Coal Sales Moratorium Lifted
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Trump administration’s decision to lift a moratorium on coal sales from public lands could hasten the release of more than 5 billion tons of greenhouse gases, but officials concluded Wednesday it would make little difference in overall U.S. climate emissions.
That conclusion from the Bureau of Land Management comes after a judge ruled last month the administration had failed to consider the environmental effects of resuming coal sales from public lands.
Sales were largely halted in 2016 under President Barack Obama over worries about climate change. But the moratorium was rescinded by then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke soon after President Donald Trump took office, fulfilling a campaign pledge from the Republican.
Critics said the Trump administration’s contention that resuming sales would have negligible effects on the environment was absurd given the scope of the federal coal program.
About 40% of coal burned in the U.S. comes from federal leases, primarily in Western states including Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Montana and New Mexico. Companies have mined about 4 billion tons of coal from federal reserves in the past decade, contributing $10 billion to federal and state coffers through royalties and other payments.
In Wednesday’s report , the Bureau of Land Management analyzed applications from companies for coal leases totaling more than 2.5 billion tons of the fuel. Just over 5 billion tons of greenhouse gases would be produced by burning the fuel for electricity over the next 20 years, the agency said.
That’s equivalent to just over 1 percent of greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector for 2017, according to the agency.
The agency’s conclusion was based on the assumption that coal sales would have resumed as normal once the moratorium ended in 2019.