Federal report on coal program in the United States is anti-coal propaganda, House leader says. Report finds program as it exists shorts U.S. taxpayers. Photo by Debbie Hill/ UPI | License Photo
WASHINGTON, June 23 (UPI) -- A White House report that suggests taxpayers are not getting their fair share of returns on coal is blatant propaganda, a House leader said.
The White House published a 29-page report on the economics of the coal leasing program on federal lands. The report said the federal coal program has so far resulted in a distorted market that keeps prices low and "misaligns incentives going back decades."
Usually, the report said, when a government owns a resource, the federal objective is to ensure maximum revenue.
"When it is impractical or inefficient for the government to use the resource itself, then the key task is designing an arrangement that aligns the incentives of the agent who harvests or produces the resource with the public interest," the report read.
U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said the report is nothing more than anti-coal propaganda.
"Once you scratch through the thin veneer of objectivity, this report is nothing more than card-stacking from the president," he said in a statement.
Bishop has moved in favor of the energy industry in the past. When in 2015 the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement said it was developing new standards to close what it viewed as gaps in the measures enacted in the wake of the BP oil spill in 2010, Bishop said the measure would act as a de facto moratorium on offshore oil development.
Meanwhile, 48 Democrats in the House sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell saying the federal review of the coal lease program was a welcome step toward ensuring taxpayers are getting a fair return.
"The federal coal program unfairly subsidizes coal companies at American taxpayer expense," ranking member Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said in a statement.
The federal report said coal companies work with their industry counterparts to keep coal prices low and sometimes penalize utility companies for underutilization. If the government could capitalize on those maneuvers, the report said, it could result in billions of dollars in extra federal payments per year.
The U.S. Interior Department in January announced the start of a review of the federal coal program to identify potential reforms. A federal report published earlier this month found the amount of coal produced in the United States is the lowest it's been since the early 1980s as overall demand falters.