Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Interior to Attempt Once More to Change Coal Leasing Laws

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Interior to Attempt Once More to Change Coal Leasing Laws

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Interior Department says it will try again to get Congress to relax anti-speculation provisions of coal leasing laws.

Congress in 1976 adopted a law saying leaseholders taking out new claims had 10 years in which to begin producing ``commerical quantities'' or the lease expires.

Steven Griles, assistant secretary for land and minerals management, said last week those requirements were unduly restrictive and ``don't allow the marketplace to work.''

He said he would try to get Congress next year to stretch the development period to 12 years to 15 years, and allow that the lease be held after that on payment of fees.

``It is taking longer than 10 years to go through permitting,'' Griles said.

When Congress adopted the law, it laid down slightly different requirements for pre-1976 leaseholders: If they didn't become commercially viable by Dec. 31, 1986, they may not bid on new mineral leases on federal land - coal, oil or anything else. Almost all this coal is in the West, where the federal government is the dominant owner.

Griles was interviewed by telephone from Denver, where he was visiting department installations, after the department's Bureau of Land Management announced final regulations for the disqualification of holders of pre-1976 leases.

The bureau said it now appeared 140 leases covering 1.5 billion tons of coal would remain outstanding but not in production on Dec. 31. Another 72 probably will be surrendered so the holders will remain eligible to bid for new leases - primarily in the more lucrative oil and gas markets. Twenty-six already have been turned back.

The 10-year development period for pre-1976 leases starts over if a lease is transferred to an unaffiliated buyer. …

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