WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration says it's halting new coal leases on federal lands until it completes a comprehensive review. The question is whether fees charged to mining companies provide a fair return to American taxpayers and reflect coal's impact on the environment.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said Friday that companies will continue to be able to mine coal reserves already under lease.
"During this time, companies can continue production activities on the large reserves of recoverable coal they have under lease, and we'll make accommodations in the event of emergency circumstances to ensure this pause will have no material impact on the nation's ability to meet its power generation needs," she said in a statement.
Jewell says the coal leasing program has not been significantly changed in more than 30 years. She says it needs to be modernized to ensure a fair return to American taxpayers and to account for climate change.
Roughly 40 percent of the coal produced in the United States comes from federal lands. The vast majority comes from Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.