BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Interior Department has put on hold changes to how it values coal extracted from public lands after mining companies sued in federal court to challenge the rules.

Interior officials say in a Federal Register notice to be published Monday that current rules will remain in place pending a court decision.

The changes, crafted under the administration of President Barack Obama, were aimed at ensuring companies don't shortchange taxpayers on coal sales to Asia and other markets.

Coal exports surged over the past decade even as domestic even sales declined. Most coal from public lands is mined in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.

Federal lawmakers and advocacy groups complain the government loses hundreds of millions of dollars annually because of improperly valued coal royalty payments.

Critics said the proposed changes would cause them financial harm.

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