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Debate Over Federal Coal Leases Comes To New Mexico

Rita Daniels
The BLM oversees 310 coal mining leases on federal lands.

New Mexico could get more money for schools and roads if the U.S. increases royalty rates for coal mined on federal land. The feds held the last of a series of nationwide listening sessions in Farmington on Thursday.

Companies that extract fossil fuels from federal lands pay less for coal than they do for oil or natural gas that is produced from the same land.

Robert Tohe told Bureau of Land Management and Department of Interior officials that the federal government under-values coal – and that it's costing the public a lot of money. 

“America’s public lands belong to us all," Tohe said. "Right now that money that companies pay to mine coal on those lands is too low, allowing them to shortchange taxpayers out of their fair share of profits.”

At the meeting, coal industry supporters said raising rates would fuel what they called a war on coal and said royalty rates should be slashed instead.

The public has until the middle of next month to submit comments on coal royalties.

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