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 February 23, 2024

Federal appeals Court ends Obama coal leasing moratorium

A recent decision by a federal appeals court has effectively overturned an Obama-era rule that restricted new coal mining leases on federal lands.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed a previous ruling from 2022, which had allowed for the reinstatement of a regulation implemented during the Obama administration.

The regulation

This regulation banned new coal mining leases on federally controlled lands. The appellate court found that the Trump administration's decision to rescind the Obama-era rule lacked an adequate environmental review.

The court deemed the case moot because the Biden administration had already revoked the Trump-era reversal that was at the heart of the dispute.

Although the Biden administration had rescinded the Trump-era policy, it did not reinstate the Obama administration's moratorium on new coal mining leases.

The victory

Rich Nolan, the president and CEO of the National Mining Association, celebrated the court's decision, hailing it as a victory for American energy production.

Nolan emphasized that the ruling would allow significant projects to move forward, contributing to the production of affordable and reliable power for the nation's electrical grid.

The Department of the Interior, the federal agency responsible for administering leasing on public lands, has not yet provided clarity on its plans regarding coal mining leases in light of the court's decision.

Questions remain

There are lingering questions about how the ruling will impact future leasing activities and the management of federal lands.

Responding to the court's decision, William Walksalong, the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Administrator, expressed concerns about the implications for climate protection and public land management.

Walksalong urged the Biden administration to fulfill its commitments to environmental stewardship by conducting a thorough review of the federal coal leasing program. He emphasized the importance of developing thoughtful plans that prioritize the conservation of natural resources and mitigate the impacts of fossil fuel extraction on the environment.

The ruling underscores the complex and contentious nature of energy policy in the United States, particularly regarding the extraction of coal from federal lands under the Biden administration's extension or return to many Obama administration regulations.

The ruling shows the tensions on climate-related issues during a key election year. The turn against the Obama-era regulation will be a boost to some in the economy as conservative courts seek to roll back limitations that pose problems for business.

Written By:
Dillon Burroughs

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