- The Washington Times
Friday, April 16, 2021

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland took sweeping action Friday to “prioritize action on climate change,” including reinstating the ban on federal coal leasing that was part of the Obama administration’s contentious “war on coal.”

Ms. Haaland issued two secretarial orders: The first created a Climate Task Force aimed at juicing renewable-energy development, while the second rescinded a dozen Trump administration orders promoting U.S. energy dominance, including the reversal of the 2016 moratorium on new federal coal leases. 

“I know that signing Secretarial Orders alone won’t address the urgency of the climate crisis. But I’m hopeful that these steps will help make clear that we, as a Department, have a mandate to act,” she said in a statement. “With the vast experience, talent, and ingenuity of our public servants at the Department of the Interior, I’m optimistic about what we can accomplish together to care for our natural resources for the benefit of current and future generations.”

Environmental groups cheered the former Democratic congresswoman’s moves, saying they signaled a new era of placing climate change and environmental protection ahead of fossil-fuel development on federal lands and waters.

“Today is a watershed moment in the history of the U.S. Department of the Interior,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians climate and energy program director. “With Secretary Haaland‘s actions today, it’s clear the Interior Department is now working for communities, science, and justice. We are grateful for her leadership and bold action to put people over polluters.”

The group highlighted Ms. Haaland‘s removal of the 2017 secretarial order reversing the Obama-era “pause” on new federal leases for thermal coal

“Critically, with Secretarial Order 3398, Secretary Haaland rescinded a previous Order that lifted a moratorium on federal coal leasing,” said WildEarth Guardians. “As a result, the moratorium on coal leasing adopted under the Obama administration is back in effect.”

The National Resources Defense Council praised Ms. Haaland‘s moves, including the moratorium on new coal leasing, as “a step in the right direction.”

President Biden, who is scheduled to host a virtual summit on climate change next week, signed an executive order shortly after taking office to implement a government-wide strategy on addressing rising atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Ms. Haaland, a cosponsor of the 2019 Green New Deal resolution, has spoken out against fracking and participated in the mass 2016 Dakota Access Pipeline protest in North Dakota.

“It’s clear there’s an anti-oil and natural gas agenda at the Interior Department, so these orders aren’t surprising,” said Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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