Trump administration to lift ban on coal leasing on public lands

Matthew Hall 28 February 2020 (Last Updated February 28th, 2020 12:40)

The US Government has announced it will resume coal leasing on public lands, following a critical action by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The decision allows for new coal mining projects to commence on public lands, lifting an Obama-era ban.

Trump administration to lift ban on coal leasing on public lands
The Trump administration first attempted to lift the ban in 2017, but a federal judge ruled that the government’s policy did not include sufficient assessments of the environmental effects of coal mining. Credit: Max Phillips on Flickr

The US Government has announced it will resume coal leasing on public lands, following a critical action by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The decision allows for new coal mining projects to commence on public lands, lifting an Obama-era ban.

The BLM released a statement saying it found no significant impact from lifting the ban on processing applications for new coal leases. The Obama administration initially implemented the moratorium so the effects of coal mining on public health and the environment could be studied. The announcement to lift the ban has proven controversial and has been condemned by US conservationists at the Center for Western Priorities.

In a statement, the centre’s executive director Jennifer Rokala said: “The result of this environmental review was cooked from the start—the Trump administration tried to end the coal moratorium three years ago, but was so sloppy that a judge told them to try again. Similarly, the administration tried to reopen a loophole allowing coal companies to skirt royalties owed to taxpayers, only to lose in court.

“Right now, fossil fuels extracted from public lands account for one-quarter of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. But instead of ensuring our public lands are part of the climate solution, the former oil lobbyist in charge of the Interior Department is trying to open even more places for drilling and mining.

The Trump administration first attempted to lift the ban in 2017, but a federal judge ruled that the government’s policy did not include sufficient assessments of the environmental effects of coal mining.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, the Department of the Interior has ended the war on American energy and coal, which allows local communities to prosper,” said acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management Casey Hammond.

“Coal is and will continue to be a critical part of our nation’s energy portfolio and we are committed to the responsible development of our abundant resources and advancing American energy independence, jobs, and economic growth.”

This latest government endorsement of coal mining comes as part of President Trump’s longstanding commitment to US coal projects, with Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette recently affirming the administration’s commitment to the industry.