This time of year, millions of Americans and visitors from around the world are touring national parks, experiencing some of our most incredible natural wonders. But our national parks are increasingly threatened by the impacts of global warming – the National Park Service itself considers responding to climate change its “greatest challenge.”
But while the Park Service searches for answers, another part of the Interior department – the Bureau of Land Management – is giving away billions of tons of our coal, fueling climate change and subsidizing the coal industry’s efforts to export more coal. The impacts of climate change on our national parks are widespread; the Everglades and other coastal parks are threatened by rising sea levels, while forests have been devastated from the Great Smoky Mountains to Yellowstone, as insect pests thrive in warmer winters. Soon all the glaciers could be gone from Glacier National Park, a troubling reminder of how climate change throws into question how the National Park Service will fulfill its mission to leave these special places “unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
One person who could help the Park Service is the person ultimately in charge of managing our public lands – Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
That’s because a surprisingly large amount of the carbon pollution that threatens our national parks (and so much more) comes from coal managed by the Bureau of Land Management, which is part of the Interior Department just like the National Park Service. Like our national parks, this coal belongs to the American People, and the Interior Department manages it on our behalf – officially it’s supposed to manage it “in the best interests of the nation.”
Instead, this coal has been sold for cheap to mining companies like Peabody and Arch Coal, subsidizing coal at the expense of clean energy, as documented in our report, “Leasing Coal, Fueling Climate Change.” And now that efforts to address air pollution and climate change are reducing the amount of coal burned in the United States, those coal mining companies are taking advantage of the coal leasing program, buying our coal for cheap with the aim of exporting increasing amounts overseas.
Last week, 8 million tons of our coal were sold for just 36 cents a ton to a company that hopes to export much of it. Other coal mining companies like Arch Coal, Cloud Peak, and Ambre Energy are seeking to expand mines in Montana to ship hundreds of millions of more tons of our coal to Asia. But it’s our coal, so we should all get a say in how it’s managed. Join us in calling on Secretary Jewell to keep our coal in the ground.