Senator: Undervalued US coal sales might have cost taxpayers $200 million in lost revenue

The Associated Press

File-In this April 4, 2013, file photo, a truck carrying 250 tons of coal hauls the fuel to the surface of the Spring Creek mine near Decker, Mont. Congressional investigators have found problems with federal coal sales that a federal lawmaker says potentially cost taxpayers $200 million or more in lost revenue. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown,File)

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The Ohio-based Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, a group with environmental ties, has pegged lost revenues at more than $30 billion since the early 1980s, when many of the rules governing the industry were last revised.

The Powder River Basin of Wyoming and Montana accounts for the overwhelming majority of the public coal sales, 90 percent of which involve four industry giants — Arch Coal, Peabody Energy, Alpha Natural Resources and Cloud Peak Energy.

Most of the fuel is burned in U.S. power plants. But as domestic sales have lagged amid competition from cheap natural gas, more U.S. coal has been shipped abroad.

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