Grand Junction meeting part of federal coal review

Neil Kornze
Neil Kornze

A public meeting is planned for Grand Junction later this year as part of review of federal oversight of coal production on public lands.

“As we undertake this review, we look forward to hearing from the public on a wide range of issues, including how, when and where to lease federal coal, how to account for the environmental and public health impacts of federal coal production and how to ensure that American taxpayers earn a fair return for the use of their public resources, including whether current royalty rates should be adjusted,” said Neil Kornze, director of the Bureau of Land Management.

A series of six meetings has been scheduled for May and June to gather comments on the scope of the review. Meetings also are planned for Salt Lake City and Casper, Wyo., as well as Pittsburgh, Seattle and Knoxville, Tenn. Details on the dates, times and locations of the meetings will be announced.

The U.S. Department of the Interior has launched a comprehensive review of the federal coal program to identify and evaluate potential reforms to ensure the program provides a fair return to taxpayers while also meeting energy needs and reflecting environmental effects.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced the review in January to examine concerns about the federal coal program raised by the Government Accountability Office, Interior Department Office of Inspector General, members of Congress, interested stakeholders and the public.

Kornze said, “Coal will continue to be an important domestic energy source in the years ahead, and we are undertaking this effort with full consideration of the importance of maintaining reliable and affordable energy for American families and businesses. But we haven’t undertaken a comprehensive evaluation of the federal coal program in more than 30 years. It’s time for a top to bottom review.”

The Department of Interior is expected to release an interim report on the programmatic environmental impact statement by the end of 2016 with a summary of substantive comments received and conclusions from the scoping process about alternatives that will be evaluated as well as any initial analytical results. The full review is expected to take about three years.

Jewell called last spring for what she called an open and honest conversation about modernizing the federal coal program. The Department of Interior subsequently hosted five public listening sessions, including one in Denver. Public comments offered a broad range of responses to questions, including: Are taxpayers and local communities getting a fair return from these resources? How can coal leasing be made more transparent and more competitive? How should the program be managed in a way that’s consistent with climate change objectives?

Since January, the Department of Interior has launched a series of government reforms designed to improve transparency and administration of the federal coal program. These actions build on other efforts to modernize the federal coal program, including work by the Office of Natural Resources Revenue to finalize a proposed rule to ensure the valuation process for federal and American Indian coal resources better reflects the changing energy industry while protecting taxpayers and American Indian assets.