The letter, signed off on by Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Steve Daines of Montana, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah, and John Hoeven of North Dakota, was delivered July 14.
In it, the group said it has concerns over the report, “The Economics of Coal Leasing on Federal Lands: Ensuring a Fair Return to Taxpayers,” which was released on June 22, stressing that the White House report has “prejudiced” the outcome of the DOI’s evaluation of the program. That influence is a violation of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), it said, because by law the review “shall serve as the means of assessing the environmental impact of proposed agency actions,” not justify decisions that have already been made.
“The Council of Economic Advisers’ report has effectively turned the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) review of the federal coal program into a pre-baked cake,” the senators said, noting that the council is an arm of the Executive Office of the President and that its chairman is President Obama’s chief economist and plays a significant role in administration policy.
“Its report shows that the White House has already decided that the federal coal program does not provide a fair return to the public or adequately account for externalities and to increase coal royalty payments,” it added.
The senators are now calling on Jewell personally to suspend the development of the programmatic environmental impact statement (PEIS) for the remainder of the administration in order to ensure its findings are not simply justifying those premade decisions.
“A failure to do so will only make the PEIS and decisions purportedly based on it vulnerable to legal challenges,” wrote the senators.
The full text of the letter can be viewed here.