An executive order, secretarial order, and lawsuit challenging said secretarial order, all in the span of less than 36 hours and all concerning federal coal leasing. The Trump administration on Wednesday reversed a 2016 Obama administration moratorium on federal coal leasing, and environmental organizations have already filed suit challenging this change of direction. While the effect on coal mining from this Trump administration reversal is uncertain, the now-defunct moratorium likely had a relatively small practical effect on federal coal leasing.
By way of background, in January 2016 then Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell issued Secretarial Order No. 3338. This order directed the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to (i) prepare a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to review the federal government’s coal leasing program, and (ii) imposed a “pause” on federal coal leasing while the PEIS was prepared. As a result, the BLM would neither process new applications for coal leases nor conduct lease sales for pending applications until the PEIS was complete. However, Secretary Jewell’s order exempted five categories of coal leasing decisions from the moratorium (e.g., when the NEPA process had already been completed and a record of decision had already been issued by either the BLM or the applicable federal surface management agency). Yesterday, current Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke implemented President Trump’s Energy Independence Executive Order by revoking Secretary Jewell’s order through his own Secretarial Order No. 3348. (The executive order was not focused just on federal coal leasing. Here is an analysis of its potential impact on the broader energy industry, and here is an analysis of its rescission of President Obama’s 2015 natural resource mitigation memorandum.) Continue Reading