DOI Issues Orders to Terminate Coal Leasing Moratorium and Environmental Review, Reconsider Climate Change Policies and Guidance

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke signed two secretarial orders aimed at implementing President Trump’s Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.

Secretarial Order 3348 revokes Secretarial Order 3338, thus terminating the moratorium on federal coal leasing as well as the programmatic environmental review of the federal coal leasing program. The order states that “the public interest is not served by halting the federal coal program for an extended time, nor is a PEIS required to consider potential improvements to the program.”

Secretarial Order 3349 implements the Executive Order’s directive to “immediately review existing regulations that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources and appropriately suspend, revise, or rescind those that unduly burden the development of domestic energy resources beyond the degree necessary to protect the public interest or otherwise comply with the law.” It calls for a reexamination of the mitigation and climate change policies and guidance that the Department of Interior issued during the Obama administration, as well as all regulations related to U.S. oil and natural gas development. Specifically, Order 3349 provides that:

  • BLM will proceed expeditiously with a proposed rule to rescind the final rule entitled “Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands,” 80 FR 16128 (March 26, 2015).
  • The National Park Service will review the final rule entitled “General Provisions and Non-Federal Oil and Gas Rights,” 81 FR 77972 (November 4, 2016);
  • The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will review the final rule entitled “Management of Non Federal Oil and Gas Rights,” 81 FR 79948 (November 14, 2016); and
  • The BLM will review the final rule entitled “Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation,” 81 FR 83008 (November 18, 2016).

In addition, Secretary Zinke also signed a charter establishing a Royalty Policy Committee to provide advice on the fair market value of federal coal and other energy resources on federal lands.

A press release announcing these actions is available here.

Immediately after the orders were issued, a coalition of environmental groups and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe filed a lawsuitchallenging the Department’s decision to reverse course and lift the moratorium without having completed the programmatic environmental review.