I want to thank the Department of Interior and Bureau of Land Management for holding a listening session here in Campbell County. Wyoming is the largest coal producing state in the nation, producing about 40% of America’s coal. Thirteen of our top 20 coal producers were in Campbell County in 2011, so clearly you’ve come to the right place to hear about the Federal Coal Program.
I hope that while you’re here, you’ll get to know the Powder River Basin. That will let you see firsthand how Wyoming mines coal. Safety is a top priority for our coal miners. Our coal is also clean burning, which means it’s better for the environment. And, we take reclamation seriously; our reclaimed land is home to indigenous species like elk, and one reclaimed site is part of a conservation easement.
This listening session was announced to “seek information from the public about how the BLM can best carry out its responsibility to ensure that American taxpayers receive a fair return on the coal resources managed by the federal government on their behalf.” I argue that American taxpayers are already receiving a fair return on their coal resources.
According to the Gillette Chamber of Commerce, there’s already a 40% effective tax rate on coal, when you combine royalties, taxes, and fees. To raise that rate further will destroy jobs in Gillette, in Wyoming, and across the United States. According to the National Mining Association, coal is responsible for more than 27,000 jobs in Wyoming. These are good paying jobs with a combined payroll of more than $2 million. With an unemployment rate above 5%, the Administration should be encouraging these types of jobs, not trying to kill them.
Raising royalty rates will also increase electricity prices, since, according to the Energy Information Administration 39% of the United States’ electricity was generated by coal in 2014. In Wyoming, coal provides 89% of our power, so our ratepayers would be hit hard by higher costs. And since Wyoming coal is transported to more than 30 states, that’s not good for the rest of the country, either. It’s not good for our neighbors in Utah, where coal provides 81% of their power; and it’s not good for federal employees who live in Maryland, where coal provides 44% of their power.
I hope that you will take the time today to really listen to everyone here and learn that instead of running from coal, America needs to run on coal. That includes by supporting our coal industry rather than by trying to tax them out of existence.