The Climate Impact of American Land Coal Sales Examined Closely | Business
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – U.S. officials on Thursday launched a review of climate damage and other impacts of coal mining on public lands as the Biden administration expands its review of government fossil fuel sales that contribute to emissions greenhouse gases.
The review will also examine whether companies are paying fair value for coal mined from public reserves in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah and other states, according to a notice from the federal registry outlining the administration’s intentions. .
Burning coal for electricity remains one of the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, even after many power plants have shut down in the past decade due to concerns about the pollution.
Nearly half of the country’s annual coal production – some 250 million tonnes in the previous fiscal year – is mined by private companies from leases on federal lands, mostly in the western states.
Coal sales were temporarily shut down under President Barack Obama due to climate concerns, and then relaunched under President Donald Trump as he sought to support the declining industry.
One of President Joe Biden’s first actions during his first week in office was to halt sales of oil and gas leases – a decision later blocked by a federal judge – and he was pressured by environmental groups to take similar action against coal.
The Home Office’s review will look at the effects of coal mining on air quality and the local environment, whether leasing decisions should consider whether fuel will be exported and how coal meets needs. energies of the country.
The agency said it would take 30 days of public comment and plans to announce its next steps by November.
The coal program last year brought federal and state coffers $ 387 million in royalties and other payments, according to government data. It supports thousands of jobs and has been fiercely defended by industry representatives, Republicans in Congress, and officials from coal-producing states.
“Our public lands are intended for multiple uses, including producing affordable and reliable energy for all Americans, and we look forward to providing feedback throughout the government’s review,” said Ashley Burke of the National Mining Association, an industry lobby group.
California, New York, New Mexico and Washington state sued after then Home Secretary Ryan Zinke boosted sales of coal concessions in 2017 The Northern Cheyenne tribe, joined by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups, also filed a legal challenge, while state officials in Wyoming and Montana opposed reinstating the moratorium.
The Biden administration had sought to delay legal challenges, but a federal judge said in June that states and environmentalists risked damage if the case is blocked. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris cited pending lease applications for thousands of acres of federal land containing at least 1 billion tonnes of coal.
Interior officials said the review would not impact sales and pending lease changes, or digging permits for existing leases. They also pledged to hold direct talks with Native American tribes that may be affected. A small number of tribes have charcoal, while others have historically opposed development.
Thursday’s action was called a “good first step” by Earthjustice lawyer Jenny Harbine, who represents environmental groups and the Northern Cheyenne in the legal dispute. But she and others said they would continue to pressure Biden to end all coal, oil and gas extractions from American lands.
“We are sitting here in record heat and sweltering forest fires,” Harbine said. “There couldn’t be a more important time for the administration to take action to end the production of fossil fuels on our federal lands.”
In 2017 and 2018, the government sold leases for 134 million tonnes of coal on public land in six states, according to figures provided by the Home Office. This is a relatively small amount compared to previous years, for example 2011 and 2012, when more than 2 billion tonnes were sold in Wyoming alone.
Growing concerns about climate change have put the spotlight on the coal program, which had operated largely in obscurity since major environmental reviews of the 1970s and 1980s, including a 1983 Government Accountability Office report that found the government received about $ 100 million less than it should have. have the sale in one big lease.
According to a 2018 report by the US Geological Survey, the extraction and combustion of fossil fuels from federal lands generates the equivalent of 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. This is equivalent to almost a quarter of the United States’ total carbon dioxide emissions.
Over the past decade, oil and gas have eclipsed coal to become the largest human source of greenhouse gas emissions from public lands and waters, federal production data show.