Climate impact of coal sales from US lands scrutinized

U.S. officials on Thursday launched a review of climate damage caused by coal mining on public lands as the Biden administration expands its scrutiny of government fossil fuel sales that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Coal combustion for electricity remains one of the top sources of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions even after many power plants shut down over the past decade because of concerns over pollution.

Almost half the nation’s annual coal production — some 250 million tons last year — is mined by private companies from federal land, primarily in Wyoming, Montana and other western states.

Coal lease sales were temporarily shut down under President Barack Obama because of climate concerns, then revived under President Donald Trump as he sought to bolster the declining industry.

Few leases have been sold in recent years as coal demand shrank drastically.

The Interior Department review also will look at the effects of coal mining on air quality and the local environment, whether leasing decisions should consider if the fuel will be exported and how coal supports the nation’s energy needs.

The agency said it will take 30 days of public comment and plans to announce its next steps by November.

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