Changes Overdue to Ensure Wildlife Protection, Fair Return on Public Resources
WASHINGTON – The Interior Department’s review of the federal coal program must be comprehensive, including examining ways to ensure that Americans get a fair return on their public resources, ensuring wildlife habitat and waterways are fully protected and the environmental costs of coal mining and production are fully accounted for.
The National Wildlife Federation is encouraged by the extensive public meetings and solicitation of comments by Interior and the Bureau of Land Management as they undertake the first thorough look at the federal coal program in nearly four decades, said Jim Lyon, NWF’s vice president of conservation policy. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have spoken at field hearings or through public comments in favor of reforming the federal coal program.
“At this point, the system of mining coal from our tribal and national public lands is in bad need of repair. Loopholes and subsidies and the lack of competitive bids and transparency into how coal’s value is appraised have shortchanged the American public out of billions of dollars that could help with schools, local governments and wildlife habitat restoration,” Lyon said. “Some of our most cherished wildlife, including mule deer and pronghorn, are suffering declines and sportsmen and wildlife watchers are losing out as increasingly large chunks of mined land in Montana and Wyoming sit without meeting full reclamation standards.
“The National Wildlife Federation is calling on the federal government to end the practice of allowing coal companies to self-bond, essentially pledge to do the clean-up without having to put up legitimate collateral to serve as the reclamation safety net. As a result, taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $3 billion for reclamation as more coal companies declare bankruptcy,” Lyon added. “Going forward, coal prices and royalty rates must be market-based and at levels to ensure a fair return for the American public, to pay to protect and restore fish and wildlife habitat and waterways and to account for the effects of greenhouse-gas emissions.”
Read the comments by the National Wildlife Federation and its state affiliates on federal coal reforms.
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