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Republicans furious over Obama move on coal leases

Republicans furious over Obama move on coal leases
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Congressional Republicans are slamming the Obama administration’s decision to halt new coal mining leases on federal land. 

Administration officials said Friday they would hold off on new lease sales while overhauling the coal leasing program to account for climate change costs. 

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Republicans, who have badgered Obama for energy and environment policies they say constitute a “war on coal,” let loose on the decision Friday. 

“There seems to be no limit to the number of job-crushing regulations, executive orders and insults [Interior Secretary Sally Jewell] and President Obama will throw at America’s middle class,” Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSunday shows preview: Democrats eye passage of infrastructure bill; health experts warn of fourth coronavirus wave Lack of cyber funds in Biden infrastructure plan raises eyebrows As Congress considers infrastructure, don't forget rural America MORE (R-Wyo.) said in a statement. The Interior Department leases about 200,000 acres of land in Wyoming for coal mining.

“This administration is in a full-scale war with coal communities and families.”

House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTrump faces test of power with early endorsements Lobbying world Boehner throws support behind Republican who backed Trump impeachment MORE (R-Wis.) said Congress will “continue to fight back” against Obama’s energy policies, calling Friday’s decision an attack on coal mining communities. 

“President Obama has made it absolutely clear what he plans to do with America’s energy — keep it in the ground,” he said in a statement.

Sen. Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTrump faces test of power with early endorsements OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies Senate GOP pushes back on list of participants in oil and gas leasing forum MORE, a Republican who represents mining-heavy Montana, said the move is an “unprecedented assault on one of Montana’s most important sources of good paying jobs and tax revenue.”

Rep. Ed WhitfieldWayne (Ed) Edward WhitfieldBottom Line Why Republicans took aim at an ethics watchdog What Azerbaijan wants from Israel? MORE (R-Ky.) called the decision “another unilateral attack on coal.” Rob BishopRobert (Rob) William BishopGOP's Westerman looks to take on Democrats on climate change House Republicans who didn't sign onto the Texas lawsuit OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said it is an “unprecedented action” that will “completely shut down coal leasing on federal lands and will disproportionately harm the poorest among us.”

Friday’s move isn’t a pause in coal production on federal lands but only a moratorium on new leasing, administration officials said Friday. Mining on existing leases will continue during the review of the program, something Jewell said is long overdue. 

Green groups and Democrats, many of whom have pushed the Obama administration to institute policies slowing fossil fuel development on federal lands, praised the move. 

Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyGreen tech isn't all it's cracked up to be 2024 GOP White House hopefuls lead opposition to Biden Cabinet 33 Democrats urge Biden to shut down Dakota Access Pipeline MORE (D-Ore.), who has authored a bill blocking future federal fossil fuel leasing, said the decision is a “breakthrough moment for America leadership” on climate change. 

“The science is clear: if we want to prevent catastrophic climate change, we will have to leave the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground rather than extracting and burning these dirty fuels,” he said. “The time is right to transition rapidly from a fossil fuel economy to a clean energy economy, and that means keeping it in the ground.”

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), the ranking member on the Natural Resources panel, seemed to embrace the GOP’s “war on coal” mantra on Friday. 

“For far too long the federal coal program has been part of a war on common sense, a war on the American taxpayer’s wallet, and a war on our planet,” he said. “It is past time to fight back."