The Secretary of Interior has formed a task force to determine if coal companies are underpaying royalties for coal mined on public land and sold in Asia. And it has confirmed it is investigating one coal company for potential criminal wrongdoing.
In a letter to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, the Interior Secretary announced the new task force and promised to aggressively pursue coal companies that violate the law.
Wyden is concerned that companies, including several that wish to build export terminals in the Northwest, might be fleecing taxpayers.
Patrick Etchart is with the Office of Natural Resource Revenue, which manages federal coal leases.
“We are committed to collecting every dollar due," Etchart says. "We have started some audits, we will be conducting more, and we will determine if we got the proper value for the coal.”
Investigators want to know if coal companies are paying royalties based on low coal prices in the U.S., when they’re actually selling the coal at a higher price overseas.
The Department of Interior also reported it is investigating one coal company for criminal wrongdoing, but did not elaborate.
Copyright 2013 Oregon Public Broadcasting