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Biden ends new leases in America’s top coal region: NPR

Giant truck hauls coal to mine in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin

Stephanie Joyce/Wyoming Public Media

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Stephanie Joyce/Wyoming Public Media

Giant truck hauls coal to mine in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin

Stephanie Joyce/Wyoming Public Media

In two controversial environmental decisions, the Biden administration is moving to end all new coal leasing in the nation’s largest coal-producing region, the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.

Thursday’s announcement by the federal Bureau of Land Management follows a lawsuit filed by environmental groups and is expected to be met with protests from the industry and coal-producing states, including Wyoming. In the agency’s final environmental study, the BLM field office in Buffalo, Wyoming, ruled that new coal leasing would have significant impacts on human health and the climate, due to coal burning in power plants.

Environmentalists called the decision a victory, saying it would keep six billion tons of “highly polluting coal in the ground.”

“The BLM has released a common-sense plan that reflects the reality of today’s coal markets,” Mark Fix of the Montana-based Northern Plains Resource Council said in a statement.

The new rule will not shut down the coal industry in the region, as companies can still expand on already-issued federal leases. But it comes at a time when Wyoming’s coal industry is struggling to find new markets, while many West Coast cities have banned coal-based power generation.

Wyoming is the nation’s largest coal producer, accounting for 41 percent of the nation’s total supply. West Virginia comes in second with 14%.

In a statement, Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso accused the Biden administration of “waging war on Wyoming’s coal communities and families.”

“It will eliminate jobs and could cost Wyoming hundreds of millions of dollars used to fund public schools, roads and other essential services,” he said.

Thursday’s ruling follows a court ruling earlier this year that struck down a broad Obama-era ban on new coal leasing deals.

In Wyoming, meanwhile, groups have thirty days to file formal protests against recent BLM Powder River Basin decisions.

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