Sen. Ray Scott

Sen. Ray Scott

Sen. Ray Scott nailed the Interior Department’s bogus listening tour on mining held in Denver last week as nothing but a microphone for radical activists to give their “leave coal in the ground” campaign a public forum.

In a Daily Sentinel opinion piece, the Grand Junction Republican correctly questions Secretary Sally Jewell’s motivations, and suggests the tour merely foreshadows the Obama administration’s intention to cripple and eliminate the coal industry.

 Jewell says that she wants an “open and honest conversation about modernizing the federal government’s coal (leasing) program…and about whether the taxpayers are getting a fair return from public resources.” I don’t believe a word she says. I think these listening sessions have less to do with “honesty” and much more to do with separating coal miners in Colorado and throughout the West from their jobs.

We don’t believe her, either.

The mixed messaging from national environmental groups performing with this travelling circus makes theirs, and the administration’s intentions, as clear as river water that’s never been fouled by the EPA: Raise the royalties, they initially implore, but leave the coal in the ground.

Leaving the ridiculous behind and focusing on the royalty issue, Scott argues that coal already pays up to nearly 13 percent in royalties, plus sales taxes, severance taxes, and excise taxes for an annual outlay in Colorado of more than $100 million from just eight mines.

Increasing the tax burden will only serve to drive coal further to the edge, deprive public schools of an important source of revenue from federal leases, and increase electricity rates for those who can least afford it.

The national environmental movement could give two figs whether the coal industry is taxed into oblivion, but at some point they need to pause and consider what that money is providing.

Eliminating funding for schools and turning the lights out on the poor are perverse goals they’ve neglected to mention in their talking points.