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Senator Markey calls for fix in US coal sales

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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 U.S. Government Accountability Office, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., called for the sales to be suspended until the problems are rectified.

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.

While exports of the fuel to lucrative Asian markets have surged in recent years, the rules for leasing government-owned coal have remained largely unchanged since 1990.

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