- The Washington Times - Friday, January 15, 2016

The Obama administration has imposed a moratorium on new coal development on public land, saying it will study the impact of the U.S. leasing program on climate change, prompting fresh criticism that President Obama is ramping up his “war on coal.”

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the halt, though she said existing coal leases would continue to provide for the country’s electricity needs.

“Given serious concerns raised about the federal coal program, we’re taking the prudent step to hit pause on approving significant new leases,” she said.

“We haven’t undertaken a comprehensive review of the program in more than 30 years,” she said, “and we have an obligation to current and future generations to ensure the federal coal program delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and takes into account its impacts on climate change.”

It’s the latest step by Mr. Obama to combat climate change and follows a pledge he made in Tuesday’s State of the Union address “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.”

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said the impact of the move “will be terrible: lost growth, lost jobs, and lost revenue that would have gone to schools, bridges, and roads.”

“The president’s policies have already ravaged coal country, destroying jobs and people’s way of life, and this will increase that suffering,” Mr. Ryan said. “Congress will continue to fight back against the president’s ruthless pursuit of destroying people’s low-cost energy sources in order to cement his own climate legacy.”

Karen Harbert, a top official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, blasted the administration’s “foolish crusade” against coal.

“Another day, another front on the war on coal from this administration,” she said. “At this point, it is obvious that the president and his administration won’t be satisfied until coal is completely eradicated from our energy mix. If the president wants electricity rates to skyrocket — as he once said he did — he’s on the right path.”

Amanda Starbuck, climate and energy program director at the Rainforest Action Network, praised the move as “a key step towards sunsetting a practice that has led to immense environmental destruction, human and health impacts, and is one of the greatest sources of carbon emissions worldwide.”

Ms. Starbuck called on the administration to go further, saying she and other environmentalists “hope this moratorium is the first of many bold actions to come that will protect our climate and our communities for future generations from fossil fuel extraction on public lands.”

Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said “thanks to the Obama administration’s leadership, we can proudly say that big coal’s destructive reach over our public lands is coming to an end.”

The Interior Department analysis will include an evaluation of how extracting and burning coal affects climate change. The plan, reported earlier by Reuters, would have little impact on production from existing leases.

Sen. Edward Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, said the administration’s action “will ensure that we are not worsening climate change by subsidizing coal companies to mine this coal from public lands and selling it below market value.”

House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop, Utah Republican, said Mr. Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy agenda was “an election-year lie.”

“We should be putting our nation on the path of continued energy strength — not undermining our energy security at the bequest of radical environmentalists who wish to keep our resources under lock and key. Unfortunately, the president’s bid to solidify his legacy with the extreme left will come at the expense of America’s energy needs and will make the lives of people more expensive and more uncomfortable,” he said.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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