In a letter addressed to Secretary Sally Jewell, U.S. Department of the Interior, County Commissioners Bruce Hovde, Doug Atchley and Mark Roeber told Secretary Jewell, "Coal is the backbone of our nation's electric grid and Delta County."
The letter enumerates costs to the coal industry which add to the companies' expense in doing business. Costs include royalties, taxes and fees which the commissioners say create an effective tax rate of 40 percent on federal coal. Permitting, environmental compliance and associated delays add additional costs. Companies pay bonus bids to develop coal on federal lands.
"In 2013, the development of coal on federal lands generated $1.2 billion in revenue through the collection of royalties, bonuses and rents. These funds are used by federal and state governments to pay for critical infrastructure and local schools," the letter states.
The commissioners point out that reports from the Government Accountability Office and the Department of Interior Inspector General contained only minor recommendations for improvement to the federal coal programs, and both reports confirmed that the federal leasing program is sound and contributes to the local communities and the American taxpayer.
The commissioners assert that the soundness of the federal leasing program and the contributions coal mining makes to communities should be the basis for decisions regarding coal mining.
They note that the mines in Delta County and the surrounding area have been innovative and have implemented groundbreaking power generation by converting methane to electricity.
The commissioners say to Secretary Jewell, "... (C)oal provides stability to our energy supply that renewables cannot fill. An increase in the royalty rate will only ensure a continued decline in the economy of Delta County, a reduction of revenue to the State of Colorado and create a level of instability in our nation's energy portfolio.
"Delta County urges the Department of Interior to keep the federal coal royalty level at the current level and ensure that our nation's reliance on electricity is supplied in part by coal."
On Tuesday, Sept. 11, the Delta County Board of Commissioners called a special meeting to consider the board's response to the Bureau of Land Management's preliminary Environmental Assessment (EA) concerning the lease parcels proposed for the December BLM sale.
Several people from the North Fork were present to provide input.