Trump Moves to Increase Subsidy for Coal Mining on Federal Lands – by Eric Levitz (New York Magazine – August 7, 2017)

Donald Trump appears to set regulatory policy on a kind of reverse-utilitarian calculus, working diligently to do the greatest good for the smallest number. With the help of the congressional GOP, the president has made it easier for coal companies to dump mining waste in streams; given financial advisers the right to scam their clients; and made companies that routinely abuse their workers eligible for federal contracts again.

But with its latest deregulatory endeavor, the Trump administration has taken this governing philosophy to new heights: The White House appears to have found a way to put the profit margins of select coal companies ahead of not merely environmental conservation, climate sustainability, and federal taxpayers, but also coal miners in Appalachia.

Early in his tenure, Trump reversed the Obama administration’s moratorium on leasing federal lands to coal companies, and canceled its proposed study on the environmental impacts of the coal industry. But Trump’s Interior Department doesn’t merely want the public to blindly absorb the environmental costs of fossil-fuel extraction on public lands — it also wants us to subsidize the financial costs of such activity.

Late last week, the administration filed a repeal of an Obama-era measure designed to increase mineral royalties on federal lands. Or, more precisely, Trump moved to reopen loopholes that allow coal companies to avoid paying their full dues to Uncle Sam. As the New York Times explains:

Under federal rules adopted in 1920, coal companies are required to pay “not less than” 12.5 percent on sales of surface coal mined on federal lands. But for years, studies indicate, the companies paid far less — as little as 2.5 percent of the ultimate sale price — because they often negotiated large royalty discounts with sympathetic federal officials.

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