Tag Archives: obama administration

Attorney General offers ‘national strategy’ to combat human trafficking

As part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced the Justice Department’s National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking , as required by the 2015 Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

In addition to this new national strategy, every year, the attorney general also submits the Attorney General’s Annual Report to Congress and Assessment of U.S. Government Activities to Combat Trafficking in Persons, which details the programs and activities carried out by all federal agencies and sets forth recommended goals for the upcoming year.

The most recent report, for FY 2015, is available here.

The department also has launched www.justice.gov/humantrafficking as a central destination to learn more about the department’s efforts to combat the scourge of human trafficking.

“Human trafficking is one of the most devastating crimes that we confront,” said Lynch.  “The National Strategy to Combat Human Trafficking summarizes the work that our many components and our U.S. Attorney’s Offices are doing to better help survivors and target traffickers. These efforts encourage increased collaboration within the department as well as between the department and our partners in order to build on our successes as we prepare to take on the work that remains.”

The National Strategy sets forth plans to enhance coordination within the department and to develop specific strategies within each federal district to stop human trafficking.

The National Strategy includes the following:

  • An assessment of the threat presented by human trafficking based on FBI case information.
  • An account of the work of the department’s components that are most extensively involved in anti-trafficking efforts, including the Civil Rights Division’s Human Trafficking Prosecution Unit; the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section; the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices; the FBI; and various grant-making components within the Office of Justice Programs.
  • A description of the district-specific strategies developed by each U.S. Attorney’s Office.
  • A discussion of human trafficking and anti-trafficking efforts in Indian Country.
  • Information about annual spending dedicated to preventing and combating human trafficking.
  • A description of plans to encourage cooperation, coordination and mutual support between the private and non-profit sector and the department to combat human trafficking.

On the web

To learn more about the report and the department’s efforts to combat human trafficking visit www.justice.gov/humantrafficking.

Texas Republican introduces bathroom bill

A Republican Texas state senator today introduced a bathroom bill that would prohibit transgender people from using public restrooms that match their gender.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick quickly marked the proposed bill, named the “Texas Privacy Act,” as a top legislative priority, saying it’s necessary to protect public safety.

The bill is similar to North Carolina’s notorious House Bill 2, which made the state a pariah as well as a political flashpoint for much of last year. The law played a key role in flushing North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory out of office in November, when voters in the state narrowly elected former state Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democratic challenger who had called the law “a national embarrassment.”

The law also cost North Carolina millions in lost business. High-profile entertainers, such as Bruce Springsteen, canceled plans to perform in the state.

At least one business group in Texas warned today that the measure would hurt that state’s economy as well.

The Texas Privacy Act comes four months after U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor blocked a federal directive issued by the Obama administration requiring public schools to let transgender students use bathrooms consistent with their gender identity. That judgment was issued in a case brought by Texas, Wisconsin and nine other states challenging the directive.

Several days ago, O’Connor blocked another Obama administration effort to strengthen transgender rights, this time over health rules that social conservatives say could force doctors to violate their religious beliefs.

A coalition of religious medical organizations said the rules could force doctors to help with gender transition contrary to their religious beliefs or medical judgment. O’Connor agreed in his 46-page ruling, saying the rules place “substantial pressure on Plaintiffs to perform and cover transition and abortion procedures.”

Transgender rights advocates called that a far-fetched hypothetical, saying a person would not approach a doctor who lacked suitable experience and expertise.

The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund criticized the injunction as contrary to existing law and said it expects the ruling to be overturned on appeal.

“Judge O’Connor’s conclusion that transgender people and persons who have had abortions are somehow excepted from protection is deeply troubling, legally specious, and morally repugnant,” said Ezra Young, the organization’s director of impact litigation.

O’Connor’s rulings and the Texas Privacy Act add to the rising fears of transgender people that more GOP-governed states will approve legislation limiting transgender rights and will reject proposals to expand such rights. Wisconsin Republicans are expected to take up a bathroom bill in the current legislative session, after dropping one last year.

Helping to fuel fears among transgenders is the uncertainty over the position that will be taken by the administration of President-elect Donald Trump. Many transgender people expect him to abandon or weaken the transgender protection efforts pursued by the Obama administration.

Trump sent mixed signals about his approach to transgender rights during his campaign, at one point saying transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner could use whatever bathroom she preferred in one of his luxury buildings.

At the same time, Trump declined to repudiate North Carolina ‘s House Bill 2. He said such policy decisions should be left up to the states.

 

EPA to keep strict gas mileage standards in place

The EPA has decided not to change government fuel economy requirements that force automakers to significantly increase the efficiency of new cars and trucks.

The decision announced this week follows a mandatory review of the standards established in 2012, when gas averaged $3.60 a gallon and small cars and hybrids were gaining favor.

The standards had required the fleet of new cars to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. But there was a built-in reduction if buying habits changed — and they have, dramatically. Now, gas is averaging close to $2 a gallon and three of every five new vehicles sold in the U.S. are trucks and SUVs. As a result, the 2025 fuel-economy number drops to 50.8 mph.

That decline isn’t enough to satisfy car companies. They say they’re building small cars and electrics to meet the standards, but few consumers are buying them. Automakers had petitioned the government to lessen the standards.

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy said in a statement that based on the agency’s technical analysis, automakers have the technology to meet emissions standards and mileage through 2025. The requirements will increase the new-vehicle fleet’s average gas mileage requirement from 34.1 mpg this year while cutting carbon pollution and saving drivers billions at the pump, the EPA said.

“Although EPA’s technical analysis indicates that the standards could be strengthened for model years 2022-2025, proposing to leave the current standards in place provides greater certainty to the auto industry for product planning and engineering,” McCarthy said.

The EPA will take public comments on the decision until Dec. 30, meaning McCarthy could finalize the standards before President-elect Donald Trump is inaugurated in January, even though a decision wasn’t required until April 2018. Trump has said he wants to get rid of the EPA and Myron Ebell, the leader of Trump’s EPA transition team, is director of a libertarian think tank that gets financial support from the fossil fuel industry and opposes “global-warming alarmism.”

The EPA, however, denied the rushed timetable was due to Trump’s election.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a lobbying group that represents 12 automakers, including BMW, Ford, Toyota and General Motors, called the quick decision a “premature rush to judgment” and said it has asked Trump to review post-election regulations.

Ford Motor Co. called the EPA move “eleventh-hour politics in a lame-duck administration” and said it will work with the new administration and Congress. Ford has been a frequent target of criticism by Trump due to its plans to move some production to Mexico.

Environmentalists backed the EPA’s decision. Daniel Becker, director of the Safe Climate Campaign, said the standards already have pushed average new-vehicle gas mileage up by 5 mpg since 2007, reducing America’s oil use and helping to drive down gasoline prices worldwide.

Janet McCabe, EPA’s acting administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation, said automakers have multiple technological pathways to meet the standards, from direct-injection gas engines to hybrids and electric vehicles. The industry is ahead of schedule, she said. More than 100 vehicles on the market are already meeting standards set for 2020. But electric vehicles still haven’t caught on. Last year EVs were less than 1 percent of U.S. new car sales.

“Leaving the standards as they are would give automakers the time they need,” McCabe said.

Automakers have warned that meeting the standards would result in additional costs that would be passed on to the consumer. McCabe said Wednesday that the estimated cost of the standards has fallen. The cost per vehicle to meet the 2025 standards is now $825, down from $1,100 in 2012, she said. Owners can easily make that back in savings at the pump, she said.

The industry has argued that the costs and consumer reluctance to buy the smallest, most efficient vehicles mean the industry will have trouble complying. “The evidence is abundantly clear that with low gas prices, consumers are not choosing the cars necessary to comply with increasingly unrealistic standards,” the Auto Alliance said.

Even if Trump rolls back the standards, the industry will continue to sell fuel-efficient cars in the U.S. because it has to meet mileage standards in other countries and California. “Automakers will still be on the hook to develop and produce these vehicles and will need economies of scale to make them profitable,” said Autotrader Senior Analyst Michelle Krebs.

32,000 oil, gas leases retired in sacred Badger-Two Medicine wilderness area

The U.S. Department of the Interior and Devon Energy on Nov. 16 announced retirement of more than 32,000 acres of oil and gas leases from the Badger-Two Medicine roadless area.

The move comes on the heels of a lease cancellation by the Department of the Interior and echoes the call by many that the Badger-Two Medicine region — a vital wildland link connecting the Bob Marshall Wilderness with Glacier National Park and an indispensable stronghold of Blackfeet culture — should not be industrialized by roads, bridges and drill rigs.

At a ceremony, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said, “The cancellation of leases that were set many years ago in an area that should never have had leases to begin with. This is the right action to take on behalf of current and future generations.”

“One of the core values that we have is to be a good neighbor. We certainly think this is a great opportunity to demonstrate the fact that we can be a good neighbor in this situation,” added Devon Energy president and CEO Dave Hager.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.,  also spoke at the ceremony. “There are special places in this world where we just shouldn’t drill, and the Badger-Two Medicine is one of those places. This region carries great cultural and historical significance to the Blackfeet Tribe and today’s announcement will ensure that the Badger-Two Medicine will remain pristine for both the Tribe and the folks who love to hunt, hike, and fish near Glacier Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.”

Conservation groups cheered the announcement.

“It’s incredibly satisfying, after all these decades of conflict and controversy, to see the players negotiating in good faith to find a solution,” said Kendall Flint, president of the local conservation group, Glacier — Two Medicine Alliance. The alliance has long sought retirement of the leases, which were sold for just $1 per acre more than 30 years ago.

The 130,000-acre Badger-Two Medicine is part of the Lewis and Clark National Forest and is bordered by Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

The Department of the Interior under Secretary James Watt, appointed by Ronald Reagan, granted the leases in the early 1980s, sparking immediate and prolonged opposition from local residents, conservationists and the Blackfeet Nation.

Other companies also have voluntarily retired more than 110,000 acres of Badger-Two Medicine leases.

Two smaller leases remain, according to the Interior Department. Efforts continue to negotiate their retirement.

Efforts to protect the Badger-Two Medicine wildland also have involved the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders Council, National Congress of American Indians, Glacier County Commissioners, retired Glacier National Park superintendents, retired U.S. Forest Service and BLM leadership, hunting and angling groups, local ranchers and residents, and even the rock band Pearl Jam.

“This is a landmark moment in the decades-long battle to protect the Badger-Two Medicine region, and future generations will be even more thankful for it than we are today,” said Tim Preso of Earthjustice.  “But the fight is not over.  We will continue to advocate for this wild, sacred landscape until the last threat to its integrity is removed.”

The 1980s-era leases have long stood in stark contrast to a legacy of conservation throughout Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front region. Beginning with the establishment of Glacier National Park in 1910 and bolstered by creation of the Sun River Game Preserve in 1913, conservation measures have since included: the creation of Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park (1932); Sun River Wildlife Management Area (1948); Bob Marshall Wilderness Area (1964); Scapegoat Wilderness Area (1972); Great Bear Wilderness Area (1978); and passage of the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act (2014).

Within the boundaries of the Badger-Two Medicine roadless area, recent conservation measures include a 2006 congressional ban on any future federal oil/gas leasing and a 2011 prohibition on motorized travel. The entire Badger-Two Medicine region has been designated a “Traditional Cultural District” under the National Historic Preservation Act, in recognition of its importance to Blackfeet tradition and culture.

Feds set rules for future Arctic drilling

With no new drilling planned in the Arctic waters off Alaska, the Obama administration is setting rules to ensure any future energy exploration in the area meets safety and environmental standards.

The Interior Department said new rules do not authorize any Arctic offshore drilling either now or in the future, but they set minimum standards for operations if and when leasing is approved.

A five-year offshoring leasing plan that includes the Arctic is expected later this year.

Assistant Interior Secretary Janice Schneider said the rules support a “thoughtful and balanced approach” to any oil and gas exploration in the Arctic region.

“The rules help ensure that any exploratory drilling operations in this highly challenging environment will be conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner, while protecting the marine, coastal and human environments, and Alaska Natives’ cultural traditions,” Schneider said.

Royal Dutch Shell announced last year it is ending exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas after spending nearly $7 billion on Arctic exploration. The company cited disappointing results from a well drilled in the Chukchi and the unpredictable federal regulatory environment.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell later canceled federal petroleum lease sales in U.S. Arctic waters that were scheduled for 2016 and 2017. Current market conditions and low industry interest made the leasing decision easier, Jewell said.

Environmental groups hailed the new safety rules, but said Arctic drilling would harm marine mammals already hurt by a loss of sea ice and exacerbate global warming.

“No amount of safeguards or standards can ever make drilling safe,” said Athan Manuel of the Sierra Club.

The National Ocean Industries Association, an industry group, said that despite taking years to write, the new rules do not accurately reflect current industry capabilities and include unnecessary requirements, such as same-season relief wells, that may not be needed.

Requirements imposed by the rule “could thwart industry innovation and development of new technology, and may not actually increase operational safety,” NOIA president Randall Luthi said in a statement.

Federal rule would permit deaths of thousands of eagles

The Obama administration is revising a federal rule that allows wind-energy companies to operate high-speed turbines for up to 30 years, even if means killing or injuring thousands of bald and golden eagles.

Under the plan announced earlier in May, wind companies and other power providers could kill or injure up to 4,200 bald eagles a year without penalty — nearly four times the current limit. Golden eagles could only be killed if companies take steps to minimize the losses, for instance, by retrofitting power poles to reduce the risk of electrocution.

Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe said the proposal will “provide a path forward” for maintaining eagle populations while also spurring development of a pollution-free energy source that’s intended to ease global warming, a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s energy plan.

Ashe said the 162-page proposal would protect eagles and at the same time “help the country reduce its reliance on fossil fuels” such as coal and oil that contribute to global warming.

“There’s a lot of good news in here,” Ashe said in an interview, calling the plan “a great tool to work with to further conservation of two iconic species.”

The proposal sets objectives for eagle management, addresses how bird populations will be monitored and provides a framework for how the permitting system fits within the agency’s overall eagle management, Ashe said.

Wind farms are clusters of turbines as tall as 30-story buildings, with spinning rotors as wide as a passenger jet’s wingspan. Blades can reach speeds of up to 170 mph at the tips, creating tornado-like vortexes.

The Fish and Wildlife Service estimates there are about 143,000 bald eagles in the United States, and 40,000 golden eagles.

It’s unclear what toll wind energy companies are having on eagle populations, although Ashe said as many 500 golden eagles a year are killed by collisions with wind towers, power lines, buildings, cars and trucks. Thousands more are killed by gunshots and poisonings.

Reporting of eagle mortality is voluntary, and the Interior Department refuses to release the information.

Wednesday’s announcement kicks off a 60-day comment period. Officials hope to issue a final rule this fall.

The plan was developed after a federal judge in California blocked a 2013 rule that gave wind energy companies a 30-year pass to kill bald and golden eagles.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh ruled last August that the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to follow environmental procedural requirements in issuing the 2013 directive. The agency had classified its action as an administrative change from a 2009 rule, excluding it from a full environmental review.

The agency adopted the 30-year rule as a way to encourage the development of wind energy, a key source of renewable power that has nearly tripled in output since 2009. A previous rule allowed wind farms to apply for renewable five-year permits.

Golden and bald eagles are not endangered species but are protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The laws prohibit killing, selling or otherwise harming eagles, their nests or eggs without a permit.

The permits would be reviewed every five years, and companies would have to submit reports of how many eagles they kill.

David Ward, a spokesman for the American Wind Energy Association, said wind power helps conserve eagles by mitigating climate change, a major threat to the birds. “While unintentional take of eagles can occur from wind energy production, it is relatively uncommon and our industry does more than any other to find ways to reduce that small impact,” Ward said.

Michael Hutchins of the American Bird Conservancy said that unless the plan requires better tracking of bird deaths at or near wind turbines it is unlikely to succeed. Hutchins, whose group filed a lawsuit challenging the 2013 eagle plan, said officials must ensure that bird-death reporting is done by independent observers rather than by the industry, which he said treats such data as “trade secrets.”

“Mortality data should be transparent and open to the public,” Hutchins said. The group also is concerned that wind farms are not sited in migratory paths of eagles, he said.

Under the new proposal, companies would pay a $36,000 fee for a long-term permit allowing them to kill or injure eagles. Companies would have to commit to take additional measures if they kill or injure more eagles than estimated, or if new information suggests eagle populations are being affected.

Companies would be charged a $15,000 administrative fee every five years for long-term permits. The fees would cover costs to the Fish and Wildlife Service of conducting five-year evaluations and developing modifications, the agency said.

Administration insists Supreme Court order on clean-power won’t impact Paris agreement

The Obama administration asserted this week that a U.S. Supreme Court order delaying enforcement of its new clean-power rules will ultimately have little impact on meeting the nation’s obligations under the recent Paris climate agreement.

But environmentalists and academic experts are more nervous.

They are concerned that any significant pause in implementing mandated reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants will imperil the credibility of the Unites States to lead on climate change, while increasing worries both at home and abroad that the whole international agreement might unravel if a Republican wins the White House in November.

Nearly 200 countries agreed in December to cut or limit heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the first global treaty to try to limit the worst predicted impacts of climate change. The goal is to limit warming to no more than an additional 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Each nation set its own goals under the treaty, and President Barack Obama committed the United States to make a 26 to 28 percent cut in U.S. emissions by 2030.

The Clean Power Plan is seen as essential to meeting that goal, requiring a one-third reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants over the next 15 years. Even before the Environmental Protection Agency released the plan last year, a long list of mostly Republican states that are economically dependent on coal mining and oil production announced they would sue.

Though the case is still pending before an appeals court in Washington, a 5-4 majority on the Supreme Court issued a surprising order on Feb. 9 barring any enforcement of the plan until the legal challenge is resolved. Whichever side loses at the appeals level is almost certain to petition for review by the high court, almost certainly freezing any significant action on the plan’s goals until after Obama’s term expires in January 2017.

“The court’s stay, although procedural, clearly signals trouble for the clean power plan,” said John Sterman, an MIT professor who created an intricate computer model that simulates the effects of cuts in greenhouse gas emissions on global warming. “Without serious policies to promote efficiency, renewables, and low-carbon energy, there is little chance the U.S. will be able to meet its emissions-reduction pledge, undermining the willingness of many other nations to meet their commitments.”

Obama has staked much of his second term on building a legacy on climate change surpassing that of any of his predecessors. Climate change now joins immigration atop the list of top Obama priorities delayed indefinitely by the courts.

Even if the justices ultimately uphold the Clean Power Plan, GOP leaders in Congress have vowed to wipe the rules away if a Republican wins November’s presidential election. That raises the specter that the U.S., the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, might also withdraw from the Paris treaty.

“President Obama’s credibility on the climate issue was crucial to reaching agreement at Paris,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University professor of geosciences and international affairs. “The entire edifice built at Paris could collapse, much as the Kyoto Protocol was seriously undermined by President George W. Bush’s withdrawal of the U.S. from that agreement.”

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Feb. 10 that leaders in the countries participating in the agreement understand that the rulemaking process in the U.S. is often complicated and litigious. But, in the end, he said this week’s setback from the Supreme Court is just a “temporary, procedural determination.”

Schultz said the U.S. would continue to take aggressive steps to continue to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, citing other regulations it has put in place to reduce emissions from automobiles, airplanes and the oil and gas sector. He said the extensions of solar and wind tax credits in this year’s budget will be critical in helping the U.S. meet its commitments.

“It is our estimation that the inclusion of those tax credits is going to have more impact over the short term than the Clean Power Plan,” Schultz said aboard Air Force One on Feb. 10 as the president was flying to Springfield, Illinois.

White House officials said they expected the courts to move quickly on the case, which will benefit the administration’s efforts.

Compliance with the new emissions rules isn’t required until 2022, but states must submit their detailed plans for meeting the required reductions to the EPA by September or seek an extension.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, whose coal-dependent state is helping lead the lawsuit against Obama’s plan, suggested Feb. 10 that taking any steps to meet the required emissions reductions before the final legal decision would be a waste of time and money.

He said for him, opposition to the emissions limits has “nothing to do with climate change.” Rather, it’s about protecting coal-mining jobs already endangered by competition from plentiful stores of cheap natural gas unleashed by the shale fracking boom.

“This rule represents a radical transformation of American energy policy and will have a sweeping impact on the American way of life,” Morrisey said. “EPA is seeking to transform itself from being an environmental regulator into a central energy-planning authority for the states.”

As the legal logjam over the plan plays out in the courts, however, some environmentalists are putting their hopes in the free market _ that the rapidly falling costs of solar and wind infrastructure will boost investments in clean energy, even in an era of historically cheap fossil fuels.

“The transition to clean, renewable energy is rapidly becoming unstoppable,” former vice president and climate crusader Al Gore said Feb. 10. 

Interior Dept. halts new coal leases

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced on Jan. 15 that the Interior Department will launch a comprehensive review to identify and evaluate potential reforms to the federal coal program to ensure it provides a :fair return to taxpayers and reflect its impacts on the environment, while continuing to help meet our energy needs.”

This means a halt to new coal leases. The Interior Department referred to the halt as a “pause.”

The announcement follows President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, in which he spoke of improving management fossil fuel resources and moving the country toward a clean energy economy.

The review will examine concerns about the federal coal program that have been raised by the Government Accountability Office, the Interior Department’s Inspector General, members of Congress and the public.

The review, according to Jewell, will take a careful look at issues such as how, when, and where to lease; how to account for the environmental and public health impacts of federal coal production; and how to ensure American taxpayers are earning a fair return for the use of their public resources.

“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,” said Jewell in a news release. “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.”

Consistent with the practice during two reviews of the federal coal program that occurred during the 1970s and 1980s, the Interior Department will institute a pause on issuing new coal leases while the review is underway.

The pause does not apply to existing coal production activities.

Also, the department said there “will be limited, commonsense exceptions to the pause, including for metallurgical coal (typically used in steel production), small lease modifications and emergency leasing, including where there is a demonstrated safety need or insufficient reserves.”

In addition, pending leases that have already completed an environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act and received a final Record of Decision or Decision Order by a federal agency will be allowed to complete the final procedural steps to secure a lease.

During and after the pause, companies can continue to mine the large amount of coal reserves already under lease, estimated to be enough to sustain current levels of production from federal land for approximately 20 years.

“Given serious concerns raised about the federal coal program, we’re taking the prudent step to hit pause on approving significant new leases so that decisions about those leases can benefit from the recommendations that come out of the review,” said Jewell. “During this time, companies can continue production activities on the large reserves of recoverable coal they have under lease, and we’ll make accommodations in the event of emergency circumstances to ensure this pause will have no material impact on the nation’s ability to meet its power generation needs. We are undertaking this effort with full consideration of the importance of maintaining reliable and affordable energy for American families and businesses, as well other federal programs and policies.”

The action builds on Jewell’s call last March for an open and honest conversation about modernizing the federal coal program.

Also, the secretary on Jan. 15 said the Interior Department will undertake a series of good government reforms to improve transparency and administration of the federal coal program. These reforms include establishing a publicly available database to account for the carbon emitted from fossil fuels developed on public lands, requiring Bureau of Land Management offices to publicly post online pending requests to lease coal or reduce royalties, and facilitating the capture of waste mine methane.

The full review is expected to take approximately three years.

Reaction to the announcement:

“This measure signifies a key step towards sunsetting a practice that has led to immense environmental destruction, human and health impacts, and is one of the greatest sources of carbon emissions worldwide,” says Amanda Starbuck, climate and energy program director at Rainforest Action Network.

Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said, “The Sierra Club applauds President Obama and Secretary Jewell for their leadership in reforming the federal coal leasing program and putting an immediate stop to all new and modified coal leasing. This program is broken, outdated, and does not consider the threat of climate change in our communities, and thanks to the Obama Administration’s leadership, we can proudly say that big coal’s destructive reach over our public lands is coming to an end.”