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Thousands call on Biden administration to protect climate and pause federal coal sales

June 21, 2023
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 437-7663, jnichols@wildearthguardians.org
In This Release
Climate + Energy  
#JustTransition, #KeepItInTheGround, #PressStatement
Denver, CO—WildEarth Guardians this month delivered more than 5,800 petition signatures calling on the Biden administration to pause federal coal leasing in order to protect the climate and advance a just transition from fossil fuels.

“It’s clear that to protect the climate, we have to stop burning fossil fuels and that starts with keeping coal in the ground,” said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director for WildEarth Guardians. “We’re grateful that people are overwhelmingly calling on the Biden administration to do the right thing and stop selling public lands to coal companies.”

In a petition submitted on June 15 by WildEarth Guardians to the U.S. Department of the Interior, people from all across the United States urged the Biden administration to maintain a moratorium on public lands coal leasing.  The moratorium was originally adopted under President Obama’s administration. It was then lifted under the Trump administration, which a federal court overturned in 2022.

The Interior Department is now going through the process of deciding whether to maintain the Obama administration’s moratorium or support the Trump administration.

The petition circulated by WildEarth Guardians urged the Biden administration to “maintain the Obama administration’s legacy of climate action,” stating, “Ending new public lands coal leasing is a critical step forward for comprehensive climate action.”

The petition also called on the Biden administration to:

  • Cancel or otherwise prohibit new mining on all leases not currently producing coal,
  • Reject new coal mining plans that would allow companies to mine existing leases, and
  • Establish and enforce expeditious dates for companies to fully clean up existing mines and restore the health of public lands.

“People know that we can’t keep mining coal and have any chance of confronting the climate crisis,” said Nichols. “The Biden administration needs to pick up where the Obama administration left off and not only put an end to new leasing, but an end to new mining, period.”  

Coal leased and then mined from public lands in the U.S. is burned in hundreds of power plants across the nation. Most federal coal is mined from massive strip mines in the Powder River Basin of northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana.  Altogether, coal mined from this region, which holds the worlds largest coal mines, contributes to more than 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas pollution.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management is now preparing an environmental review to determine whether to maintain the moratorium on federal coal leasing and adopt other reforms to federal coal management.  The process kicked off with a request for public comment and is likely to be completed by the end of 2024.  

In the meantime, the Obama-era moratorium is still in place and no federal coal leasing may proceed.


Powder River Basin Coal Mine Train, WildEarth Guardians