The nine groups, including Greenpeace and the Sierra Club, said a moratorium on federal coal leasing in the PRB was now more important than ever.
“The problem of undervaluing federal coal must be fixed before more coal resources are committed. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana,” the groups said.
“Nearly five billion tons of federal coal in the PRB is in some phase of processing for sale by the BLM.”
The group highlighted the Department of Inspector General’s investigation into the leasing program last month, which highlighted the Bureau of Land Management’s failure to reap adequate profits from coal companies for the benefit of the American people, suggesting at least $62 million in potential lost revenues due to the agency undervaluing coal.
“Although the report estimates at least $60 million has been lost, OIG’s revelation that the BLM is not taking into account coal export markets when determining the value of coal along strongly indicates that millions, if not billions, more are being lost.
“Critics of the OIG have asserted the coal management program recovers the minimum value required by law. Even if this were true, it would be a poor benchmark by which to assess whether the program is benefitting the public to the fullest extent,” the groups wrote to Jewell.
The lease under the group’s spotlight is known as the Maysdorf II north coal tract and contains about 149 million tons of mineable coal.
The tract neighbors Cloud Peak Energy's Cordero Rojo mine in Campbell County. In September 2006, Cloud Peak subsidiary Cordero Mining Company applied for a coal lease for approximately 4653 acres (approximately 504Mt of estimated coal) in the maintenance tract adjacent to the Cordero Rojo mine.
The BLM determined that the application would be processed as two separate tracts, Maysdorf II north and Maysdorf II south tract.
The BLM said the lease sale for the Maysdorf II north tract would be held at 10am on August 21 in the BLM Wyoming office. The south tract is yet to be leased.
Once the lease is issued to the highest qualified bidder, an annual rental payment of $3 per acre is required, along with a royalty payment of 12.5% of the value of coal produced by surface mining methods.
The groups say they recognize that the agency is working to address the problem, but are taking immediate action to prevent this lease, and others currently pending, from being sold at drastic losses.