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Posted September 08, 2018 11:13:52 The Trump administration needs to be transparent about its coal mining lease policies, according to the head of a group representing Alaska’s coal miners.
In a letter obtained by The Associated Press, John Ritter, president of the Alaska Coal Mining Association, said the administration’s proposed leases have the potential to put the state at risk of losing millions of dollars in federal royalties.
The leases could be challenged in court, and it’s unclear if the administration plans to cancel them or not.
Alaska has a $15 billion royalty payment to the federal government for coal mining and other minerals, and many mining companies are now trying to use the leases to negotiate lower royalty payments and negotiate more favorable terms.
“These leases are not just about economic development; they are also about ensuring our national security,” Ritter wrote in the letter.
“If the Trump Administration were to withdraw these leases, the economic consequences would be disastrous.”
The administration has previously said it will not issue the leases.
Trump has repeatedly claimed the leasing program benefits the state.
But the leases, which were originally awarded to a partnership between Alaska’s state government and a private company in 2016, are part of a broader effort by the Trump White House to roll back environmental protections and protect energy companies from environmental regulations, such as methane emissions and pollution from power plants.
Trump’s nominee for Interior Secretary, former Utah Gov.
Mike Leavitt, has said the leases should be rescinded.
“The president-elect’s transition team has already begun to explore opportunities to terminate these leases,” Leaviss wrote in a letter to the Interior Department.
“In this effort, the president-election team has been supportive of the mining lease program and our efforts to protect public health and the environment.”
Leavitte’s letter was signed by Leavitz, a senior adviser to Trump, and Zinke, the incoming Interior secretary.
Trump nominated Leavits vice president for energy, coal and mining, but Zinke has yet to take office.
Trump, however, did sign an executive order that would rescind the coal leasing program and to remove the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from the leases’ regulatory authority.
The Trump transition team said in a statement that it has not decided whether to end the coal leases or to issue new ones.
In the letter, Ritter said the Trump-appointed Interior Secretary Zinke should withdraw the order and work with the Trump transition to establish a new administration-approved leasing program.