(Wyoming Business Report, August 1) – Gov. Matt Mead made his case for bringing an end to the Department of the Interior’s moratorium on new coal leases in a letter sent to Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze on Friday.
Mead’s formal comments strongly oppose the moratorium, which went into effect January 15 of this year. Hopefully, the federal officials had more than a few minutes to read over the letter, as the governor wasn’t shy about backing up his position with more than a few details. Mead’s letter totaled 76 pages and included 4,179 pages of attachments.
“States like Wyoming, where coal is produced and environmental stewardship is a model for the nation, were not consulted and were caught by surprise,” Mead wrote. “Now, national revenues, energy users across the nation, coal miners and their families are at risk. The justification for this moratorium and the manner it was unveiled are unjustifiable.”
Mead said the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) process is essentially an attempt by the DOI to bypass Congress and impose a tax on carbon. He said the moratorium is dramatically impacting jobs, energy security and energy independence and that it specifically targets Wyoming, as the state is the nation’s leader in coal production. Wyoming produces roughly 40 percent of the nation’s coal — 80 percent of which comes from federal land.
“The BLM needs to stop the PEIS, but at a minimum it needs to commit in writing what it has promised repeatedly, that the PEIS will be completed by January 15, 2019 and, completed or not, that the moratorium will expire on that date,” Mead said. “I will continue to oppose the administration’s unjustified approach to coal.”
When announcing the ban in January, Jewell said it was time for a re-examination of the leasing program — from health and environmental impacts to whether U.S. citizens are getting a fair return for the hundreds of millions of tons of government-owned coal that are mined and sold each year.
“It is abundantly clear that times are different in the energy sector now than they were 30 years ago, and we must undertake a review and that’s what we need to do as responsible stewards of the nation’s assets,” Jewell said
In March, DOI issued a press release detailing how the PEIS, would take a “careful look” at issues such as how, when, and where to lease; how to account for the environmental and public health impacts of federal coal production; and how to ensure American taxpayers are earning a fair return for the use of their public resources.
Mead said the DOI should already know that “the federal coal program is not broken,” adding the moratorium “sets a course with no objective and no end.”
He said that the BLM in Wyoming has done a good job managing coal produced on federal land in the state and taxpayers are already receiving fair market value on coal sales.
“The administration’s call for revisions to the federal coal program targets coal production in Wyoming, but the administration cannot identify any issues with the way BLM Wyoming manages the program.”