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US Senators push for reforms to the federal coal program

Published by
World Coal,

In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, seven US Senators call for the Obama administration to develop a plan that would mitigate the negative impacts of federal coal and ensure a fair return to the public. The Senators also urged the Interior Department and the Secretary of the Interior to use existing authority under the Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act to begin to address the impact of federal coal on climate change and reform the federal coal porgram – indicating there should be carbon emissions reductions from publicly owned coal and a focus on ensuring a fair return to US taxpayers.

The Senators included Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, as well Al Franken, Martin Heinrich, Ed Markey, Jeff Merkley, Patty Murray, Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse.

Federal lands provide approximately 40% of US coal production and therefore has a large impact on the shape of the US coal market. According to the Senates, until the market price for coal is a reflection of its cost to society, tax payers will endure the costs.

“We must be much more aggressive in reforming the outdated federal coal program. Taxpayers deserve a fair return on the sale of resources that they own, but the current program is broken,” Senator Cantwell said. “The Interior Department must eliminate loopholes and better account for carbon pollution.”

“Our federal coal program isn’t accounting for the full cost of coal mined from public lands. Communities across New Mexico and future generations will bear the consequences of extreme weather changes and public health challenges if we don’t lead by example to reduce carbon pollution from burning coal. I urge the Interior Department to use its authority to modernise our federal coal program to ensure that taxpayers are receiving a fair value for federal coal by factoring in the cost to public safety and health. We must take our moral responsibility as stewards of this planet seriously and create a healthier environment for everyone,” Senator Heinrich explained.

“Recent nonpartisan investigations into the federal coal program have shown that we are allowing companies to mine this coal, owned by the American people, at bargain basement prices,” stated Senator Markey. “This de facto subsidy to mine public coal has the potential to undermine our nation’s goals and the progress we have achieved in reducing carbon pollution. As world leaders prepare to meet in Paris to forge the next international climate agreement, we need to make sure that we are not subsidising coal companies to mine this coal and export increasing quantities of it abroad, where it will be burned to worsen climate change.”

"Americans pay the price of carbon pollution in more extreme weather, in increased temperatures and sea levels, and in disease and bad health,” detailed Senator Whitehouse. “This is a massive subsidy for coal and a market failure. The Department of the Interior can correct this market failure by ensuring that the social and environmental costs of carbon pollution are included in the price of coal extracted from federal lands, and I hope they will do so.”

Read the letter here.

Edited from press release by Harleigh Hobbs

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