NWF: Keep New Coal Leases on Hold to Fix the Program for Good of Wildlife, Taxpayers

WASHINGTON – The executive order issued today that lifts the stay on new coal leasing will drastically set back efforts to improve the federal coal program. Changes are urgently needed to safeguard our nation’s wildlife, air and water and ensure mined areas are restored so public lands remain open for hunting, angling and recreation.
Jim Lyon, the National Wildlife Federation’s vice president of conservation policy, said:

“The new administration has promised big changes and fixing the woefully inadequate federal coal program is a change that would help not only the industry but also American taxpayers and the communities that rely on sustainable uses of public lands. The decision to open new coal leasing before the problems are fixed is shortsighted. The Interior Department’s decision to review and modernize the coal program came after hearing from people across the country and after decades of not dealing with a growing backlog of unreclaimed land, harmful impacts on streams and groundwater and the deterioration and loss of fish and wildlife habitat.

“It’s essential to fix the program to avoid sticking American taxpayers with possibly billions of dollars in cleanup costs if financially strapped coal companies don’t have the money. Allowing companies to self-bond, essentially promising they can cover the costs, as well as a lack of competitive bidding and loopholes that greatly reduce revenue for the public are not good public polices or good business. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has voiced concerns about reclamation being done correctly and the American taxpayer getting a fair return. Opening up new leasing before the new secretary can tackle the federal coal program’s clear problems is counterproductive,” Lyon added.

From Kent Salazar, Western vice chairman of the National Wildlife Federation Board of Directors and a member of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation:

“As a sportsman, I’m not going to damage areas where I enjoy fishing, hunting and recreating, areas that are important for fish and wildlife and used by other people. The same can’t always be said for companies mining coal on public lands. Wildlife habitat has gone unreclaimed, waterways have been fouled and the public too many times doesn’t receive a fair return. It made sense to call a timeout on new federal coal leases so the Interior Department could strengthen financial and environmental safeguards. It makes no sense not to do what we can to make sure we’re able to enjoy these lands for many generations to come.”

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