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IG: Undervalued coal leases cost U.S. $62 million

BILLINGS, Mont. — A government report says leases on publicly owned coal are undervalued and have cost the U.S. $62 million in potential lost revenues.

Tuesday’s report from the Department of Interior Inspector General recommends that the government take quick action to strengthen its coal sales program to prevent further losses.

The report says undervaluing the fuel by even a penny per ton can result in millions of dollars in lost revenue.

About 40 percent of U.S. coal comes from federal lands, primarily in Western states.

In 2011 alone, those lands produced 473 million tons of the fuel. Most of that was burned in U.S. power plants, though more is being shipped overseas.

Concern that taxpayers are not getting their fair share of the proceeds has drawn increasing scrutiny from Congress.