President Barack Obama said during the State of the Union address that he would push to change the way the federal government manages its oil and coal resources.
“It is only common sense that we take a closer look at coal mining on public lands; our climate, clean water, wildlife habitat and public lands are in the balance”, said retired Major General and managing director of Vet Voice Foundation, Paul Eaton.
A comprehensive review of how, when and where coal is leased for future mining on public lands is needed to ensure that the federal coal program is managed in an environmentally responsible way and to ensure that coal royalty rates allow taxpayers and communities to get a fair return on their resources, Jewell said.
“Given serious concerns raised about the federal coal program, we’re taking the prudent step to hit pause on approving significant new leases so that decisions about those leases can benefit from the recommendations that come out of the review”, said Jewell.
Taxpayer-owned federal lands supply roughly 40 percent of all USA coal production, and mining under existing leases will continue during the review. They also emit particulate matter, which can cause heart and respiratory problems, as well as nitrogen and sulfur dioxides, which can affect breathing, leading studies to conclude coal plants contribute to a broad array of health costs not accounted for in federal royalty rates.
The review will be conducted in the form of a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, looking at, among other things, how, when, and where to lease land to coal mining companies.
However, Rep. Rob Bishop, the Utah Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, said the lease moratorium will hurt Americans and proves that Obama’s pledge supporting an “all-of-the-above” energy agenda “was an election-year lie”.
“Coal has been a massive culprit in the climate crisis, so this is big news that the United States may finally be pulling back”, said Randi Spivak, public lands director for the Center for Biological Diversity.
It won’t make much of a difference to global climate, said Moffat County Commissioner John Kinkaid, whose county is home to two of the state’s operating mines. Companies will be able to mine for coal they already have under lease from the government, which is projected to sustain current levels of production from public lands for 20 years, according to the Interior Department. And it will ensure that we are not worsening climate change by subsidizing coal companies to mine this coal from public lands by selling it below market value.
Cloud Peak Energy President Colin Marshall said he was disappointed in Friday’s announcement and accused federal officials of pandering to environmentalists who are trying to shut down the industry. Jewell said the lease moratorium will not “have any impact at all on coal production” and that the review will largely be carried out by the next presidential administration. It doesn’t stop existing coal production.
DETI: Since the overwhelming bulk of the federal coal is mined out of the basin in Wyoming, it’s obviously directed towards us. Many government lease sales have had a single bidder. “But if you are interested in a fair return to the taxpayer, the federal coal program generates billions on federal leases to the US economy”, Compton said. However, it was quickly criticized by the Pennsylvania Coal Alliance, a trade association representing the industry. Last week, the second largest mining company, Arch Coal, filed for bankruptcy reorganization and there are fears that the largest, Peabody Energy, could do the same as it struggles under a huge debt load.
At least 30 mining applications in nine states would be blocked under the directive, according to a Bureau of Land Management list obtained by The Associated Press.