Feds start public-land coal review process

Federal officials started the process Thursday toward a comprehensive environmental review of the way the government leases public land for coal mining.

The Interior Department’s notice of intent for a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement is the first part of what will likely be a three-year process to evaluate how to better account for climate change in coal leasing, something that’s likely to increase the costs of mining coal on federal land.

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Officials are also using the process to better align coal lease costs with the market and ensure a fair return for taxpayers.

Interior said the environmental review process ensures ample opportunity for public input, including five meetings in major coal areas in May and June.

“We have an obligation to all Americans, as well as future generations, to ensure coal resources we manage are administered in a responsible way,” Neil Kornze, director of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, said in a statement.

“As we undertake this review, we look forward to hearing from the public on a wide range of issues, including how, when and where to lease federal coal, how to account for the environmental and public health impacts of federal coal production and how to ensure that American taxpayers earn a fair return for the use of their public resources, including whether current royalty rates should be adjusted.”

In announcing the review in January, Interior made the controversial decision to mostly halt the process of granting new leases for federal land coal mining, something Republicans and the industry immediately attacked.

Interior plans to release some initial analysis from its study by the end of the year.