Issues Facing the Future of Federal Coal Leasing

EMD-79-47: Published: Jun 25, 1979. Publicly Released: Jun 25, 1979.

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As the new federal coal leasing program is implemented, the following complex issues must be considered: (1) how should a tradeoff analysis be performed when coal leasing goals conflict with environmental, socioeconomic, and economic goals; (2) who should pay the cost of achieving a balance among goals; and (3) can a less regulated private sector achieve timely, orderly, and efficient coal development without jeopardizing environmental and social concerns. The Department of the Interior has primary responsibility for leasing public coal lands, but the Department of Energy (DOE) is required to develop regulations related to the management of energy resources. Because of the split responsibility between Interior and DOE in the development of effective regulations related to the management of energy resources, the Leasing Liaison Committee was formed to assist in interagency coordination.

Interior has not made an analysis of existing leases to determine those that have environmental problems, or those that are not near transportation facilities. In evaluating alternative land uses, Interior is not considering regional coal production goals or other resource needs. One of the most important responsibilities Interior has in implementing a new leasing program will be to select, evaluate, and then sell specific tracts which are responsive to the need for federal coal.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should analyze, for the submission to DOE, production potential of existing leases by determining which are included in logical mining units and which will be eliminated by unsuitability criteria, inaccessibility to transportation facilities, or other factors. The economic, energy, and environmental implications of Interior's implementation of the surface owner consent requirement should be evaluated for submission to Congress. Regional production goals and demand estimates for noncoal resources should be used in evaluating land use alternatives and maximum economic recovery and logical mining unit regulations should be published. In developing coal production goals, the Secretary of DOE should use Interior's evaluation of production potential on existing leases. DOE should publish the methodology and procedures to be used in arriving at production goals. The Secretary of DOE should work closely with the Secretary of the Interior in implementing a new federal coal management program that achieves a balance between public policy goals, with particular attention to issuing regulations pertaining to diligent development, competition, and alternative bidding systems. The Secretary of DOE should work closely with the Secretary of the Interior to make the Leasing Liaison Committee an effective body and to make the Interior/Energy working group on coal production goals and leasing targets operational.

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