LETTER: Suggestions for Reforming the Federal Coal Program

By March 15, 2016Climate Change, Coal

“This path must be paved with common sense policy changes that address our near-term climate challenges, aid coal-dependent communities to help them emerge from transition more sustainable and prosperous, defend taxpayers and the broader American interest, and protect our legacy of public lands.”

In January, the Obama administration announced intentions to embark on a sweeping re-examination of the nation’s coal program and it’s impacts to public health and the environment. To do so effectively, they ordered a moratorium, or a halt, to new coal leases on federal lands.

This announcement was truly historic. No administration has ever undertaken an analysis of the impacts of coal at the national level (also known as a “programmatic environmental impact statement”). Addressing the federal coal program is critical to addressing climate change: 40% of coal produced in the United States is produced on federal lands.

In full support of this action to modernize the coal program we, along with a long list of partners, submitted suggestions to Secretary Jewell for consideration as the process moves forward.

Here are a few of our requests:

Additional Interim Reform

  1. Immediately suspend self-bonding.
    When a company “self-bonds” they promise that they will have the money to clean up mining activities, but when those companies go bankrupt, the public ends up footing the clean up bull. With so many large coal companies filing bankruptcy or nearing bankruptcy recently, the Interior must protect the interests of the American taxpayer and stop this dangerous practice.
  2. Account for the costs of Carbon.
    Ensure that the costs of carbon pollution are accounted for in each and every lease that moves forward from here on out.
  3. Transition coal communities.
    The Department of Interior must commit and prioritize providing support to help communities that are heavily reliant on the federal coal program transition to more sustainable and prosperous economies.

The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement Process

  1. Begin ASAP.
    Declare the notice of intent to prepare the environmental assessment as quickly as possible to protect our climate and help the nation transition quickly.
  2. Provide 60-day public comment period.
    In addition to a lengthy comment period, hold public hearings in key areas impacted by the federal coal program all over the country.
  3. Create an informational website.
    In the interest of transparency, create a website dedicated to providing information and updates throughout the process.
  4. Ensure tribal interests are considered.
    Work together with tribal nations to ensure the management of tribal coal is also modernized, and consider tribal interests when updating the federal program.
  5. Complete within 3 years.
    Move forward as expeditiously and effectively as possible to minimize the period of uncertainty for businesses and communities and protect our climate.

Read the Full Letter Here

We are proud to sign this letter alongside the following organizations:

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