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Obama administration halts new coal leases on federal land

First Published      Last Updated Feb 17 2016 05:09 pm

Moratorium » Interior will launch a review of coal programs to examine the royalties, as well as environmental impact of extraction and burning.
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The administration "should be putting our nation on the path of continued energy strength — not undermining our energy security at the bequest of radical environmentalists who wish to keep our resources under lock and key," Bishop said. "Unfortunately, the president's bid to solidify his legacy with the extreme left will come at the expense of America's energy needs and will make the lives of people more expensive and more uncomfortable."

Coal critics say the federal government sells its coal too cheaply, and they point to Flat Canyon as an example.

Last summer, Bowie submitted the only bid on the 2,692-acre coal tract — a total of $17.2 million, or $6,388.92 per acre. The bid, which translates into 41 cents per ton, is undergoing a review by a BLM panel to ensure it meets "fair market value" for the 42 million tons of recoverable coal. This lease also requires annual rent of $3 per acre, plus an 8 percent royalty on all production. The royalty is 12.5 percent for coal extracted through surface mining.

These rates, set in 1976, are in need of review, critics charge, because they encourage overproduction of the energy source most implicated in climate change.

"Any CEO will tell you that one of the most important things a healthy business can do regularly is complete a strategic plan. But the federal coal program hasn't benefited from strategic planning in over 30 years," said Greg Zimmerman, policy director for the Center for Western Priorities. "While this temporary pause will have a negligible effect on current coal production, it will help to ensure American taxpayers are receiving a fair return from any new mining that occurs on national public lands."


Twitter: @brianmaffly

Associated Press contributed to this report. Brian Maffly covers public lands for Salt Lake Tribune. Maffly can be reached at