Mineral Resources:

Interior Has Improved Its Administration of Coal Exchanges

RCED-87-53: Published: Feb 17, 1987. Publicly Released: Mar 19, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Department of the Interior's procedures for administering the trade or exchange of federal coal lands, interest, or leases for privately owned property to determine whether they ensure the: (1) exchange of coal of equal value only; (2) protection of environmental values; (3) protection of the public interest; and (4) prevention of potentially competitive coal land exchanges.

GAO found that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM): (1) developed guidelines for determining the value of coal lands, interests, or leases involved in an exchange, and for the most part, followed them in the cases reviewed; (2) followed established procedures for assessing the environmental effects of the exchanges for which it prepared environmental assessments; (3) had public interest criteria for fee exchanges but not for lease exchanges; and (4) did not have a policy to consider alternatives to exchanging potentially competitive lands.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: BLM issued manuals on November 3, 1987, for determining if a lease exchange is in public interest.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should develop formal criteria for determining whether a lease exchange is in the public interest.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: BLM will, as GAO advocates, use the expressions of leasing interest that are received during regional activity planning as a means of determining competitive interest in a tract proposed for exchange.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should develop an agencywide policy and procedures for lease and fee exchanges that require all BLM state offices to determine whether other companies have expressed an interest in leasing the federal land proposed for exchange and, if so, to consider alternative lands for exchange.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior


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