US senator to ask Congress to suspend coal sales

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. senator says he'll ask fellow lawmakers to halt further coal sales on federal lands in the West after a senior administration official declined to suspend the troubled government program.

Sen. Ed Markey said Tuesday the Interior Department is moving too slowly on promised reforms. The Massachusetts Democrat has said undervalued coal sales might have cost taxpayers $200 million or more.

Government investigators earlier this year found a widespread lack of competition in coal lease sales. Markey wants companies to pay a fair price for the right to mine.

In a letter first reported by The Boston Globe, U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze agreed reforms are needed. But he says a suspension of sales is not necessary while the changes are being considered.