A drag line moves overburden during operations at the Caballo Mine outside of Wright in the Powder River Basin. Peabody Energy says its mine began production in 1978. and shipped 24.2 million tons of coal in 2011. Coal is mined from the Smith and Wyodak-Anderson seams and averages about 68 feet in thickness; overburden is about 230-feet thick.
As thenew Secretary of the Interior, Secretary Sally Jewel has an important opportunity to end the Department of the Interior's (DOI) giveaways to the coal industry, which are unlocking enormous amounts of carbon pollution, wasting taxpayer dollars, and subsidizing the coal industry's efforts to export publicly-owned coal to Asia.
A federal coal leasing program run byDOI's Bureau of Land Managementhas resulted in almost$30 billion in government handoutsto the coal industry. The giveaway happens throughnoncompetitive auctionswhere the Department sells the rights to publicly-owned coal for a fraction of what its worth.
And theres almost four billion more tons of this coal, primarily in the Powder River Basin, that DOI could give away in the coming years. Though its not a done deal. With newly confirmed Interior Secretary Sally Jewell taking over the Department, theres hope.
Secretary Jewell has the power to put an end to these coal industry handouts for good. But shes going to have to hear from the public first. Together we can make a strong impression during her first day on the job.
Send a message now telling Secretary Jewell to put the public interest back into public lands by placing a moratorium on any new federal coal leases.
Whats worse is that the publicly-owned coal that DOI is giving away isnt even destined for use in the United States.
With demand falling dramatically in this country, coal companies like Peabody are hoping to boost profits by exporting the dirty coal overseas and selling it in places like China where it will be burned and continue to add global warming pollution to the atmosphere.
Its hard to see how this is in the nations best interest. Which is why its no surprise that DOI is underthree separate investigationsfor the program.
Secretary Jewell should mark her DOI entrance with a moratorium on new coal leasing in the Powder River Basin and reforms that ensure taxpayers arent subsidizing coal exports and climate change.
The DOIs coal leasing program is undermining the Obama administrations commitment to reduce global warming pollution. The administration cant have it both ways. Its impossible to fight climate change while simultaneously doubling down on the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fossil fuels on the planet.
The truth is that if this coal is dug up and burned, we cant save the climate. Like drilling for oil in the Arctic or the Keystone XL Pipeline, new fossil fuel projects threaten to send our climate past apoint of no return.
Kelly Mitchell is the Climate and Energy Campaign Director for Greenpeace, based in Chicago. Since 2006, she has worked with activists and organizations across the country to confront corporate polluters and transform U.S. energy policy. She currently leads Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100 percent renewable energy, pushing some of the largest companies in the world to embrace wind and solar and working alongside communities to develop a just and democratic energy system.