Secretary Jewell calls for “open conversation” about federal coal program and climate change

March 17, 2015

Washington DC - March 17, 2015 - In a speech to the Center for Strategic and International Studies today, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell called for an “honest and open conversation about modernizing the federal coal program,” and asked “How do we manage the program in a way that is consistent with our climate change objectives?” In response, Greenpeace coal campaigner Diana Best said:

“We welcome Secretary Jewell’s call for an open conversation about the federal coal program, and how it can be managed in a way that is consistent with our climate change objectives. As Secretary Jewel noted, many Americans are surprised that coal mining companies can buy access to taxpayer-owned coal for just one dollar a ton – while the carbon pollution from each of those tons of coal will cause damages estimated at between $22 and $237. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and others in the Obama administration should take the President’s call to climate action seriously, beginning with a moratorium and comprehensive review of the federal coal program, including its role in fueling the climate crisis.”


A Greenpeace report last year showed that the federal coal program has leased 2.2 billion tons of taxpayer-owned coal during the Obama administration, unlocking 3.9 billion metric tons of carbon pollution. The  report found that the average price per ton for those coal leases was only $1.03, while each ton will cause damages estimated at between $22 and $237, using the federal government’s social cost of carbon estimates.

Full comments from Secretary Jewell on reforming the federal coal leasing program, from her speech as prepared for delivery:

Second, when it comes to reforms, we need to improve the way we do business as a federal government, plain and simple.

Part of that means ensuring that the American taxpayer is getting a fair return for the use of natural resources on public lands.

I think most Americans would be surprised to know that coal companies can make a winning bid for about a dollar a ton to mine taxpayer-owned coal.

Coal is going to continue to be an important part of our nation’s energy mix in the future. But the Government Accountability Office, our Inspector General, and Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle agree that the federal coal program needs reform.

We need to ask ourselves: Are taxpayers and local communities getting a fair return from these resources? How can we make the program more transparent and more competitive? How do we manage the program in a way that is consistent with our climate change objectives? These are hard questions. But it’s time for an honest and open conversation about modernizing the federal coal program.

Contact: Joe Smyth, Greenpeace Communications, 831-566-5647, [email protected]

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