Count Every Penny in Coal Leasing Debate
Editor's note: William F. Shughart II, Huntsman School's J Fish Smith Professor in Public Choice, was published on July 21, 2013, in "The Hill's Congress Blog," a well-read publication that covers Congressional news on Capitol Hill .
By William F. Shughart II
Last week, the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General (IG)
released a report outlining perceived shortcomings in the Bureau of Land
Management’s (BLM’s) supervision of coal leasing. Rep. Ed Markey
(D-Mass.) promptly called a hearing on the issue, which has since been
Upon the release of this report, the news media and advocates on both sides of the issue have focused on one of the report’s flashier assertions: that over the past dozen years BLM’s alleged undervaluation of coal deposits leased in noncompetitive modifications of existing mining rights on public lands resulted lost federal revenue of $60 million. (That’s “million,” with an “m.”) Much of the coal in question is located in the Powder River Basin, a coal-rich region that straddles southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming. The basin contains one of the largest known coal deposits in the world and accounts for about 40 percent of the nation’s coal supplies.