Obama to Freeze New Coal Mines on Public Land

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Paul Knez, left, of Craig, CO shows his support during the Enough Already Rally for Affordable Energy and Rural Communities at the State Capitol Building in Denver, CO October 30, 2013. Knez said he drives a coal haul truck at the Trapper Mine in Craig and he is concerned for his community, "Craig, Colorado is for coal mining and hunting, Hickenlooper is going after both of them, without that Craig would be a ghost town." The rally drew attention to  concerns regarding new Environmental Protection Agency regulations and their impact on workers, communities and energy producers.†The event drew representatives from the Independence Institute, Colorado Mining Association, Arch Coal, Cloud Peak Energy, Utah Mining Association, Wyoming Rural Electric Cooperatives, Peabody Energy, Wyoming Policy Institute and Wyoming Mining Association. (Photo By Craig F. Walker / The Denver Post)
Photo: Craig F. Walker/The Denver Post

In his latest effort to secure his legacy as having actually done something about climate change, on Friday, President Obama will order the federal government to cease issuing new leases for coal mining on public land, an administration official tells the New York Times.

Mining companies will still be allowed to exploit coal reserves that they have already leased, which the Times reports is enough to sustain current levels of production for 20 years, but the industry is facing hard times anyway. Demand for coal has declined precipitously in recent years as the world’s largest consumer, China, has refocused its energy policy on renewables.

The move makes good on Obama’s State of the Union pledge “to push to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources,” and is part of a series of executive actions he has undertaken to address climate change in the sunset of his presidency.

Last August, the administration released the final version of its Clean Power Plan, an ambitious set of regulations requiring U.S. power plants to drastically reduce their carbon emissions. Obama then capped off his 2015 by shepherding a landmark global agreement on climate-change mitigation, signed in Paris by 195 countries.