We Have Cause to Pause New Coal Leases on Public Lands

Statement by The Rev. Mitchell C. Hescox

Friday Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced that the federal government will put a pause on most new coal leases on public lands while a comprehensive review of the federal coal program takes place.  We applaud this pause and review.  Why is there cause to pause?

 

Here are several reasons.

Thirty Years Since the Last Review

The last time there was a comprehensive review of the federal coal program in 1986 was during President Reagan’s presidency.  A lot has changed since then.  It’s just common sense to review the program.

Ensure the Taxpayer Gets a Fair Shake

Right now the federal coal program lacks transparency and the coal companies are manipulating the system to avoid paying royalties owed to the American people.  30 years without a review gives room for mischief.

Companies Have Coal Stockpiles

Because coal companies already have large stockpiles of coal waiting to be developed, this pause shouldn’t impact jobs, prices, or electricity reliability.

Use of Public Lands Should Reflect Our Values

Besides the issues of transparency and fairness of the federal coal program, Americans want our public lands to produce clean energy from wind and solar power to make our environment healthier for our children and reduce the threat of climate change.  We are glad to see that this pause and review will keep our kids and our values in mind.

Growing up in a small coal mining town in western Pennsylvania, I know firsthand the how coal companies and individuals used old policies and the lack of transparency for advantage.  Failure to provide necessary land reclamation and shell companies to hide bankruptcies have left spoiled forests and us taxpayers holding the bag.

Even today, my Dad’s favorite hunting area continues to be blighted by acid mine drainage from unrestored strip mines.  This ever increasing dead zone is just one of the reasons it’s time to finally get a coal policy that benefits all Americans.

Let’s pause, take some time, and get this right.

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