In August, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced its intention to review the federal coal leasing program, acknowledging that outside experts and the public have raised numerous concerns about the program including its environmental impacts. In our comments, we call on the agency to substantially reform the coal program to adequately account for externalities and protect the public interest.
Our comments urge BLM to rationally weigh the externalities associated with coal when assessing lease applications and, consistent with its mandate to serve the public interest, not approve further coal leasing, renewal, and expansion unless it makes a reasoned determination that the benefits of that leasing exceed the costs to society. We also call on BLM to institute additional programmatic reforms including raising royalties and fair market valuations and ensuring competitive bidding, so that any future coal leasing and extraction occurs on terms and in volumes that are fairer to American taxpayers and more consistent with the public interest. Finally, we suggest that the Department of Interior work with other government agencies to help ensure that coal communities are not left behind in the energy transition.