Westerners Welcome Key Report on Federal Coal Program

Reposted from the Western Organization of Resource Councils 

BILLINGS, Mont. – Members of the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) applauded the Bureau of Land Management’s release today of a key report in its programmatic review of the federal coal program. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the review a year ago in response to calls from citizens across the nation, including many from western coalfield communities.

Today’s report summarizes comments received as part of the “scoping” process for the BLM’s review, including hundreds of thousands of comments submitted from citizens across the country. The report also makes several key findings about problems in the current federal coal program and makes recommendations for the next administration to reform the federal coal program.

The last major revision of the federal coal program was conducted almost three decades ago. Since then, our understanding of the environmental and social impacts of coal leasing and mining has greatly improved, and coal markets have changed considerably.

Leaders call for reforms

Leaders from WORC’s member groups in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming issued the following statements in response to today’s release:

“After decades of operation, coal companies have reclaimed only a small fraction of mined

WCC members and allies across the region rally for coal reform at BLM hearing in Grand Junction.

lands in the West,” said Steve Charter, Past Chair of Northern Plains Resource Council from Shepherd, Mont., who ranches above an underground coal mine. “We owe it to America’s outdoor heritage — ranching, hunting, and more — to ensure that our lands and waters are restored. Accountability is a Western value, and the incoming Trump Administration should make certain  that companies clean up their messes instead of leaving the American public holding the bag.”

“Interior’s coal program review will help the coal industry and taxpayers. It is much needed and long overdue,” said Bob LeResche, Chair of Powder River Basin Resource Council from Clearmont, Wyo. “The government needs to regain control over planning and leasing for many reasons.”

Fair return for taxpayers

“American taxpayers, mining states and coal communities, especially now, must receive a fair return for federal coal,” LeResche continued. “Given today’s coal markets, it will help everyone to balance leased coal with market demand, and to account for the significant impacts coal creates to our air, land, water, agricultural economies, and other economic activity in our states. We support the Department’s proposal to conduct a thoughtful analysis and then to realign federal coal management with today’s realities by addressing impacts and markets as they now exist, and to ensure a fair return to coal communities and American taxpayers.”

“The hearings and listening sessions brought a diverse community of Western Coloradans to the table,” said Karen Sjoberg, a member of Western Colorado Congress and Citizens for Clean Air from Grand Junction, Colo. “We hope to see this review process move forward to address our communities’ needs and help us plan a future that holds promise for everyone.”

“Western Colorado communities are facing serious challenges as our economy goes through transition,” said Steve Allerton, a retired teacher from Grand Junction and Chair of the community-based Western Colorado Congress. “Moving forward, updating the decades-old coal leasing program will benefit taxpayers, the economy, and the environment.”

More information on the federal coal program and its problems is available at www.reformcoal.org. BLM press release can be found here.

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