By Amy Joi O’Donoghue, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — As much as 75 million tons of Utah’s recoverable coal sought by mining companies are now in question after a Friday decision by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to halt any new federal coal leases.
The U.S. Department of Interior said it is pushing the pause button on the federal coal program for three years in light of concerns raised by the Government Accountability Office, the agency’s inspector general and members of the public.
At issue is royalty payments critics say need to be increased, environmental protections for streams that merit improvements and questions over administration of the program that ensures public health impacts are properly considered.
“Even as our nation transitions to cleaner energy sources, building on smart policies and progress already underway, we know that coal will continue to be an important domestic energy source in the years ahead,” Jewell said. “We haven’t undertaken a comprehensive review of the program in more than 30 years, and we have an obligation to current and future generations to ensure the federal coal program delivers a fair return to American taxpayers and takes into account its impacts on climate change.”(…)
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