Poor return to taxpayers from federal coal royalties

A report released today by Headwaters Economics finds that taxpayers are not receiving a fair return on the leasing of publicly-owned coal. The report, “An Assessment of U.S. Federal Coal Royalties - Current Royalty Structure, Effective Royalty Rates, and Reform Options,” analyzes how the federal government obtains revenues from its coal, estimates effective royalty rates, reviews problems with the current system, and assesses reform options.

Headwaters says the Department of Interior’s royalty structure fails to provide a fair return for taxpayer-owned coal because the average effective royalty rate of 4.9 percent falls well short of the rate required by law and is significantly lower than the effective rate paid on taxpayer-owned oil and gas.

More than 80 percent of federal coal comes from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming.

Statement by Bob LeResche for WORC and the Powder River Basin Resource Council on the release of “An Assessment of U.S. Federal Coal Royalties - Current Royalty Structure, Effective Royalty Rates, and Reform Options.”

Headwaters Economics has shown that loopholes in the Department of the Interior coal royalty system have allowed Big Coal to avoid paying the full amount due federal taxpayers. The loss to Americans is substantial – roughly $850 million between 2008 and 2012. This report shows it is past time for Secretary Sally Jewell and Interior to close these loopholes and ensure the public collects the full value of coal royalties. It’s time to start focusing on getting a fair price for our publicly owned coal resource and to begin collecting fair royalties for the American people.

Western Native Voice & Idaho Organization of Resource Councils affiliate with WORC

On Dec. 6, the WORC Board of Directors voted unanimously to accept applications for membership by Western Native Voice and the Idaho Organization of Resource Councils.

“We are pleased to welcome these two groups into the WORC,” said Norm Cimon, outgoing Chair of WORC. “The Idaho Organization of Resource Councils hosts an emerging grassroots base in Idaho, while Western Native Voice extends our engagement with Native Americans communities throughout Montana. Both groups strengthen our regional network and our ability to impact local, state, and national policy decisions.”

Coalition urges Congress to reject changes to Country of Origin Labels

A coalition of 207 farm, faith, environmental, labor, rural and consumer organizations delivered a letter December 2 to the Senate urging the legislators to reject any effort to repeal, rescind or weaken country of origin labeling in any federal spending legislation.

“As livestock producers and consumers, our members stand strong in our commitment to COOL and urge our Congressional representatives to support the pending appeal and let the process proceed,” said Mabel Dobbs, a rancher from Weiser, Idaho, and member of WORC.

Groups file lawsuit against BLM’s coal leasing program

WORC and Friends of the Earth, with the support of philanthropist Paul G. Allen, today filed a lawsuit to require the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to prepare a programmatic environmental impact statement for the federal coal leasing program.

There has not been a comprehensive environmental review of the federal coal leasing program since 1979. Since that time, scientific evidence has established that greenhouse gases produced by coal mining and combustion endanger the public health and welfare. The BLM, however, has never analyzed the coal leasing program’s impact on climate change.

The complaint argues that the results of this analysis will compel the BLM to deliver on its legal obligation to promote environmentally responsible management of public lands on behalf of the citizens of the United States.

“More than 80 percent of federal coal comes from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming. People living in the Powder River Basin have endured many hardships not predicted in the outdated environmental studies including, lack of access to grazing lands, un-restored groundwater aquifers, toxic emissions from explosions, costly and dangerous railroad traffic in major cities to name a few,” said Bob LeResche, Vice Chair of WORC and rancher from Clearmont, Wyo. “A full environmental study will enable the BLM to fulfill their duty to promote environmentally responsible management of public lands in light of climate change on behalf of the citizens of the United States.”

New report looks at the natural gas flaring boom

Surging oil production in shale hot spots, like the Bakken in North Dakota and Eagle Ford in Texas, has increased waste of natural gas through flaring, venting, and leaking.

WORC’s new report, The Flaring Boom, examines the causes and effects of flaring, venting, and leaking of natural gas by examining efforts to curtail these wasteful practices in Alaska, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, Texas, and Wyoming.

“Flaring lowers quality of life in oil-producing communities through increased air pollution, deprives royalty payments to those owning the rights to the natural gas, and contributes to climate change,” said Donald Nelson, a rancher from Keene, N.D., and Chair of WORC’s Oil and Gas Campaign Team.

Nelson has 30 to 40 flares on his ranch. “It’s easy to count them at night,” he said.

Employment opportunities in the WORC network
Voices from the Bakken - Fighting Back

A snapshot of residents defending their water, land, communities, and families from the harmful effects of booming oil drilling in the Bakken region of northwest North Dakota.

Hydraulic Fracturing Photos

John Fenton and his
neigbors deal with the impacts of gas
drilling and hydraulic fracturing daily.
Click on Learn More to
view photographs.
Who's Your Farmer?

Powder River member Audrey Malan gives thanks for local food and local producers in a High Plains News radio commentary.


Member Group News

Bill would mean audits for health department, oil and gas division – Dakota Resource Council leads call for review of how state agencies are handling the oil boom. (Dickinson Press, Jan. 10, 2015

Keystone XL Supporters Make Misleading Claims About Support Along the Proposed Pipeline Route – Members of Dakota Rural Action and Northern Plains Resource Council provide the perspective of a landowner dealing with the Keystone XL pipeline. (Roll Call, Jan. 8, 2015)

Time for creativity in planning ahead – Powder River Basin Resource Council member questions Wyoming’s response to the federal carbon reduction plan. (Jackson Hole News & Guide, Dec. 31, 2014)

More Member Group News


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