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Headwaters Economics: Taxpayers Lose $210 Million A Year In Coal Royalties

Coal train
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American taxpayers are losing out on about $210 million a year in federal coal royalties. That’s according to the  Bozeman-based non-profit, "Headwaters Economics".

Mark Haggerty, with Headwaters, says coal companies aren’t being taxed as much as federal law allows.

“The problem that we've encountered is that the current royalty structure is relatively opaque and we don't have a really good sense of what kind of return we're getting.”

Over 80 percent of federal coal comes from the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming. Haggerty says federal agencies have to make sure taxpayers get a fair return for the extraction of these valuable resources.

“A lot of the structure is designed to provide for a stable and inexpensive energy source and that's a really important use of federal resources."

Haggerty says the current royalty structure is too expensive and complex to administer.

Coal royalties are currently determined at the first point of sale at or near the mine. The report says that limits royalty collections because coal is re-marketed at much higher prices.

The federal government owns roughly one-third of America's total coal reserves.

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