FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 9, 2016
Contact: Stuart Sanderson
Broad Coalition Organizes to Protest Federal Coal Lease Moratorium and Royalty Rate Hikes at Grand Junction Hearing June 23rd
Citizens from across Colorado and the west are expected to show up in force in Grand Junction June 23 to protest the Interior Department’s moratorium on new coal leases from federal land and its attempt to stop existing mines through increased royalties on production.
Several organizations representing a broad coalition of citizens, miners, local governments, business and civic leaders will appear with many expected to testify in support of rural economies and affordable energy at the meeting scheduled by the Bureau of Land Management. They include the following:
Arch Coal, Inc. / Mountain Coal Company, LLC
Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado (AGNC)
Bowie Resource Partners, LLC
Colorado Mining Association
Craig/Moffat Economic Development Partnership
Craig Chamber of Commerce & Moffat County Visitor Center
Friends of Coal West
Meeker Chamber of Commerce
National Mining Association
Oxbow Mining, LLC
Town of Rangely
Utah Mining Association
These groups also issued the following joint statement: “It is time for the war on coal mining jobs and affordable energy to end. Western coal mining jobs are important to rural economies and the clean, affordable and reliable energy from mining still accounts for the bulk of electricity produced in Colorado and much of the west. Royalties paid by coal producers are returned to the state to support the public school system. The current lease moratorium and proposals to raise royalty rates will have a chilling effect on rural Colorado and the western United States.”
The group also took issue with the need for any revision of the current royalty program. “There is no compelling need for a ‘political-fix’ to a program that isn’t broken. The current program provides an exceptional return to taxpayers. In fact, the 12.5 percent royalty paid on coal leased from federal land is approximately 40 percent higher than royalty rates paid by coal mined on private land in coal states. Recent investigations by the Government Accountability Office and the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General confirm that the public is getting a fair return and often above fair market value for federal coal leases.”
Several elected leaders, congressional and state government representatives will also appear in support of mining and affordable energy.
Coal miners in Colorado alone earn average wages and benefits approaching $135,000 annually, according to the Colorado Mining Association’s Coal Production and Employment Report for 2015. But federal and state laws have resulted in significant harm to western slope economies. Since 2013, two mines in Gunnison and Delta Counties have been forced to cease operations and a third recently announced a reduction in its workforce. All mines in Colorado have reduced production, which fell to a 25 year low in 2015 of less than 19 million tons, down more than 50 percent from the record levels achieved in 2004.
Thousands of jobs in mining and on the western slope have been lost. Moreover, the recent employment numbers published by the federal government show a significant decline in mining employment. “It’s time for rural Colorado and the west to stand up and be heard on June 23,” the groups announced.