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Republicans call coal-leasing review 'prejudiced' and 'compromised'

U.S.Republican senators are demanding that Interior Secretary Sally Jewell end themoratorium and government review process on the federal coal-leasing program,calling the process "compromised" and "prejudiced."

RepublicanSens. John Barrasso, Wyo.; Roy Blunt, Mo.; Shelley Moore Capito, W.Va.; SteveDaines, Mont.; Michael Enzi, Wyo.; Cory Gardner, Colo.; Orrin Hatch, Utah; JohnHoeven, N.D.; and Mike Lee, Utah, sent a letter to Jewell dated July 14 thatsays a reportpublished by President Barack Obama's Council of Economic Advisors on June 22 set out to answerquestions being addressed by the ongoing U.S. Bureau of Land Management review.

"Indoing so, the Executive Office of the President has compromised the integrityand prejudiced the outcome of BLM's review process in violation of the [National EnvironmentalPolicy Act]," the letter said. "We, therefore, ask that you suspendBLM's reviewprocess and associated moratorium on new coal leases for the remainder of theadministration."

Tom Sanzillo, the director offinance at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, whosestated mission is to reduce dependence on coal and other nonrenewable energyresources, said that the lawmakers are "stalling the inevitable."

"Callingoff the moratorium will not stop natural gas and renewable energy from makingmarket inroads. Those energy sources are cheaper, more abundant and morereliable than coal. Stalling will only make it less likely that the coalindustry will ever adopt a viable financial strategy for itself," he toldS&P Global Market Intelligence.

He said the moratorium canonly do good as the coal industry is "financially bankrupt and its leadership does not havea sound business strategy to bring it back."

"Itis doing for the coal industry what the coal industry cannot do for itself,discipline supply in an oversupplied market," he continued.

Thefederal coal leasing program has faced a number of challenges, particularly sincethe White House invoked a moratoriumon leasing coal on federal land.

Barrassohas been particularly vocal against the moratorium, requesting at one pointthat Jewell admit theaction was part of a larger effort to kill coal entirely.