Greens flood feds with coal leasing comments

Greens flood feds with coal leasing comments
© Getty Images

More than 250,000 people have called for a reform of the federal coal leasing program, activists say. 

The comment period on an Interior Department assessment of coal leasing rates on federal lands closes this week. Supporters of reforming the program say they’ve made the case for overhauling it for the first time in decades.

ADVERTISEMENT
“What [Interior] Secretary [Sally] Jewell started last spring as an open and honest conversation about our federal coal program became, over the course of the last year, a really robust and thorough process for people from the West and across of the country to express their ideas about the future of coal on our public lands, and overwhelmingly they voiced their support for change,” Pam Eaton, a senior director at the Wilderness Society, said on Wednesday. 

Eaton's group and others have backed Interior’s review of the coal leasing program, with more than a quarter-million comments flowing to Interior supporting reform, she said.

The department kicked off the review in January, halting new coal leases and beginning a listening tour on coal, including six public hearings in the West, where much of the public lands mining is located. Officials say the review could lead to updated royalty pricing to make sure the government is getting a fair price on coal leases. Reforming the program could also lead to higher royalty rates on federal coal mining to account for coal’s impact on climate change. 

The Sierra Club said it delivered 130,000 comments calling for an overhaul of the program. 

“We hope that DOI will listen and serve the national interest by putting people before polluter profits,” Bill Corcoran, the western regional director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, said in a statement. 

“By generating electricity with clean energy instead of coal from our public lands, we can reduce pollution, costs, and health risks across America.”

Republicans and the mining industry have opposed the review, saying it will lead to job loses at mining sites on federal land.