Providence, RI – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse today expressed support for the comprehensive review of the federal coal program announced by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. The review will identify potential reforms to properly reflect the environmental and health effects of burning coal mined on federal lands and to ensure a fair return to taxpayers for the use of their public resources. The Interior Department will suspend the issuance of new coal leases while the review is underway.
“Our use of fossil fuels should reflect the costs those fuels impose on taxpayers and our natural world,” Whitehouse said. “Right now, those costs are not properly factored into coal companies’ federal leases. Also, with bankruptcies left and right in the coal industry, we should make sure taxpayers aren’t left on the hook for site cleanup. I applaud Secretary Jewell for this effort to bring our federal coal program in line with more responsible energy use. I encourage the Department to at once incorporate the social cost of carbon emissions into federal coal lease royalty rates. It’s time for us to stop subsidizing one of the worst drivers of manmade climate change.”
The first programmatic review of the federal coal program in more than three decades will examine the parameters of the coal leasing program, as well as factors such as coal exports, the effects of coal leasing on energy markets, and the role of federal coal in fulfilling the energy needs of the United States. The Department also announced a number of good governance reforms, including improved transparency in the leasing process and the establishment of a public database of carbon emissions from fossil fuels developed on federal lands. Expected to take up to three years to complete, the review process will be open to extensive public input. The results will be published in a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.