A federal court has reimposed an Obama-era freeze on coal leasing from federal lands that former President Donald Trump axed in a bid to unlock domestic energy production, although the judge left the door open to resuming the coal leases should a more extensive environmental review be done.
"The Court determines that such a limited analysis fails to consider 'all direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts' of re-starting the federal coal-leasing program," Morris wrote in the ruling.
The judge said the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) tried to curtail the potential environmental effects of coal leases in its National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review, calling the bureau's decision "arbitrary and capricious."
Morris also objected to BLM evaluating only four approved leases under the program, calling it "insufficient."
In the ruling, the judge said the program would be put on hold "until the completion of sufficient NEPA review analyzing revocation of the moratorium."
Officials at BLM, an agency within the Department of the Interior, didn't respond by press time to a request by The Epoch Times for comment.
Interior Department spokesperson Melissa Schwartz told The Associated Press that officials are reviewing the ruling.
'End to the War on Coal'In January 2016, in a decision known as the Jewell Order, the Department of the Interior put a temporary freeze on leasing federal land for the purpose of mining coal, in part over concerns about climate change.
Announcing that “my administration is putting an end to the war on coal,” Trump said at the time that, “with today’s executive action, I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations.”
'Significant Victory' Versus 'Deeply Troubling'National Mining Association President Rich Nolan said in a statement that the industry group would appeal the ruling, citing the imperative of energy supplies that are cheap and secure.
“This is a deeply disappointing decision with energy-driven inflation, energy affordability, and energy security top concerns for Americans,” he said.
“Denying access to affordable, secure energy during an energy affordability crisis is deeply troubling,” he continued, adding that "Americans need the energy affordability and energy security buttressed by coal production on federal lands."
In 2017 and 2018, the most recent years of available data, the U.S. government sold leases for 134 million tons of coal on public land in six states, according to Interior Department figures.
Environmental groups hailed the court's decision and called on the Biden administration to go further and terminate existing coal leases.
“While this ruling reinstates the moratorium on new coal leasing on public lands, the Biden administration must go further by urgently phasing out the existing coal leases that are destroying our planet."