(credit: Bureau of Land Management)

Today, the US Department of the Interior announced that it will put a halt to new leases for coal extraction on public lands. While coal companies could continue to mine on existing leases, no new ones will be permitted until a comprehensive review of the program is completed. Roughly 40 percent of the nation’s coal comes from public lands.
“We haven’t undertaken a comprehensive review of the program in more than 30 years, and we have an obligation to current and future generations to ensure the federal coal program delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and takes into account its impacts on climate change,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said via a released statement.
The announcement follows President Obama’s latest State of the Union Address, in which he called for changes in how the US manages its coal and oil resources. Obama suggested that the costs fossil fuels impose on the planet need to be taken into account, language that was echoed in Jewell’s announcement. The move implies that there will be some effort to have the extraction of coal include some portion of the social cost of carbon, which has until now been left as an externality.
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