Senators ask Interior to take closer look at coal export royalties

Senators ask Interior to take closer look at coal export royalties

Two U.S. senators think coal companies may be undervaluing the coal they export out of the country as a way to reduce their royalty payments to the government by hundreds of millions of dollars, Reuters reported.

Senators Ron Wyden, a Democrat, and Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, both of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said the Interior Department should investigate whether undervaluing is occurring, causing the United States to lose significant revenue.

"If any violations of the law have occurred, companies should be required to cure any gap in royalty payments and, if misconduct has occurred, civil penalties should be levied," states a letter from the senators sent to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, according to the article.

The Interior Department and Congress' Government Accountability Office are in the midst of examining the federal coal program, Reuters reported.

A statement from the two lawmakers said a previous Reuters article showed that regulations may be allowing coal companies to avoid paying full royalties by selling coal at low domestic prices.

"Energy exports can create jobs, generate revenue and improve our balance of trade," Murkowski said in the statement. "As we seek to maximize these benefits, we must be certain that coal exporters are following the rules."

The U.S. coal market is explored at PennEnergy's research area.

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