Heat on Coal

Was it afire sale?

Bumptious Interior Secretary James Watt found himself at the center of a new embroilment last week. The cause of the row: Watt's alleged mismanagement of the Federal Government's coal-leasing program, which, according to a House Appropriations Committee report, permitted the energy industry to buy coal-leasing rights at "fire sale" prices and reap "windfall profits" at taxpayers' expense.

The 121-page study, issued after an eight-month investigation, focuses on the April 28, 1982, auction of leases to 13 tracts in the prized Powder River Basin area. Interior officials say the sale, involving...

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