Is a recently proposed Department of Interior rule change a classic "bait-and-switch" plan designed to curtail energy production rather than benefit taxpayers?

Opponents of fossil fuel development would have you believe a change is necessary. This proposal would undo the current valuation of coal and replace it with a complex system designed to punish coal producers with higher costs and significant uncertainty. It is not about maximizing revenue for taxpayers; it's about cutting off production of federal coal from Wyoming and other states.

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The anti-fossil fuel crowd regularly invokes the same tired argument in a failed attempt to prove their point - energy producers are not paying their fair share to taxpayers and should therefore have their taxes, royalties and leases raised. Yet, the fallacy of this argument should be noted. Those opposed to energy development want taxpayers to receive no benefit from America's resources.

The current system provides stable and very significant tax and royalty revenue.  In Wyoming, companies pay to lease federal coal, pay royalties on that coal when it is produced, federal income taxes on any profit, as well as severance taxes, ad valorem taxes, sales taxes, and other fees.  Federal, state and local governments receive over $1 billion a year from coal production in Wyoming alone.

Wyoming produces approximately 40 percent of America's coal, much of which is federally leased. Producers operating in the state have been good corporate citizens, and Wyoming's share of money from coal goes directly toward building schools, as well as other essential services.  All counties in the state are beneficiaries, and the claim that taxpayers are in any way short-changed is misleading at best.

In addition, much of the rest of the country benefits from the affordable, reliable electricity made possible by Wyoming coal. And there are emerging, energy-starved markets in Asia that are desperate for the cheap, clean, and affordable coal we produce in our state. We are proud of our incredible resources and are utilizing them responsibly.

The idea of a carbon tax has been debated and rejected time and again. Even a like-minded president with a super-majority in the U.S. Senate and control of the U.S. House could not get a carbon tax across the finish line.  Fossil fuel opponents regularly dismiss meaningful ways to reduce CO2 emissions, like carbon capture, use and sequestration (CCUS) or high-efficiency boiler technology, which America's ally Japan is funding.

The extreme environmental movement will stop at nothing to advance this anti-fossil fuel agenda, including advocating for an obscure office within the Department of the Interior to re-write major energy policy rather than have this critical issue debated and decided by our elected representatives in Congress. There is no evidence whatsoever to support claims that the current rules for royalty valuation don't work, or that the American people are not getting their fair value from current royalties on coal. There is a great deal of evidence that the extremists are prepared to hoodwink the American people, manipulate the media, and subvert the law to keep coal in the ground.  Regretfully, their goal does a disservice to America's economy and energy security.

Kasperik has represented state District 32 in the Wyoming House of representatives since 2011.