Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, along with environmental groups, have been pushing for Obama to crack down on fossil fuel production on federal lands.
Environmentalists argue the government is leasing land to coal companies below market rates, which costs taxpayers and is contributing to global warming. Activists say coal companies only pay a 12.5 percent royalty while oil and gas drillers pay 18.75 percent.
“It’s a fossil fuel giveaway that’s costing taxpayers $1.1 billion a year and it’s driving the central environmental challenge of our time,” Sharon Buccino, director of the land and wildlife program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The Post. “That’s the wrong direction for our country and we need to make a course correction.”
Coal companies argue the actual royalty rate they pay is much higher because of all the additional fees they pay when assuming the lease. Raising mining costs would also hamper U.S. coal companies’ bottom lines as many of them are heavily indebted and facing faltering demand because of China’s lagging economy.
Currently, 40 percent of coal is produced on federal lands, mostly in Wyoming. Clamping down on federal coal production would further hamstring the industry, which is already being hurt by federal regulations forcing coal-fired power plants to close their doors.
Coal regulations has made Obama lots of enemies in coal country, even among those who once supported his presidency. That includes the Crow Tribe, which actually adopted Obama as part of their tribe in 2008.
Now, the tribe is having to furlough employees because their coal revenues ar collapsing. Tribal leaders have blamed Obama’s “war on coal” for their budget woes.
“Our bread and butter is coal. A war on coal is a war on Crow families,” said Old Coyote, the tribe’s chairman,according to Billings Gazette.
The Crow’s budget problems are only one story among many across the county where coal communities are being harmed by federal rules and a market slump. In fact, America’s second-largest coal company, Arch Coal, recently filed for bankruptcy protection.
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