CAP Report on Coal Leasing Recycles Garbage

October 12, 2016

With its most recent screed against the federal coal leasing program, the Center for American Progress (CAP) continues to squander what little remains of its reputation for objective, credible policy analysis. Instead, this report recycles politically contrived conclusions based on a deeply flawed understanding of a program that in the past decade returned more than $12 billion to U.S. taxpayers.

Proposing to base federal coal production on the value of “a pool of carbon credits” that would arbitrarily change every five years would simply end long-term investment in federal coal production, the nation’s largest source of affordable coal energy used for electricity generation. It would also end the good jobs that federal coal production provides to thousands of Americans in the coal supply chain and the local revenue that helps states pay for schools, roads, health care and other necessities.

The environmental benefits CAP claims for this proposal are as negligible as the analysis it rests upon. It would lead to no measurable reduction in greenhouse gas concentrations, let alone in global climate change. If EPA’s Clean Power Plan aimed at shutting down the nationwide coal fleet yields a climate change benefit so small it is virtually unmeasurable, how much more insignificant would be the be the climate benefit of keeping federal coal in the ground?

When they’re not arguing that federal coal should be kept in the ground to protect the environment, activists complain that federal coal should generate more revenue to taxpayers. Aside from the explicit contradiction here – keeping coal “in the ground” for alleged environmental benefits denies taxpayers any revenue – CAP’s argument that taxpayers are somehow denied a fair return from the current federal coal program falls flat. The 12.5 percent royalty paid on coal from federal land is approximately 40 percent higher than rates paid for coal mined on private land in the Midwest and Appalachia. Companies pay additional fees based on the coal under lease.

With this report, CAP again demonstrates its obedience to the political agenda of environmental activists, not its respect for responsible public policies that recognize the economic needs of ordinary Americans.