Arch Coal of St. Louis is one of the companies taking advantage of a remarkable Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decision in 1990. Wyoming’s Powder River Basin was decertified by the BLM as a coal production region–despite the fact it produced 44% of the nation’s coal. Decertifying the area opened the door for one-company “bidding” on the rights to mine coal there.
“The market appears to be rewarding the handful of companies operating there when they obtain leasing rights at a low cost,” reporter Juliet Eilperin discloses in The Washington Post. “In the 26 coal leases the federal government has awarded in southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming since 1991, 22 have gone to a single bidder. In the other four instances, there were only two bidders involved.”
The chief executive of Arch Coal is also reaping the rewards as one of the companies which get to be the only bidders on these coal tracts. Steven F. Leer, chairman and CEO, pulled down $6,566,822 inn 2011 revenue according Executive Paywatch. They point out if it does not sound like much in corporate-land, remember this is 193 times the average worker’s pay.
Apparently U.S. taxpayers should be thankful for all this interest mining companies have to take a risk on this “non-producing region.” Imagine how the companies must have felt when they “found” millions of tons of coal after all. It pays to be lucky. Except for U.S. taxpayers who lose nearly $29 billion.