Biden Cancels New Leases In America’s Most Productive Coal Region

( — The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) last Thursday proposed ending new coal leases in the Powder River Basin, the most productive US coal mining region located in Wyoming and Montana.

The proposal, which would impact millions of hectares of federal land and the underground mineral reserves, was harshly criticized by Republican lawmakers, especially coming just weeks after the administration proposed a new air quality rule that would force coal-fired power plans to either shut down or reduce pollution.

BLM’s new proposal was prompted by a 2022 federal court decision that found that the land management plans for the Powder River Basin established during the Trump administration failed to account for the public health issues from burning coal and its impact on climate change.

The plans proposed by BLM would stop future leases in the Powder River Basin while allowing existing leases to continue. The current leases in Wyoming are expected to run through 2041 while a lease in Montana runs through 2060.

A second mine in Montana, Spring Creek Mine, is expected to run out of federal coal reserves by 2035.

The 14 active coal mines in the Powder River Basin accounted for nearly 40 percent of all the coal produced in the United States in 2022, nearly 260 million short tons. However, the volumes have already dropped by nearly half over the past 20 years as competition from natural gas has closed down many coal-fired power plants.

Lawmakers from both Montana and Wyoming blasted the Biden administration’s proposed rule, describing it as yet another attack on US energy production that would cost the states millions in revenue and jobs.

Wyoming Republican Senator Cynthia Lummis said the Biden administration has been targeting her state with “rule after rule.” She argued that coal from Wyoming was needed “now more than ever” to provide power both to the US and the rest of the world.

Montana Rep. Ryan Zinke, the former Interior Secretary for the Trump administration who sought to boost US coal production, also criticized the proposed rule, arguing that coal has been a reliable source of power for the US electric grid. Zinke also noted that advances in mining technology have reduced the environmental impact of burning coal.

Copyright 2024,