Biden administration proposes blocking new coal mines at major federal hub

The Biden administration has moved to block new coal mines on public land in parts of Montana and Wyoming, a major U.S. coal hub.

It released two proposed plans on Thursday that would prevent companies from applying for new coal mining rights on federally owned lands in an area known as the Powder River Basin.

The basin represents 43 percent of the nation’s total coal production.

Under the plans, companies would still be allowed to extract coal under existing leases, and existing coal mining there would be expected to continue through 2060.

The administration projected that the actions between the two plans could prevent significant amounts of planet-warming emissions.

The plans met criticism from coal’s Republican supporters, who said it would harm the local economy and limit U.S.-produced energy.

“This will kill jobs and could cost Wyoming hundreds of millions of dollars used to pay for public schools, roads, and other essential services in our communities,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in a written statement.

“Cutting off access to our strongest resources surrenders America’s greatest economic advantages — to continue producing affordable, abundant, and reliable American energy,” he added.

But the plan received praise from environmental advocates, who cheered the move to restrict production of coal, a very carbon-intensive fuel.

“America’s energy future cannot include coal leasing,” said Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the  Center for Western Priorities, in a written statement.  “We’re thankful to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning, and all of the hard-working scientists and land managers who prepared these management plans.”

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