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Problems found in coal lease program

Feb 5, 2014 - The Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. -- Congressional investigators have found problems with federal coal sales that might have cost taxpayers $200 million or more in lost revenue, a senator said Tuesday.

Citing a new report by investigators at the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., called for the sales to be suspended until the problems are rectified.

Further details on losses -- including when they occurred and how much coal was involved -- were not provided, drawing skepticism from the coal industry.

More than 40 percent of U.S. coal production, or about 450 million tons a year, comes from public lands leased by the government to mining companies under the century-old Mineral Leasing Act. Those leases bring in more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

Wyoming is the nation's top coal producing state.

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