Washington and three other states say bringing back the federal program without an environmental review risks worsening the effects of climate change on those states while shortchanging them for the coal taken from public lands.
HELENA, Mont. — Four U.S. states, including Washington, filed a lawsuit Tuesday over President Donald Trump’s decision to restart the sale of coal leases on federal lands, saying the Obama-era block of the leasing program was reversed without studying what’s best for the environment and for taxpayers.
The attorneys general of California, New Mexico, New York and Washington, all Democrats, said bringing back the federal coal-lease program without an environmental review risks worsening the effects of climate change on those states while shortchanging them for the coal taken from public lands.
The U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management administers 306 coal leases in 10 states, producing more than 4 billion tons of coal over the past decade. Some 85 percent of that coal comes from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.
Production and combustion of coal from federal lands accounted for about 11 percent of U.S. greenhouse-gas emissions in 2014.
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The Obama administration blocked the sale of new leases in 2016 to conduct an environmental study and a review of the royalties that mining companies pay the U.S. government for coal that’s extracted.
In January, Interior officials said they were considering raising royalty rates to offset the effects of climate change from burning coal.