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Interior Secretary Zinke: 'The War On Coal Is Over'

Ryan Zinke.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Wednesday signed an order to rollback the Obama-era moratorium on new coal leases on federal land.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke Wednesday signed orders implementing measures President Trump wants to take to roll back restrictions on fossil fuel production.

The 14-month old Obama-era moratorium on new coal leases on federal land ended Wednesday with the stroke of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s pen.

While Zinke doesn’t suggest that cures everything ailing the coal industry:

“It’s certainly a signal that the war on coal is over,” he said.

Zinke, Montana’s former congressman, also initiated a two-year review of the fees companies pay to produce fossil and renewable fuels on federal land.

He also ordered every agency under Interior’s umbrella to review policies with an eye toward increasing the nation’s energy independence:

"The President has made it clear that regulatory policies that had been targeted at coal – those are over," Zinke said.

During a telephone press conference on Wednesday Zinke told reporters there is a social cost to not supporting coal:

"In my home state of Montana, the great Crow nation is one of those areas. I’ll give a quote by Chairman Old Coyote: ‘A war on coal is a war on the Crow people. There’s no other jobs like coal jobs.'"

Federal data show U.S. coal mines have lost jobs for decades due in part to automation and competition from natural gas.

Southeastern Montana rancher Art Hayes says Zinke and the Trump administration are shortsightedly ignoring the side effects of coal:

"Water coming from those coal mines being discharged into the Tongue River and other rivers is highly toxic," Hayes says. "One of the social costs they don’t figure in is what it costs those water users who depend on that clean water for irrigation."

Hayes supports a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the environmental group Earthjustice challenging the Trump administration’s executive order eliminating many restrictions on fossil fuel production.

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