US proposes blocking new coal leases in nation's largest mining region General,  International 2024-05-22 08:50:38

The US Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has released a proposal to prevent future coal leases on public lands in the Powder River Basin, which is the largest coal mining region in the country, according to two announcements published on its official website on May 16.


The BLM's plan aims to make coal resources it managed in the region unavailable for future leases, although existing leases will still allow coal mining for several years. The Powder River Basin is home to major coal mines operated by prominent US coal mining companies.


The resource plans were developed in response to a court order from 2022, which require the BLM to analyze the climate and public health impacts of burning fossil fuels in its land use plans for the areas.


The proposal has entered a 30-day public protest period, which will end on June 17. During this period, the plan will undergo review before being adopted.


The BLM's decision has been welcomed by local advocacy groups, as they believe it will address the negative impacts of federal coal leasing on the Powder River Basin. They hope for a just economic transition towards a clean energy future.


According to the BLM, the Buffalo Field Office mined approximately 220 million short tons of federal coal in 2022 from the 12 active open-cast mines. This figure has declined steeply compared to the peak of US coal production in 2008 when the mines produced around 400 million short tons. Power plants across the country still rely on coal from the Powder River Basin for their energy supply.


Existing leases in the Buffalo office will allow federal coal production until 2041. The BLM believes that this remaining coal volume provides an opportunity to advance carbon capture and non-thermal coal use technologies.


In the Miles City Office, coal production on federal land is expected to continue through 2035 at the Spring Creek mine and until 2060 at the Rosebud mine under existing leases.


The proposal has faced criticism from Republicans and mining industry representatives who argue that it will harm energy security, affordability, and local economies. They express concerns about the impact on jobs and the potential loss of revenue for essential services.


However, supporters of the proposal, including environmental groups, view it as a positive step towards prioritizing renewable energy and public interest in land-use decisions.


(Writing by Riley Liang  Editing by Emma Yang)
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