Coal Companies

Coal Companies

June 01, 2005 | By Keith Martin in Washington, DC
COAL COMPANIES won a victory in court.

The US government collects reclamation fees on coal. The fees are imposed on coal producers, and the money collected goes into a federal trust fund to be used to repair damage to the land caused by coal mining. The fee is 35¢ a ton on coal from surface mines and 15¢ a ton on coal from underground mines.

Several coal companies sued to have the fee set aside to the extent it is collected on coal produced for export. The case bounced back and forth in the courts as the government succeeded initially in having it dismissed on a technicality. However, in April, the US claims court held that the fees are unconstitutional as applied to coal that is exported.

The export clause of the US constitution says, “No Tax or Duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state.” The government argued that the amounts were “fees” rather than a “Tax or Duty” and that they are collected on the act of producing coal rather than exporting it, but the court dismissed both arguments.

If Congress were concerned about the revenue loss, it could reword the statute. The case is Consolidation Coal Company et al. v. United States.

Keith Martin