The commander in chief is now doubling down. “Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from old, dirtier energy sources,” Obama said. “Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future — especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels. We do them no favor when we don’t show them where the trends are going. That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.” It didn’t take long for the Obama administration to show the coal business where the trends were going.
Three days later, Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretary Sally Jewell launched a comprehensive review of the federal coal program to identify and evaluate potential reforms to “ensure that it is properly structured to provide a fair return to taxpayers and reflect its impacts on the environment, while continuing to help meet our energy needs.”
The DOI will also institute “a pause” on issuing new coal leases while the review is under way. The pause does not apply to existing coal production activities. “Given serious concerns raised about the federal coal program, we’re taking the prudent step to hit pause on approving significant new leases so that decisions about those leases can benefit from the recommendations that come out of the review,” said Secretary Jewell. She also announced that the DOI would undertake a series of reforms to improve transparency and administration of the federal coal program. The full review is expected to take approximately three years.
National Mining Association (NMA) President and CEO Hal Quinn responded quickly to DOI’s extraordinary action to halt federal coal leasing. “The Obama administration’s move to shut off the largest source of America’s lowest cost and most reliable fuel for electricity opens up another front in its ‘Beyond Jobs’ campaign,” Quinn said. “The idea that future coal leasing requires a pause to evaluate environmental impacts defies credulity. Every federal coal lease sale and subsequent mining project must pass multiple levels and sequences of both federal and state evaluation. It is stunning that the administration believes a process that already pushes the development of coal projects beyond a decade needs more red tape and delays.”
The administration will now trade more well-paying jobs in the West as it has in the East for a few above-average jobs installing wind mills and solar panels. All of this is a veiled effort to increase electricity prices to make renewable programs look justifiable. The reality is that coal and common sense will stand in the way.