Obama Pauses Federal Coal Leases
January 18, 2016
On January 15, 2016, the Obama Administration suspended its federal coal leasing program. The partial moratorium was ordered to accommodate an evaluation of the leasing program by the Interior Department. The Administration has announced a comprehensive review of the program, evaluating aspects such as federal royalty rates and environmental factors related to climate change. This announcement comes on the heels of President Obama’s State of the Union Address, in which he declared a “push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.”
The moratorium will neither affect current leases nor pending leases that have already completed a regulatory environmental analysis and received a final record of decision approving the operations.
Industry groups have criticized the decision. For example, Karen Harbert of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy stated that “[a]t this point, it is obvious that the President and his administration won’t be satisfied until coal is completely eradicated from our energy mix. Their foolish crusade takes away one of America’s greatest strength – our diverse mix of energy sources.” National Mining Association Spokesman Luke Popovich stated that the Interior Department already has abundant evidence that the program is fair and valuable to coal-mining states. According to Popovich, the announced review “is a political exercise, not a fact finding exercise.”
Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel has said that the review will take about three years. Approximately 40 percent of the nation’s coal is mined on federal lands.
This article was authored by Douglas J. Crouse, Jackson Kelly PLLC.