As Coal Industry Teeters, Obama Halts Coal Leasing

January 16, 2016

Will Coal’s rash of bankruptcies turn into a rush?


The Obama administration, in the first major review of the country’s coal program in three decades, on Friday ordered a pause on issuing coal-mining leases on federal land as part of new executive actions to fight climate change.

The halt could last three years, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told reporters, while officials determine how to protect taxpayers’ stake in coal sales from public lands and how burning coal could worsen climate change.

“We have an obligation to current and future generations to ensure the federal coal program delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and takes into account its impacts on climate change,” Jewell said on a conference call.

Federal land accounts for over 40 percent of U.S. coal production. Most leases are on public land in Western states, primarily Wyoming, along with Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

The review, the administration’s latest move to combat climate change using executive authority rather than wait for congressional action, comes at a tough time for the industry.

Since 2012, more than 50 coal companies have filed for bankruptcy in the face of competition from cheap natural gas and clean-air regulations that have raised costs for burning the fossil fuel.

Scientific American:

The moratorium comes just days after Obama said in his State of the Union Address that he would push to change the way the government manages its oil and coal resources to reflect the costs they impose on both taxpayers and the planet. The moratorium takes place immediately, but does not halt coal mining and production currently underway.

“How do we manage the program that is consistent with our climate change objective? There is no short answer,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said during a news conference. “It is also clear that we need to take into account the science we have now on the environment and climate change.”

About 40 percent of all the coal produced in the U.S. comes from mines on federal public lands, mainly in the West. As of the end of 2014, there were 308 active coal mining leases on more than 464,000 acres of public lands in Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Montana and Colorado, with an additional 10,500 acres in Kentucky, Alabama and West Virginia.




6 Responses to “As Coal Industry Teeters, Obama Halts Coal Leasing”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    Great video. And even if we stop mining and burning coal tomorrow AND somehow survive AGW, it’s going to take millennia for “Paradise” to return to those places that Peabody Coal and the others have destroyed. Shameful and sad.

    PS One of my hobbies is model railroading, and I noted the model of a Peabody coal car that appeared in the video with interest. Someone gave me an identical one as a present because they thought it was “pretty” and that I’d enjoy running it. There was a time when Peabody was so arrogant that they painted their private fleet of coal cars bright yellow and splashed a huge and gaudy “Peabody” logo on them. Less arrogant coal haulers like the Pennsylvania and Norfolk and Western railroads painted their coal cars black or dark red-maroon, far more practical colors for hauling dirty and dusty “black diamonds”. I have given away that Peabody car and sold or given away the few other coal cars I once owned by way of protesting coal. I have also constructed a lift-off ten car “Bakken Oil Train Wreck” scene with flashing LED “fire” that I can place on the railroad at public train shows—most members of the public stare at it with puzzled or blank looks, so I have to engage them and ask if they know what “Bakken Oil” is and then propagandize. Others smile knowingly, but the ignorant far outnumber the informed—it’s a long uphill road we travel.

  2. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    Poignant. 😦

  3. indy222 Says:

    And what exactly is the excuse why this wasn’t done in 2009 when Obama had a Democratic congress to work with and many years to further a battle against climate change? Coal was flying high back then, and it would have take more political courage – vs now when coal is already circling the bowl and there’s no political courage needed. I’m not impressed. Political leadership is an oxymoron.

    There’s a funny scene in the Schwarzenegger classic “Conan the Destroyer” when Conan has fought a bloody battle against a monster dragon, finally killing it… and then the token clown in the troupe trots over to stand on its head, sword downward, to pose for posterity as the vanquisher. Yeah.

  4. dumboldguy Says:

    Like all politicians, Obama was busy in his early years paying back Wall Street and the other corporate and plutocratic interests that ALL politicians are beholden to for campaign donations. Now that he is “nine toes out the door”, he has finally found some courage and is trying to make good on some of the fine-sounding BS he used to get elected in ’08. Better late than never, I guess.

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