One year after the Obama administration announced it would halt new leases for coal mining on public lands as it underwent a thorough review of its current federal leasing program, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released its initial findings of this review. The report acknowledges that CO2 emissions attributable to federal coal account for 11 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gases, states unequivocally that “climate change impacts touch nearly every aspect of public welfare,” and commits to evaluating options—such as an end to all new leases—for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the federal coal program.
Earthjustice won ground-breaking litigation forcing BLM to consider climate impacts of a Colorado coal lease in 2014, and has worked for years to limit the environmental damage from coal mining across the West. Following is a statement from Abigail Dillen, Earthjustice Vice President of Litigation for Climate and Energy:
“In the year since it announced a time-out on federal coal leasing to carefully re-think our country’s policies, the Obama administration has issued a much-needed acknowledgement of the outsized impact of our federal coal program—ultimately accounting for 11 percent of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions at a time when we need to be swiftly reducing dangerous climate pollution.
“After an intensive review, the Interior Department has come to the necessary conclusion that we have to seriously consider an end to federal coal leasing. That recognition is crucial, and we will do everything in our power to compel the next administration to act on it.
“Continued coal mining on our public lands poses serious risks that we simply cannot afford as our window to address catastrophic climate change rapidly closes. The climate risks of burning coal are compounded by the public health disaster it causes—a disaster that we’ve just begun to abate in this country and that is currently plaguing people throughout India and China.
“Our public lands belong to all Americans. We cannot bow to short-sighted corporate interests and allow our lands to be destroyed in ways that ultimately hurt us all. To protect our children’s future, our health, and workers, the federal government must swiftly and responsibly manage our transition from a fossil fuel economy to one powered by renewable energy. If members of the incoming administration continue their pattern of refusing to face facts, Earthjustice and its allies will take every opportunity to ensure that today’s findings serve as a constant reminder: to prevent environmental and economic catastrophe, we have to stop burning coal in the U.S. and around the world and manage a full scale transition to renewable energy.”