Press release: 21 groups call for moratorium on Powder River coal in letter to new Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, April 16, 2013

April 17, 2013

Categories: Climate change, Coal, Congress, Letters, Northern Plains Resource Council

Federal coal program overseen by Interior undermining President Obama’s climate commitment

By Northern Plains Resource Council

The leaders of 21 organizations, including Northern Plains Resource Council, welcomed Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to her first day on the job with a letter calling for “an immediate moratorium on new coal leasing in the Powder River Basin and a comprehensive review of the federal coal leasing program.”

The letter emphasizes the huge quantities of carbon pollution unlocked by federal coal leasing in the Powder River Basin of northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana, and how that is undermining President Obama’s climate commitment and record.

The letter states, “Between 2011-2012, BLM leased over 2.1 billion tons of coal in the Powder River Basin, unlocking nearly 3.5 billion metric tons of CO2 that will be released when this coal is burned. In comparison, EPA’s newest passenger vehicle emissions standards will reduce an estimated 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide over the lifetime of cars made from 2017-2025.”

The letter also points to growing controversy over the federal coal leasing program in the Powder River Basin. The Government Accountability Office and the Department of Interior’s Inspector General are investigating the federal coal leasing program because of concerns that it has amounted to a major taxpayer subsidy to coal mining companies. Those concerns have intensified as coal mining companies hope to export increased quantities of federally owned coal, which is supposed to be managed “in the best interests of the nation.”

“Montanans have a lot of questions about the impacts of mining our coal, shipping it to West Coast ports, and sending it to customers in Asia,” said Walter Archer, a rancher from Olive, Mont., and Chair of the Northern Plains Resource Council. “But there is no question that taxpayers deserve a full and fair royalty payment when their coal is mined. If the only way coal companies can make money is to get this coal on the cheap from taxpayers, and send it overseas, that is a very bad deal all the way around.”

Groups signing the letter include national environmental, health, and consumer rights organizations, along with community organizations concerned about coal export proposals in Oregon and Washington and the impacts of strip mining coal in Wyoming and Montana.

The text of the letter is below, and available at

220 South 27th Street, Suite A
Billings, Montana 59101
(406) 248-1154