NMA Applauds House Leadership Support for Federal Coal Leasing Program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources today is holding an oversight hearing titled, “Examining the Biden Administration’s Record on Federal Coal Leasing.”

In addition to providing affordable, reliable power to the grid, since its inception, the federal coal leasing program has been a source for jobs and economic development across the country, helping federal, state and localities with necessary funding by contributing hundreds of millions each year in revenues to state and local governments.

The National Mining Association (NMA) applauds the House Committee on Natural Resources, under the leadership of Chairman Bruce Westerman and Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stauber, decision to examine the Biden administration’s actions to obstruct coal production on federal lands, placing our nation’s energy security and economy at risk.

We look forward to the testimony of all of today’s witnesses, including NMA member Matthew Adams, Vice President and Senior Tax Counsel, Navajo Transitional Energy Company (NTEC).

In recent years – under both the Biden and Obama administrations – federal coal leasing has been threatened.  On January 15, 2016, then-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued a moratorium on new leasing until a voluntary study of the program’s environment impact could be completed. Under the subsequent administration, then-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke found a study to be unnecessary and lifted the moratorium. With the Biden administration, the program was once again paused.

In the interim, valuable coal projects have been unable to advance. For example, Alabama’s Warrior Met Coal, whose operations provide coal used for steelmaking, and should therefore be excluded from the moratorium, has been working to expand its existing operations. Scoping for its expansion began in August 2014; despite a draft finding of no significant impact on August 20, 2020, the administration has not approved the expansion and has listed it as “paused.”  Separately, in Wyoming, the mine plan amendment for the Black Butte mine was approved by the state in January 2021 but has yet to be approved by the Department of the Interior.

The NMA supports proposals included in the house-passed H.R. 1, which included language revoking a moratorium on new leasing for thermal coal production on federal land and requiring the Department of the Interior to issue pending applications to expand federal coal operations, and in Sen. John Barrasso’s SPUR Act, which also revokes the moratorium and sets specific time limits on decisions from the Department of the Interior.

America’s public lands are intended for multiple uses, including the production of affordable, reliable energy for all Americans. Federal coal production not only provides a fair return to the public but a stable source of fuel that is vitally important in the aftermath of a global energy crisis and as a source of stability throughout the energy transition.

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