May 27, 2016

Wyden Outlines Priorities for Reforming Federal Coal Leasing Program

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and 13 other senators outlined three priorities for upcoming reforms to the federal coal leasing program, in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell today.

The Interior Department announced earlier this year that it would review the program and update the programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) under which federal coal is leased.

In the letter, the senators commended Secretary Jewell for her efforts to modernize the federal coal program, while ensuring that the pause on new leasing will not disrupt the power sector today. They noted that stewardship cannot take place on autopilot, and provided three imperatives that should guide the reform process:

(1)        Get the science right.

(2)        Reconsider the government’s market role.

(3)        Reconsider how to balance multiple uses over time.

The senators also committed to fixing other aspects of the federal coal programs, including deficient financial assurance rules, such as self-bonding; accelerated mine reclamation; miners’ pension and health care funds; and assistance for coal country to diversify, transition and rebuild.

Last year, Wyden introduced the Coal Royalty Fairness Act with Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. That bill would require the Interior Department to collect royalties for coal produced on public lands based on the true market value of coal.

The senators on the letter include: Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Al Franken, D-Minn., Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, Ed Markey, D-Mass., Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Tom Udall, D-N.M., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Download a PDF of today’s letter here.