Biden Admin Proposes Ending New Coal Leasing in Nation’s Largest Coal-Producing Region

Plans would prevent companies from applying for new coal mining rights on federally owned lands in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.

The Biden administration has proposed ending new coal leasing on federal lands and underground mineral reserves in the Powder River Basin in northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana, the largest coal-producing region in the United States.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) published two proposed plans on Thursday that would prevent companies from applying for new coal mining rights on federally owned lands in the area that covers more than 13 million acres across the two states.

It marks the latest efforts by President Joe Biden to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In its final environmental impact statement for the two proposals, the BLM elected a “no future coal leasing alternative,” having found that continued coal leasing in the Powder River Basin would result in significant consequences to the climate, public health, and the environment.

Both proposals published Thursday are in response to a 2022 order from the United States District Court for the District of Montana requiring the agency to redo its environmental analysis of the area, including possible climate and public health impacts.

That order came after the judge ruled that two previous resource management plans under former President Donald Trump’s administration failed to address the public health consequences in the area.

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The plans—which are subject to a 30-day public protest period before they become final—would not affect existing leases, according to the BLM.

Climate Advocates Welcome Plan

Production would continue at mines in Wyoming until 2041 and in Montana until 2060, the agency said.

Both U.S. total coal production and Powder River Basin coal production peaked in 2008 and have since declined steeply, according to the Energy Information Administration (EPA).
However, the Powder River Basin produces nearly half, or approximately 43 percent of the nation’s total coal.

The proposal to ban new coal leasing in the Powder River Basin won praise from environmental groups and climate advocates.

“Coal has powered our nation for many decades, but technology, economics, and markets are changing radically,” said Paula Antoine, who chairs the Western Organization of Resource Councils board. “BLM’s announcement recognizes that coal’s era is ending, and it’s time to focus on supporting our communities through the transition away from coal, investing in workers, and moving to heal our lands, waters, and climate as we enter a bright clean energy future.”

However, the plan, which is likely to be subject to legal challenges, drew backlash from the National Mining Association (NMA).

Proposal ‘Damages American Energy Security’

“At a time of deteriorating grid reliability, soaring electricity demand, and ongoing concern about global energy shocks, proposing a plan of no new coal leasing in the Powder River Basin is outrageous,” Rich Nolan, NMA president and CEO, said in a statement Thursday.

“This damages American energy security and affordability and is a severe economic blow to mining states and communities,” he continued. “The NMA strongly opposes this political move, not only because it ignores the nation’s continued need for federal coal but because it also fails to acknowledge BLM’s multiple-use mandate under the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.”

Elsewhere, Republican lawmakers criticized the proposals and accused the Biden administration of trying to “wage war” on coal communities and families in the region.

“This short-sighted plan will kill future coal leases in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin–the most energy-rich area in the country,” said Senator John Barrasso (R-WY). “This will kill jobs and could cost Wyoming hundreds of millions of dollars used to pay for public schools, roads, and other essential services in our communities.”
The latest proposal comes shortly after the Biden administration finalized a string of new air quality regulations for fossil-fuel-fired power plants, including one requiring many power plants to prevent the release of 90 percent of their carbon emissions.

In announcing those new regulations last month, EPA administrator Michael S. Regan said the agency was “proud to make good on the Biden-Harris Administration’s vision to tackle climate change and to protect all communities from pollution in our air, water, and in our neighborhoods.”

Ryan Morgan and Reuters contributed to this report.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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