Today, Greenpeace activists greeted Department of Interior (DOI) staff on their way to work this morning with selections from President Obama’s June climate speech, broadcast from loudspeakers buried under coal.
The protest echoes a recent video that highlights how the federal coal leasing program is undermining President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.
Efforts to address climate change and reduce air pollution will require cutting coal consumption from the United States to China. Department of Interior manages one of the largest coal reserves in the world, but instead of supporting climate progress, DOI is selling publicly owned coal at subsidized prices.
On Wednesday, DOI is scheduled to “auction” 167 million tons of coal, know as the Hay Creek II tract. This coal lease sale is in response to a 2006 application to expand the Buckskin coal mine in Wyoming, owned by a subsidiary of major construction company Kiewit.
DOI is moving forward with these coal lease sales despite the department’s own Inspector General report revealing several flaws in the federal coal management program. Among the key findings of the IG is that the federal coal leasing program is failing to take into account coal exports when selling federal leases, and that for every penny coal is undervalued, taxpayers lose $3 million. Although the IG report did not calculate the total amount of revenue denied to the public, a report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis found that taxpayers have lost nearly $30 billion because of flaws in the way that fair market value is determined.
Selling publicly owned coal at rates of around $1 per ton also amounts to a major fossil fuel subsidy, favoring coal at the expense of cleaner forms of energy. Between 2011-2012, DOI leased over 2.1 billion tons of coal in the Powder River Basin, unlocking nearly 3.5 billion metric tons of CO2. Billions tons of coal could be leased in the coming years, undermining efforts by individuals, businesses, and federal agencies to reduce carbon pollution.
More than 100,000 people and the leaders of 21 environmental, health, and consumer organizations have called on Secretary Jewell to put an immediate moratorium on new federal coal leasing, like Wednesday’s Hay Creek II sale.
It’s time for Secretary Jewell to #actonclimate and keep our coal in the ground.