Listening sessions target coal royalties

By Pat Sunderland

The U.S. Interior Department is holding a series of listening sessions targeting a recent proposal to raise royalty rates on leased federal coal. The first listening session was held in Golden Aug. 18.

While some citizens are calling for a fair return from coal mining on public lands, industry representatives say coal producers already pay above market rates for federal royalties. "The system is working well and, as a result, royalties on federal coal produced in Colorado have returned hundreds of millions of dollars to federal coffers over the years," said Stuart Sanderson, president of the Colorado Mining Association. "But mandates to shut down coal plants and end coal use have caused coal production in Colorado, the bulk of which takes place on federal leases, to decline by nearly half during the past 10 years. As a result, Colorado royalty payments have fallen by more than one third in recent years." Funding for public schools and other government functions is being impacted, he said, and any increase in royalty rates would further harm Colorado's economy.