Markey to seek halt on federal coal leases

Sen. Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyOvernight Finance: Lawmakers float criminal charges for Wells Fargo chief | Scrutiny on Trump's Cuba dealings | Ryan warns of recession if no tax reform Overnight Tech: FCC chief downplays delay to TV box reforms | Lawsuit filed over internet transition | Waze rolls out ridehailing service Anti-trade senators say chamber would be crazy to pass TPP MORE (D-Mass.) said he will introduce a bill soon to stop the government from leasing coal rights on federal land until the program is reformed.

Markey announced his intent to write a bill Tuesday after the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) declined his request to put a moratorium on leases.

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He sent his letter in February after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identified multiple problems with coal lease sales, saying the sales were often not competitive, BLM cannot adequately judge the value of the leases and the agency does not properly consider that the coal might be exported.

At the time, Markey blasted BLM for selling leases at “bargain-basement” prices that shortchange taxpayers.

“This response from the Interior Department to the significant flaws that have been identified in the coal leasing program by the GAO does not adequately assure American taxpayers that this program will be reformed and that they will be protected,” Markey said in a statement.

“That is why I will be drafting legislation to suspend new lease sales of coal from public lands until the reforms recommended by the GAO to protect taxpayers are put into place,” he said.

In its letter to Markey, BLM said it agreed with many of the GAO’s recommendations and was working to implement them.

“While the department intends to make necessary changes to improve the coal leasing program, we do not agree that our coal program should be suspended until these reforms are completed,” BLM Director Neil Kornze wrote.