Federal officials to hold coal program meetings in New Mexico

FOX New Mexico

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – Federal officials will host a series of public meetings this summer on the U.S. government’s coal program after criticism that corporations are profiting off publicly-owned reserves of the fuel at the expense of taxpayers.

Thursday’s announcement comes as coal companies and their allies in Congress have tried to thwart the Obama administration’s initial attempts to change longstanding industry practices.

That includes recent legislation from Montana U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke that would block an Interior Department proposal to overhaul coal royalty payments.

Under rules in place since the 1980s, companies can sell coal to affiliates and pay royalties to the government on that price, then turn around and sell the coal for more overseas.

The public meetings are planned in Washington, D.C., Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.

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