the export value of coal.

There was a bright spot in the GAO's review: The investigation actually found that the state office in Wyoming – source of 85 percent of federal coal production – generally did well valuing and bidding out the coal tracts it oversees. The GAO did find the Wyoming office improperly valued two coal leases, sold in 2011 and 2012.

Yet Markey thinks the coal leasing program should halt pending changes. We think that’s unnecessary. Coal leases take long enough to process as it is. Additionally, coal miners and power producers count on certainty to establish contracts and reliable sources of coal for power plants. There’s no reason to disrupt the coal leasing process while it’s tweaked.

The GAO report did troll up some red herrings ready for the environmental communities and others to snap up. One such red herring: coal leases that only get one bidder. Most coal tracts in Wyoming are extensions onto existing mines. They’re seldom adjacent to other mines, so they seldom get other bidders. That’s not cozy deal-making. That’s just realistic.

And if we’re going to properly price the export value of coal, let’s look at prying open coal ports on the West Coast. We hope if Markey wants coal export values properly priced, he’ll support coal exports, as well. As the U.S. shifts away to other sources of energy, including natural gas, it’s important to shift sales of Wyoming and U.S. coal to overseas markets. Sales now are only in the dozens of tons. If coal ports open up, coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana can get sold in quantity to customers in Asia.

Wyoming coal is inexpensive to mine, mined safely and is relatively good for the environment. We should be proud to sell it elsewhere. Let’s make sure taxpayers are getting their fair share, and keep the coal trains rolling.

(9) comments

Campbell
Campbell

I hate to jump on board the "easterners don't understand Wyoming" bandwagon, but I am afraid all I have heard from Sen. Markey leads me to believe he is pretty out of touch with the local coal industry and the local Federal infrastructure.

Cody Coyote
Cody Coyote

The Company Line , again. Except this time the editorial gurus throw the baby out with the bathwater when they make two outlandish statements : that " Wyoming coal ... is relatively good for the environment. We should be proud to sell it... " . No , and not really.

( Climate Change Deniers and members of the Flat Earth Society, read no further. Your minority opinion is of no lasting value here. The climate change debate is over. The scientists won. )

What is NOT stated here is more important, though , that the coal companies themselves are complicit in or even conspiratorial in obtaining their coal leases at the bargain basement rate. The bidders are rigging the bid system, lowballing the value of the coal , doing their part to monkeywrench the process. All this at great cost to Wyoming and the taxpayer. Of course, this never gets reported much. If Wyoming coal really were such a great deal and a valued resource, the leases would be highly competitive. Speculators would be pouncing on them. So where are the bidders? Why are the few bids that are place so far below market value ? Why is Wyoming's annual coal production falling ? The editorial writers claim this is all just the pragmatics of the coal bidness. Which only reveals either how ignorant they are, or perhaps how compliant to the Company Line they are. An honest look at the Wyoming coal industry without prejudice paints a fairly grim picture. THAT is the reality.

Wyoming needs to begin asome serious adjustments towards a future without a ready market for our coal. It won't be long before our once annual production of 440 million tons a year will be more like 200 million tons and still falling. Try five years from now. King Coal does not care about Wyoming people. They will one day leave us in the lurch , cold and dark . Then what ? There's not much of an export market for Wyoming's natural gas, either. The Fracking Revolution is just getting going nationally and globally, but has already shown that huge natural gas reserves are everywhere on every continent. That's a tough market to sell to if everybody has a fracked well producing gas in their own back yard.

When it comes to to Wyoming coal, the Company Line is a big lie. This editorial is exemplary of that.

Kool Kat
Kool Kat

Interesting, I've never met a liberal/democrat that has never seen anything they haven't "enjoyed taxing". As Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat shows the exemplary ideological values of the DNC.
Late and former President Ronald Reagan once said, "Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it".
I'm wondering when the Gillette area coal mines will start receiving "government subsidies" due to impotent government policies? Between Government and Auto Unions, Detroit went bankrupt with that same mindset.
Lets see, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat wants to tax it for a third consecutive time since Obama came top power? Then we hear that 300 coal mine jobs had been eliminated cause of these inappropriate law changes and taxes.

Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat that Wyoming Democrats can be proud of to run for Governor, US Senate and House with that mindset. And the Wyoming Democrats can't understand why their voice is so limited?

Well if they do this......the state of Wyoming's economy will really take a dive. Thank you Mr. President. Wyoming is an energy state and all the pres wants to do is make everything run on wind or natural gas. 6 Million people lost their health insurance and now how many jobs will be lost in the coal industry? Sad what our country is coming too. Thank heaven he is only in office two and half more years.....how much more damage can he do in that time????

Tim Goncharoff
Tim Goncharoff

"Relatively good for the environment"? Compared to what? A nuclear meltdown? An asteroid strike? Fossil fuels are destroying the only planet we have, and coal is the dirtiest of them all. If locals were making money mining arsenic would you try to convince us it's good for us? Ignoring the catastrophic global consequences of burning coal to protect short-term financial gain is beyond selfish and short-sighted. It's evil.

Pogo
Pogo

Maybe former Gov. Dave F. could be an ambassador for the coal industry with BO. I understand he is a member of a coal company board and as a former Governor who supported BO he surely would be one of the few in WY who could put the arm squeeze on such a master mind that resides now in the White House. I doubt, however, that Dave would be interested or effective in such a project.

Coleridge
Coleridge

"Relatively good for the environment." Wow, that is a head-scratcher! Perhaps what you mean is that coal and other fossil fuels are "relatively good for the environment" so long as you are lucky enough not to be killed them. Problem is, according to the World Health Organization, "exposure to ambient fine particles [from fossil fuels] was recently estimated to have contributed 3.2 million premature deaths worldwide in 2010, due largely to cardiovascular disease, [as well as] 223,000 deaths due to lung cancer" (See: IARC Scientific Publication No. 161, Air Pollution and Cancer,K. Straif et al, eds) In 2013, an MIT study estimated that fossil fuels cause about 200,000 premature deaths each year in the US alone (see "Air pollution and early deaths in the United States" in the journal Atmospheric Environment, Vol 79, pp.198 - 208). According to the Canadian Journal of Public Health, "close to 8% of non-traumatic mortality in Canadian cities is attributable to air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels . . . [and a marked] increase in hospital admissions for children with asthma in recent years is directly related to worsening air pollution." And a recent investigation conducted for the European Union estimated that pollution from fuels shorten some 430,000 lives (or 7 million "disability adjusted life years") per annum. (See: Air Quality in Europe, 2013. EEA Report Number 9/2013) Now, if these figures seem hard to credit, consider this: Without the heinous burden of government regulations, a typical US coal plant will emit well over 14,000 ***TONS!!!*** of sulfur dioxide per year (and even a highly regulated one spews about half that amount), along with more than 10,000 tons of nitrogen oxides (a burdonsomely regulated plant, about 1/3 that amount.) Question: Why **wouldn't** we expect the results to be noxious and deadly??? And by the way, before you accuse me of being a Eastern egghead, please be advised that I'm from Colorado.

dd ric
dd ric

Wish i was driving west into Akron on a hot,rainy July evening with that putrid smell of coal-fired generators in the distance. No other smell like it on Earth.Wyoming is lucky that the coal ash isn't sent back here. Any of you coal worshipers know ANYTHING about the NOW coal ash pollution problems back East,or ever been to Paradise? ddric

Wyoming Girl88
Wyoming Girl88

I resisted my urge to comment when I first saw this because I thought I shouldn't allow something so inexcusably ill informed to waste my time, but I'll just say this: This editorial is embarrassing. I would expect better from a sixth grade report if the student did just a teensy bit of research.

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