Appeals court tosses Obama-era federal coal leasing moratorium

U.S. coal exports

A federal appeals court on Wednesday axed an Obama-era moratorium on new coal mine leasing on public lands.

It did so by overturning a ruling from 2022 that revived the Obama-era freeze on auctioning off federally owned lands for coal mining.

In 2022, a lower court ruled that in ending the coal leasing pause, the Trump administration had not completed an adequate environmental impact study, and that the pause should therefore be reinstated.

But, this week, a panel of appellate judges vacated that ruling, deciding that the case was now moot.

They said the case was moot because Biden administration Interior Secretary Deb Haaland had revoked the order by Trump-era secretary Ryan Zinke that ended the moratorium.

Judges Ronald Gould, Jay Bybee and Daniel Bress told the lower court to dismiss the challenge to the Trump policy that was brought by environmental advocates, saying that their grievances are no longer the result of Zinke’s order.

“While appellees may be dissatisfied with the government’s position that the Haaland Order did not revive the … moratorium, this does not provide a basis for concluding that a challenge to the defunct Zinke Order is live,” wrote the Clinton, Bush and Trump appointees.

In 2021, Haaland rescinded the Zinke order, but stopped short of reimposing the Obama administration’s freeze. The department said at the time that it would instead continue to review a path forward on coal.

An Interior Department spokesperson declined to comment when asked by The Hill whether the Biden administration planned to hold coal lease sales in light of the ruling.

A coal and mining lobbying group cheered the court ruling.

“This is a victory for American-mined energy,” said Rich Nolan, president and CEO of the National Mining Association, in a written statement.

“With this ruling, important projects can once again advance and support the production of affordable, reliable power to the grid,” Nolan said.

In 2016, then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell halted new coal leasing on public lands while the department sought to study whether fees charged to mining companies properly accounted for the climate impacts of burning coal.

In light of the ruling, tribal and environmental leaders who sued in an effort to get the coal leasing pause reinstated called on the Biden administration to take action.

“Now that the court has ruled that the Trump administration decision to restart coal leasing was revoked, we need the Biden administration to step up and live up to its promises to protect our climate, conduct a long overdue review of the federal coal leasing program, and make thoughtful plans for the future of public lands,” said Northern Cheyenne Tribal Administrator William Walksalong in a written statement.

Source: The Hill

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Stuart Turley is President and CEO of Sandstone Group, a top energy data, and finance consultancy working with companies all throughout the energy value chain. Sandstone helps both small and large-cap energy companies to develop customized applications and manage data workflows/integration throughout the entire business. With experience implementing enterprise networks, supercomputers, and cellular tower solutions, Sandstone has become a trusted source and advisor.   He is also the Executive Publisher of, the best source for 24/7 energy news coverage, and is the Co-Host of the energy news video and Podcast Energy News Beat. Energy should be used to elevate humanity out of poverty. Let's use all forms of energy with the least impact on the environment while being sustainable without printing money. Stu is also a co-host on the 3 Podcasters Walk into A Bar podcast with David Blackmon, and Rey Trevino. Stuart is guided by over 30 years of business management experience, having successfully built and help sell multiple small and medium businesses while consulting for numerous Fortune 500 companies. He holds a B.A in Business Administration from Oklahoma State and an MBA from Oklahoma City University.