A coalition of environmental Groups slammed Friday’s protest by President Joe Biden over his refusal to immediately restore the federal government moratorium The Trump administration has withdrawn coal leasing on public lands more than four years earlier.
The U.S. Department of Interior, (DOI) says Although it is evaluating its coal lease program, the agency responsible to manage public lands has not taken any steps that would prevent new leases from going up before an extensive environmental review is complete.
Instead, the Biden administration continued processing applications for new coal leases through 2021, sparking a 14% increase In coal consumption nationwide, which climate scientists say Contributed to the ongoing, life-threatening surge In greenhouse gas emissions and global temperature.
Although tribal and conservation organizations suing DOI insist that nothing has been done to mitigate climate, water and air damages caused by federal coal leasing programs, the U.S. Department of Justice asked for a federal court to not rule on alleged legal violations in a filing Submitted on Thursday.
“The Biden administration cannot have it both ways on coal,” Jenny Harbine, managing attorney for Earthjustice’s Northern Rockies office, said Friday, in a statement. “While they seem to recognize that it is indefensible to continue to allow coal leasing on public lands, they are also refusing to do the bare minimum by reinstating the Obama-era coal leasing moratorium.”
As the coal industry and the states of Montana and Wyoming defend former President Donald Trump’s coal policy in court, the Biden administration is helping to prolong it through inaction, Indigenous rights and environmental advocates argue.
Biden, who vowed on the campaign trail that he would halt fossil fuel extraction on public lands, “came into office promising to be a climate champion,” said Harbine. “But six years after [former]President [Barack] Obama paused our nation’s coal leasing we are now taking steps in the wrong direction.”
After the DOI was reversed Obama-era moratorium 2017 was a year of Earthjustice and a coalition conservation groups, states and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe won a legal challenge To that policy in 2019.
The court ordered the DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to conduct an environmental review, under the National Environmental Policy Act, before ending the coal leasing moratorium, the coalition explained.
The groups however, added:
The Trump-era BLM’s analysis refused to consider the full impact of that choice, instead analyzing only the impact of allowing six coal leases to move forward, including the Alton coal mine expansion in Utah, which a federal judge in Utah determined was approved illegallyTrump administration. The BLM’s truncated environmental analysis applies to only six federal coal leases, so the groups went back to courtIt will be up for grabs in 2020.
Last year, the Biden administration decided to keep the Trump-era policy ending coal leasing moratorium. Tribal and environmental groups will be able to participate in the 2021 May 22nd. filed an opening brief challenging the Biden administration’s decision to defend continued coal leasing on public lands.
In a filing last week the Biden administration’s BLM defended two Trump-era resource management plans that failed to comply with a court order to account for impacts from burning publicly-owned coal, including on public health, and to consider alternatives that limit coal leasing in the Powder River Basin — the largest coal-producing region in the country.
Michael Saul is a senior attorney at The Center for Biological Diversity. said that “it’s appalling that the Biden administration is refusing to confront Trump’s reckless policy of federal coal leasing despite mounting, undeniable evidence of catastrophic climate change and rising fossil fuel emissions.”
According to Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s Lands Protection Program, “The Biden administration is again missing an easy opportunity to back up its climate rhetoric by limiting the federal coal leasing program, which accounts for 11% of all U.S. climate pollution.”
Biden is the only one who has promised that the U.S. government will take the climate crisis seriously, Jeremy Nichols, director of WildEarth Guardian’s Climate and Energy Program, said that “it seems as if he has no intention of following through with this promise.”
“Coal is killing our climate, yet the Biden administration is defending it,” Nichols added.
Saul emphasized that the president’s inaction “will worsen the climate emergency and the extinction crisis and lessen the chance that we’ll leave a livable planet to future generations.”
“How can Biden explain this to his grandchildren?” he asked.