Devin Henry for TheHill.com:
The Obama administration on Wednesday said the royalty rate on coal mined from public land should increase, one of several conclusions to come from a year-long report on the federal coal leasing program.
The 1,300-page report comes a year after the Obama administration announced it would reassess the leasing program for coal mining on federal land.
Last January, the administration paused future coal lease sales while it undertook the assessment, which includes considering how to account for climate changed caused by burning coal produced on public lands.
Obama officials determined that the royalty rate, which hasn’t been raised in 30 years, is too low, and that any formal overhaul of the coal program should include higher fees.
President-elect Donald Trump’s administration will decide whether to follow the conclusions in the report. Trump’s Interior secretary nominee, Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke (R) opposed the coal leasing moratorium while serving in the House.
The study said the leasing program should also be more transparent about its leasing practices, provide more protections for land owners and cut down on natural gas waste at coal mines on federal lands.
“We have a responsibility to ensure the public — including state governments — get a fair return from the sale of America’s coal, operate the program efficiently and in a way that meets the needs of our neighbors in coal communities and minimize the impact coal production has on the planet that our children and grandchildren will inherit,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement.
“The only responsible next step is to undertake further review and implement these commonsense measures.”
If Trump continues the study, the Interior Department will next finalize the report and complete an environmental review Jewell ordered last year.
Coal companies and Republicans from coal-producing states slammed the Obama administration for the coal review last year, as well as the pause in selling new mining leases. They said both raising rates — a stated goal of the review from the beginning — and preventing new mining would hurt the industry during a time when it was already suffering from outside economic factors.
But greens supported the effort, saying it was past time for coal companies to pay more for their mining operations on public lands.
President-elect Donald Trump opposed the study, and he said he would end the leasing moratorium, which is currently scheduled to last up to three years.