Scientists have had it with the Federal Coal Program


AP/Matthew Brown

Enough, already.

That’s what 67 prominent scientists are telling Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, whose department is conducting a review of the U.S. program to lease federal lands for coal mining.

“The science is clear: to satisfy our commitment under the Paris Agreement to hold global temperature increase well below 2°C, the United States must keep the vast majority of its coal in the ground,” the scientists, including Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science, and James Hansen from Columbia University’s The Earth Institute, wrote in a letter delivered to Jewell on Tuesday. “We urge you to end federal coal leasing, extraction and burning in order to advance U.S. climate objectives and protect public health, welfare and biodiversity.”

More than 40 percent of coal produced in the United States comes from federal lands, under a leasing program that has not been reviewed in more than 30 years.

President Obama announced the review during his State of the Union address in January, and the White House issued a report last month detailing how the American taxpayer is being short-changed by the leasing program. While coal mined on federal lands brings in millions of dollars in revenue, it is far cheaper than coal mined on private land.

But even if the government increased the terms of the leasing program — at present, taxpayers are supposed to get 12.5 percent royalty on federal coal, but audits have shown the real rate is much lower — the price would likely still not account for the environmental and climate impacts of coal mining…

Once again, taxpayers are subsidizing the most reactionary sector of American capitalism. We’re paying these pigs a profit while they continue to destroy the world’s environment.

“If they do give a full and honest look at how the federal coal program is impacting our climate — and with associated harms to public health and biodiversity — then they would have no choice but to permanently end coal leasing on public lands,” Shaye Wolf, climate science director for the Center for Biological Diversity, told ThinkProgress…

By and large, scientists agree that the vast majority of the remaining fossil fuel resources in the world must be left unburned if humankind is going to avoid raising the global temperature and causing catastrophic climate disruption.

Coal mining is certainly incompatible with maintaining a livable climate,” Wolf said.

Coal producers know what their profits do to the environment, to peoples’ lives. Anyone see the Koch Bros living downwind from one of their coal storage yards or coal-powered power generation plants?

Not a chance.

One thought on “Scientists have had it with the Federal Coal Program

  1. Last gasp says:

    Dec 2, 2016: In a new article in the journal Science, a group of leading economists and energy experts highlight features in the federal coal-leasing program that are ripe for reform, including an auction process and royalty rates that don’t reflect the social costs of coal. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/354/6316/1096 “There is more than enough evidence now to warrant a very serious review and reform of the federal coal leasing program (and) it’s very clear that the social costs of coal, in particular, are not incorporated in any meaningful way in how the royalties are administered. This is a jarring disconnect for a government that in general tries to incorporate social costs, particularly of climate change, in policy discussions.
    And there are real concerns about whether the program is providing a fair return to the owner of the land — the American people.” Lead author Kenneth Gillingham, an assistant professor of economics at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/354/6316/1096

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