1983 Scorecard Vote
Federal law requires the government to get a fair market value for coal mined on public lands, and to balance coal development against other natural resource values before deciding which tracts to lease for mining. Under Interior Secretary Watt, the Reagan Administration ignored these restrictions. In 1983 a study by the General Accounting Office (GAO) showed that the Administration sold coal rights to industry for $100 million less than they were worth in the Powder River Basin lease sale. In addition, the lease sale may have violated air quality rules in Wyoming and Montana, and may cause severe water pollution problems for the region's groundwater and for the beautiful Tongue River.
In response to the GAO report, Senator Bumpers offered an amendment to prohibit new coal leasing for the rest of the fiscal year, (about three and a half months), to give Congress time to look into the Interior Department's management of the coal leasing program. The Department had announced its intention of immediately leasing millions of acres in the Fort Union area of North Dakota. The amendment would have halted that lease sale, which could have damaged thousands of acres of critical wildlife habitat, hurt endangered species, and marred scenic vistas in the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park.
Bumpers amendment rejected 48-51; June 14, 1983. YES is the pro-environmental vote. (Bumpers amendment to fiscal 1983 Supplemental Appropriations bill, H.R. 3069.) The Reagan Administration opposed the amendment. Although the amendment lost, the Fort Union sale was stopped by the actions of a House Committee and a lawsuit by environmentalists.