(SNL, July 15) – U.S. Republican senators are demanding that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell end the moratorium and government review process on the federal coal-leasing program, calling the process “compromised” and “prejudiced.”
Republican Sens. John Barrasso, Wyo.; Roy Blunt, Mo.; Shelley Moore Capito, W.Va.; Steve Daines, Mont.; Michael Enzi, Wyo.; Cory Gardner, Colo.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; John Hoeven, N.D.; and Mike Lee, Utah, sent a letter to Jewell dated July 14 that says a report published by President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors on June 22 set out to answer questions being addressed by the ongoing U.S. Bureau of Land Management review.
“In doing so, the Executive Office of the President has compromised the integrity and prejudiced the outcome of BLM’s review process in violation of the [National Environmental Policy Act],” the letter said. “We, therefore, ask that you suspend BLM’s review process and associated moratorium on new coal leases for the remainder of the administration.”
Tom Sanzillo, the director of finance at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, whose stated mission is to reduce dependence on coal and other nonrenewable energy resources, said that the lawmakers are “stalling the inevitable.”
“Calling off the moratorium will not stop natural gas and renewable energy from making market inroads. Those energy sources are cheaper, more abundant and more reliable than coal. Stalling will only make it less likely that the coal industry will ever adopt a viable financial strategy for itself,” he told S&P Global Market Intelligence.
He said the moratorium can only do good as the coal industry is “financially bankrupt and its leadership does not have a sound business strategy to bring it back.”
“It is doing for the coal industry what the coal industry cannot do for itself, discipline supply in an oversupplied market,” he continued.
The federal coal leasing program has faced a number of challenges, particularly since the White House invoked a moratorium on leasing coal on federal land.
Barrasso has been particularly vocal against the moratorium, requesting at one point that Jewell admit the action was part of a larger effort to kill coal entirely.