January 15, 2016

New Coal Announcement Lays Groundwork to Keep More Fossil Fuels In the Ground

Contact: Jamie Henn, [email protected], 415-890-3350

Washington, D.C. — The Obama Administration announced today a moratorium on the sale of new federal coal leases and a broad environmental review of fossil fuel development on public lands. The moves spell the end of the coal industry in the United States and lay the groundwork to keep more fossil fuels in the ground.

“This moratorium will send coal to the mortuary,” said Jason Kowalski, 350.org Policy Director. “Any proper accounting of coal’s impact on the climate will conclude that this fossil fuel needs to be kept deep underground. Taxpayers will save a lot more money by avoiding the disastrous climate and health impacts of burning coal than we’ll get from a few extra dollars tacked onto new coal lease sales.”

The Department of Interior also announced that the USGS would “establish and maintain a public database to account for the annual carbon emissions from fossil fuels developed on federal lands.” As the Department noted, independent analysis shows that 28 percent of the nation’s annual total energy-related emissions come from fossil fuels extracted from public lands. A report from Ecoshift Consulting showed that ending the policy of selling oil gas and coal to the fossil fuel industry would keep 450 billion tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere. If the next president makes this coal moratorium permanent, the report suggests 212 billion tons of carbon pollution would be kept in the ground.

“We opposed and defeated the Keystone XL pipeline because it would take more tar sands out of the ground and have a disastrous impact on the climate. The same goes for fossil fuel development on our public lands,” said Kowalski. “It’s a positive step forward to see this ‘keep it in the ground’ principle being applied to more government decision making, but the clock is ticking. The administration needs to move quickly towards ending all new coal, oil and gas development on public lands and financing a just transition towards 100% renewable energy.”