Trump opens up lands for coal leasing, puts fossil fuels before climate action

Trump wants to sell out our land to coal executives and forgo any action on climate change as he moves to forward with new coal leasing on public lands. 

Photo: Mason Cummings/TWS

The Trump administration opens the doors to new coal leasing on public lands, unraveling progress in policies to fight against climate change and stop taxpayer abuse.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke threw open to doors to start mining coal again on March 29, 2017, following Trump's slew of executive orders that eliminate Obama-era environmental reforms meant to move the nation away from fossil fuels and curb climate emissions. Lifting the pause on new coal leasing on public lands unravels progress in the first federal coal program review in over three decades. 

The current program is obscenely outdated—coal companies get sweetheart deals, taxpayers are cheated out of their fair share, and pollution from burning coal contributes to global warming. Trump’s action means we will likely return to the same broken system we had before.

“This executive order sends a signal that fossil fuel production is the top order of business for public lands, and that special interests will continue to trump viable and essential environmental safeguards.” 

"“With this action, the administration has short-circuited an overdue review of the nation’s federal coal program before it could even begin. Doing so ignores that markets are turning away from coal, and disregards that coal production continues to contribute to harmful carbon pollution.”said Jamie Williams, Wilderness Society President. “This executive order sends a signal that fossil fuel production is the top order of business for public lands, and that special interests will continue to trump viable and essential environmental safeguards.” 

Already, Trump has irresponsibly moved forward with the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines and looked to pull out of the Paris agreement. In a flurry of executive action, the president takes aim at Obama-era advances to curb emissions that hasten climate change. Along with moving forward with new coal leasing, Trump lays waste on many climate directives. To name a few, the president looks to discard the Clean Power Plan that sought to decrease coal-produced electricity, get rid of guidance that addressed climate emissions from energy projects on public lands and initiate a review of emission standards from new federal oil and gas operations on public lands.

Trump’s actions place environmental safeguards on the chopping block while elevating the wants and needs of special interests. His dealings on coal are especially alarming—in a month, multiple actions stripped away safeguards shielding water resources, American taxpayers and our landscapes. 

Trump backtracks on progress by the Obama administration to give taxpayers a fair return for shared resources. Photo: Gage Skidmore, flickr

Three favors for the coal industry

Today’s executive order is a futile attempt by Trump to fulfill a campaign promise to revive coal jobs—even with some of the largest coal power plants are closing from coal’s economic downturn and decreasing use. What Trump’s actions truly reveal is an endeavor to give power back to polluters, selling out our shared resources to coal executives.

Trump has already gifted the coal industry three times:

1. Forget environmental safeguards

Starting about a month ago, Trump’s first favor to the dying coal industry was to kill a rule that restricted companies from dumping toxic waste into waterways. The elimination of this rule received significant attention for its attack on clean water protections, but a lesser known maneuver to benefit the fossil fuel industry shortly thereafter is just as heinous.  

2. Coal executives profit instead of taxpayers

For the second favor, the Trump administration suspended a rule that established the value of oil, gas and coal on public lands to ensure taxpayers got a fair return from shared resources.

Suspending this rule—which some say was unlawful—allows companies to easily dodge payments to the public. Decades have passed by without updates to antiquated policies, despite major shifts in technologies and markets. A refusal to amend these policies is a slap to the face of taxpayers who deserve to be paid in full for resources they own.

3. Opening up new lands to leasing

Today’s coal moratorium lift is a third move that underscores how little regard Trump gives for the American people or our lands and waters. Opening up more land to coal leasing will only enunciate the flaws in the federal coal program instead of moving us towards a desperately needed overhaul. 

His three favors to the coal industry are in sharp contrast to recommendations put forth by the Interior Department a week before Trump’s inauguration, calling for companies to clean up their messes, royalty rates to be increased and more accountability in leasing land for coal. Instead, Trump gives the coal industry the last word on public lands.

Step up for climate!

Now it is more important than ever that we stand up for our climate and continue to show the Trump administration that Americans care about our wild places. Climate inaction will affect all of us and the wildlands we care so deeply about. This was just the beginning of the Trump administration’s attack on our climate—don’t sit back and let this happen.

Join us in the Climate March on April 29th and raise your voice to let our government know you won’t accept climate inaction!