Activists to Interior: Stop letting coal companies pillage our land, atmosphere, and treasury
On her first full workday at her new job, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell got a loud message from green groups: Stop selling publicly owned coal for a pittance and destroying our atmosphere.
Environmental groups are calling for a moratorium on coal leasing in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming until the federal government reviews the program.
Representatives of 21 groups including Greenpeace and the Sierra Club requested the moratorium Monday in a letter to newly confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. …
As companies seek to ramp up coal exports, the environmentalists say the government needs to make sure companies are paying proper royalties. They also want more attention given to the climate change impacts of greenhouse gasses emitted when coal is burned.
On the royalty issue, the enviros put it a little more sharply in their letter:
The Department of Interior must ensure that coal companies do not cheat U.S. taxpayers …
A 2012 report from the Institute of Energy Economics and Financial Analysis revealed that BLM’s inaccurate assessment of the “fair market value” of coal has cheated taxpayers out of almost $30 billion over the last thirty years, a massive subsidy to the coal industry.
David Roberts put it more sharply still in a post last year: “taxpayers are getting screwed.”
it’s time climate hawks clued in to the fact that the feds — that is to say, we, collectively — own a sh*tload of land and resources, much of which can be used for energy. Among other things, this land we own provides 43.2 percent of the nation’s coal. Not only do we offer this coal up, but we practically beg coal companies to mine it, offering them, [as the Center for America Progress puts it,] “billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies via preferential tax treatments such as the ability to expense exploration and development costs, tax deductions to cover the costs of investments in mines, and favorable capital gains treatment on royalties.”
This week’s letter to Jewell means that a lot of climate hawks are cluing in. Policy analysts Matthew Stepp and Alex Trembath argue that it’s none too soon:
Targeting coal is … an appropriately ambitious strategy against climate change. While Keystone is a single project, U.S. coal is an entire energy system. A fight against it can draw support not only from Bill McKibben’s anti-Keystone troops but also from local clean-air organizers, conservationists who are against strip mining and mountaintop removal, and the many clean-energy industries that stand to gain from coal’s loss.
Indeed, McKibben’s 350.org is one of the groups that signed on to the letter. Activists from 350, the Sierra Club, and other groups know they have to do battle on multiple fronts. It’s not Keystone or coal. It’s Keystone and coal and fracking and offshore drilling and Arctic exploration …
Editor’s note: Bill McKibben is a member of Grist’s board of directors.