December 14, 2018 Read More →

States and conservation groups press case against Trump’s reversal of federal coal-lease moratorium

Associated Press:

Attorneys for California, New Mexico, New York and Washington argue the coal sales have been shortchanging taxpayers because of low royalty rates and cause pollution that puts the climate and public health at risk.

The states were joined by conservation groups and Montana’s Northern Cheyenne tribe in a lawsuit that seeks to revive a coal leasing moratorium imposed under President Barack Obama. The moratorium blocked new lease sales from federal lands that hold billions of tons of the fuel.

The Trump administration said in court filings that ending the moratorium last year was of critical importance to the economy. That claim comes despite the slow pace of lease sales in recent years and a precipitous drop in demand for the heavily polluting fuel.

U.S. lands in Western states including Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Colorado are a major source of coal for mining companies. There are 7.4 billion tons of the fuel in roughly 300 leases administered by the Bureau of Land Management .

The judge has played the role of spoiler to Trump on another Obama administration policy reversal — the contentious Keystone XL oil sands pipeline from Canada. Trump approved the pipeline last year, but Morris blocked it temporarily in March. The judge said further environmental reviews were needed for the line to comply with federal laws.

Some of those same laws are at the center of the coal moratorium dispute.

The states and their allies want push to stop further leasing and resume a sweeping review of the program’s environmental effects. Government attorneys and the National Mining Association say the review started under Obama was a voluntary step and the Trump administration is within its rights to end it.

More: States cite climate worries in push to stop US coal sales

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