In her role as ranking member, Sen. Cantwell has led the congressional debate and efforts to modernize federal coal policies. She understands the importance of balancing the country’s energy production with protecting the environment and wants to hold coal companies accountable for environmental cleanup required under federal law. Sen. Cantwell has called for ensuring taxpayers get a fair return on federal coal leases, reducing carbon pollution and ending the practice of self-bonding. In addition, she has supported accelerating coal reclamation work nationwide, protecting coal miners’ pension and health care funds, and providing economic assistance to coal country to diversify, transition and rebuild.
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Federal Coal Leasing
“In the letter, the senators commend Secretary Jewell for her efforts to modernize the federal coal program, while ensuring that the pause on new leasing will not disrupt the power sector today. They note that stewardship cannot take place on autopilot, and provide three imperatives that should guide the reform process:
(1) Get the science right.
(2) Reconsider the government’s market role.
(3) Reconsider how to balance multiple uses over time."
"The Interior Department needs to be more aggressive in reforming the outdated federal coal program. Taxpayers deserve a fair return on the sale of resources that they own, but the current program is broken,” said Sen. Cantwell.
“With 40 percent of coal coming off federal lands, it's extremely important that taxpayers aren’t shortchanged by coal companies who mine on federal lands. For too long, coal companies have gotten away without paying their fair share,” Sen. Cantwell said. “The law says it’s their job at Interior to review royalty rates and leasing policy.”
January 12, 2016
Cantwell Statement on State of the Union Speech
“I am pleased the president noted the need to recalculate the true costs of federal coal and ensure that the American taxpayer gets proper value for this resource,” said Sen. Cantwell. “I’ve urged the administration to reform the outdated, unbalanced, coal leasing program, and I’ll work with them to address the fact that coal off of federal lands is a sweetheart deal and a taxpayer rip-off. We must better account for carbon pollution here at home.”
“We must be much more aggressive in reforming the outdated federal coal program. Taxpayers deserve a fair return on the sale of resources that they own, but the current program is broken,” Sen. Cantwell said. “The Interior Department must eliminate loopholes and better account for carbon pollution.”
“The American public should demand a full return on the federal resources that belong to them. Reforming this outdated, unbalanced program is increasingly necessary from a budget perspective, because taxpayers should not be subsidizing coal companies,” Sen. Cantwell said.
“Secretary Jewell is taking an important step in proposing reforms on how coal royalties are collected on federal resources, but I am concerned that the discussion ends there,” Sen. Cantwell said. “You can typically lease a ton of federal coal for $1 or less. Then, years later, we have to deal with almost two tons of carbon dioxide from that one ton of coal. And the government’s current best guess is that two tons of carbon pollution will cost the American public more than $70 in damages. Our fossil fuel leasing laws were passed long ago before we knew how bad these impacts were. I intend to follow up on this issue."
“We need to make sure the taxpayer isn’t on the hook for cleanup work by bankrupt coal companies anymore. Self-bonding clearly isn’t working, and we need to stop this dicey practice from continuing. Several states have come to their senses about the risks of this practice, so the federal government should be next. We’ve already taken the step to abandon self-bonding for hardrock mining, so coal mining is a natural next step." –Sen. Cantwell
“These self-bonds are a significant financial liability to state and federal taxpayers. Self-bonding firms are especially exposed to market downturns. Furthermore, self-bonding places an inappropriate burden on natural resource regulators, requiring financial analysis that generally lies outside their core competency.” –Sen. Cantwell
“Sen. Cantwell and Sen. Durbin requested a two-part investigation from GAO on self-bonding by coal companies:
• A comparison of authorizations to self-bond and related practices across federal programs that govern resource extraction and
• A performance audit of self-bonding under SMCRA.”
With several large coal companies filing for bankruptcy, it is increasingly likely that companies will be unable to cover their reclamation costs and shift their risks to the taxpayers. Sen. Cantwell reminded Secretary Jewell: “I don’t think there’s anything in federal statutes that mandates that the federal government lease a certain amount of coal off the federal lands.”
October 27, 2015
Cantwell: ‘You Can’t Just Pollute the Environment and Run'
“We need to understand that you can’t just pollute the environment and run. It’s the ultimate test of fairness in the minds of many of my constituents: that we make sure that polluters pay for environmental damages,” Sen. Cantwell stated.
“In my view, without the Stream Protection Rule, we’d allow the coal industry to continue with business as usual. Given these facts, Interior has an obligation to modernize its SMCRA rules,” Sen. Cantwell said.