October 6, 2022

Biden Administration Should Take Action on Coal Leasing on Public Lands

Update, 09/22/22: A federal judge recently ruled that the decision to illegally end the moratorium did not take into account the climate and other harmful effects of leasing coal. The court reimposed the moratorium until a comprehensive analysis of federal coal leasing was completed. However, a large amount of coal has already been leased on our public lands. As of 2021, BLM has administered 299 federal coal leases on approximately 458,600 acres. Just as courts have ordered the administration to consider damage from new leases, it must also take into account the enormous damage from mining existing leases. Earthjustice urges management to ensure that the industry internalizes the high environmental and social costs of continued mining. If industry cannot afford these costs, the public should not be forced to subsidize it with their health and well-being.

Original blog published 1/21/22: President Biden took office promising the most ambitious climate agenda in our country’s history. Many of these commitments have stemmed from continued pressure from Tribes and tribal activists, climate activists and environmental justice groups demanding meaningful action towards the campaign. And while this administration has taken a number of important steps on climate, including moving us towards clean, renewable energy, its efforts to end our dependence on polluted fossil fuels are not fitting in with the urgency of the crisis. More than 40% of our country’s coal is still produced on our public lands. We cannot follow renewable energy and coal side-by-side and expect to make the energy transition we need.

For those of us who have worked on fossil fuel leasing on public lands, it was particularly infuriating to see the Biden administration defend the Trump-era policy that broke the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) 2016 coal leasing moratorium. In a recent court filing, the Biden administration effectively delegated the defense of coal policy to the coal industry and coal-producing states, while the BLM told the court that everything was under control. But the opposite is true; The administration exercises no control over coal policy, and as a result, policy is no different from Trump’s coal-friendly days. The Biden administration’s inability to use this train, which is still running at full speed, is beyond disturbing; likely to cause a train accident.

On April 16, 2021, Home Secretary Debra Haaland, Secretarial Order 3398, This supposedly rescinded former Secretary Zinke’s order to revoke the coal leasing moratorium and a host of other Trump-era actions that were inconsistent with the Biden administration’s climate stance. The Haaland Order instructed BLM to review the Zinke Order and gave the agency 60 days to June 15, 2021 to complete its review and submit a report with a “plan and timeline to turn down, change, or update” the agency’s coal lease policy. . embodied by him. Unfortunately, it seems that such a review has not been made so far.

In light of the Biden administration’s failure to act, Earthjustice’s lawsuit to reinstate the federal coal lease moratorium is a key accountability mechanism to ensure the government complies with the law and meets its climate obligations. In May 2021, tribal and environmental groups presented a keynote statement challenging the Biden administration’s decision to defend this Trump-era policy. While the plaintiffs gave the Biden administration time to reverse course, the administration’s most recent filing this January refused to reverse the Trump administration’s policy. The BLM argues that it is reviewing the coal leasing program but has refused to impose the moratorium to prevent new leasing before an adequate environmental review has been completed. Meanwhile, the administration continues to process new coal lease applications due to US coal consumption. increased by 14% in 2021.

It’s even more surprising that President Biden was part of the Obama administration, which initially implemented the coal lease moratorium. Returning to this policy should be the first baby step towards belated and sorely needed broader reform. The climate crisis has worsened since the Obama-Biden administration, and we have no time to waste by continuing to lease coal on our public lands.

This is not the only instance where the Biden administration has sided with the coal industry. In an additional filing this month, the Biden administration’s BLM defended two Trump-era resource management plans that did not comply with a court order that took into account the effects of burning public coal, including public health, and considered alternatives to limit coal. Rental in the Powder River Basin, the country’s largest coal-producing region.

The Biden administration cannot have both sides on the coal issue. While public statements acknowledge that continuing to allow coal leasing on public lands is untenable, they also refuse to do so at the bare minimum, reinstating the Obama-era coal leasing moratorium when there is an urgency to prevent further warming. Our planet is terrible. President Biden took office with the promise of becoming a climate champion, but 6 years after President Obama stopped our country from renting coal, we are now taking steps in the wrong direction. There is no place in this administration for the continuation of one of the world’s worst sources of climate warming pollution.

Our planet and our future depend on this administration to do better.

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