Under Trump, Coal Mining Gets fresh Life on U.S. Lands

President Trump, along with roundly questioning climate change, has moved quickly to wipe out those measures with the support of coal companies along with some other commercial interests. Separately, Mr. Trump’s Indoor Department can be drawing up plans to reduce wilderness along with historic areas that will are right now protected as national monuments, creating even more opportunities for profit.

Richard Reavey, the head of government relations for Cloud Peak Energy, which operates a strip mine here that will sends coal to the Midwest along with increasingly to coal-burning power plants in Asia said Mr. Trump’s change of course was meant to correct wrongs of the past.



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The Obama administration, he said, had become intent on killing the coal industry, along with had used federal lands as a cudgel to restrict exports. The only avenues of growth currently, given the shutdown of so many coal-burning power plants inside the United States, are markets overseas.

“Their goal, in collusion with the environmentalists, was to drive us out of the export business,” Mr. Reavey said.

Even with the moves so far, the prospect of coal companies operating in a big way on federal land — along with for any major job growth — can be dim, in part because environmentalists have blocked construction of a coal export terminal, along with there can be limited capacity at the port the companies use in Vancouver.

Competition coming from some other global suppliers offering coal to Asian power plants can be also intense.

although at least for right now, coal production along with exports are rising inside the Powder River Basin after a major decline last year.

Western Coal

The majority of United States coal can be produced inside the West, using a modest share of This particular then exported. About 85 percent of coal extracted coming from federal lands comes coming from the Powder River Basin, in Wyoming along with Montana. The Trump administration can be rolling back an Obama-era moratorium on fresh coal leases on federal lands.




U.S. COAL PRODUCTION, BY REGION

U.S. COAL PRODUCTION, BY REGION

Opponents of the Trump administration’s direction have already gone to court. fresh Mexico along with California sued in April to undo the rollback in royalties that will coal mines pay, while ranchers like Mr. Hayes along with the Cheyenne tribe joined a lawsuit in March challenging the repeal of a year-old moratorium on federal coal leasing.

“If we hand over control of these lands to a narrow range of special interests, we lose an iconic part of the country — along with the West’s identity,” said Chris Saeger, executive director of the Montana-based environmental group Western Values Project, referring to coal mining along with oil along with gas drilling that will the Indoor Department can be moving to rapidly expand.

Mr. Trump’s point man can be Ryan Zinke, a native Montanan who rode a horse to work on his first day as head of the Indoor Department. A former member of the Navy SEALs along with Republican congressman, Mr. Zinke oversees the national park system, as well as the Bureau of Land Management, which controls 250 million acres nationwide, parts of which are used to produce oil, gas, coal, lumber along with hay.

In late June, Mr. Zinke visited Whitefish, Mont., to attend a meeting of Western governors, where he vowed to find a balance between extracting commodities coming from federal lands along with protecting them.

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Indoor Secretary Ryan Zinke, left, with Bill Cadman of Whiting Petroleum in Whitefish, Mont., in June. “We are all affected by This particular constant regulatory quagmire,” Mr. Cadman said.

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Tim Goessman for The fresh York Times

“Our greatest treasures are public lands,” Mr. Zinke said in a speech. “This particular can be not a partisan issue. This particular can be an American issue.”

Afterward, protesters coming from the Sierra Club along with some other groups held a rally inside the town square against the actions taken by Mr. Zinke during his first months on the job, chanting “Shame!” along with “Liar!” along with carrying signs opposing his policies.

although Mr. Zinke was not in public view. Just before the rally commenced, he was inside a nearby building, meeting with Bill Cadman, a vice president of Whiting Petroleum, a company that will drills on federal lands.

Until recently a state legislator in Colorado, Mr. Cadman has lobbied the Indoor Department to repeal a rule that will limits methane emissions coming from oil along with gas sites on federal land. As he left the brief gathering, Mr. Cadman said he was only catching up with Mr. Zinke, whom he has known for decades, on family-related matters. He also acknowledged that will Mr. Zinke wielded a lot of power over the energy industry.

“We are all affected by This particular constant regulatory quagmire,” Mr. Cadman said.

Seeing a Liberal Attack

Cloud Peak Energy had been preparing for several years to seize upon the arrival of an industry-friendly administration in Washington. although This particular was also prepared to fight without one.

At a gathering of a coal industry trade group in 2015, Mr. Reavey, the company’s chief lobbyist, left no doubts about the company’s determination to defend mining inside the Powder River Basin, which includes operations here in Decker.

Mr. Reavey likened the industry’s existential crisis to that will of tobacco companies inside the 1990s. The coal industry, he told executives, had been targeted by a liberal conspiracy of environmental groups, news organizations along with regulators. Coal would likely suffer the same fate as cigarettes, he warned, unless the industry stood its ground.

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A rally in Whitefish in June. “If we hand over control of these lands to a narrow range of special interests, we lose an iconic part of the country,” the leader of an environmental group said.

Credit
Tim Goessman for The fresh York Times

He showed a PowerPoint slide that will outlined the strategy of the industry’s opponents. They sought to diminish coal’s “social acceptability,” the slide showed, while also cutting “profits through massive increase in regulation” along with reduced “demand/market access.” He equated the situation to a scene inside the film “Independence Day” in which the American president asks the alien invaders, “What can be This particular you want us to do?” An alien replies, “Die.”

During President Barack Obama’s second term, the coal industry’s chief antagonist was Sally Jewell, a former oil industry engineer appointed Indoor secretary in 2013. Ms. Jewell, an avid hiker, had also served as chief executive of the outdoor gear company REI.

She saw mining companies as a particular problem because they too often left behind polluted mine pits along with paid too little for coal leases on federal land.

Starting two years ago, Ms. Jewell took a series of steps to change the relationship between coal companies along with the federal government. She imposed a moratorium on fresh federal coal leases while beginning a three-year study of the industry’s environmental consequences. More than 40 percent of all coal mined inside the United States comes coming from federal land, along with when burned This particular generates roughly 10 percent of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, she called for greater transparency inside the awarding of coal leases, along with she backed an increase inside the royalty payments made to operate coal mines on public lands.

“The corruption inside the coal sector can be just so rampant,” she said in an interview.

A central problem, she said, was the lack of competitive bidding for mining leases: Only 11 of the 107 sales of federal coal leases between 1990 along with 2012 received more than one bid, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. A second study, by a nonprofit think tank, estimated that will the practice had shortchanged taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

Another hot-button issue was how much to charge in royalties, which generate about $1 billion a year for the federal government.

Under federal rules adopted in 1920, coal companies are required to pay “not less than” 12.5 percent on sales of surface coal mined on federal lands. although for years, studies indicate, the companies paid far less — as little as 2.5 percent of the ultimate sale cost — because they often negotiated large royalty discounts with sympathetic federal officials. Companies also often sell coal first to a corporate affiliate at a sharply reduced cost, before reselling This particular to the intended customer, costing the government a chunk of its royalties, according to the Government Accountability Office study. The technique was particularly well-known among mines with foreign buyers.

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