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Zinke lifts coal lease moratorium; Trump to decide on Paris climate deal in May

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Zinke lifts coal lease moratorium; Trump to decide on Paris climate deal in May

Zinke lifts coal lease moratorium, announces new review committee for royalties

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced March 29 that the moratorium on new federal coal leases has been lifted and a committee has been created to advise him on the value taxpayers get from resources on public land.

"All of us as taxpayers and citizens have a stake in making sure that we get value from our resources," he said on a press call, adding that the board would consist of 28 local, state, tribal and other stakeholders who would not have financial interests or business with the U.S. Department of the Interior. One focus of the Royalty Policy Committee will be ensuring that royalty and rent collection for public lands is transparent, rather than arbitrary, he said. The committee will be terminated after two years unless it is renewed through review.

Spicer: Trump to decide on Paris climate deal by late May

President Donald Trump could decide by late May whether the U.S. will honor, cancel or alter its commitments under the Paris climate deal.

The Trump administration is reviewing the global agreement and expects "to have a decision by the time of the G7 Summit [in] late May-ish, if not sooner," press secretary Sean Spicer said during the daily White House press briefing March 30. The G7 summit, which will take place May 26-27 in Taormina, Italy, brings together the heads of several major industrialized countries for high-level policy and economic talks.

Report: Trump climate order guarantees US will not meet Paris commitments

Trump's plan to reverse the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan and other climate policies will prevent the U.S. from satisfying its commitments to the Paris climate deal, according to a new study.

Trump released an executive order March 28 that directed the EPA to review its Clean Power Plan and suspend, revise or rescind the rule. The regulation required each state to meet specific emissions rate limits, which the EPA estimated would cut power-sector carbon output by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030.

The executive order will cause total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions to hold steady between 2015 and 2030, stabilizing at about 14% below 2005 levels, the study said. That would leave the U.S. "pretty far" from its commitment to cut emissions 26% to 28% by 2025 as part of the Paris global climate deal.

Interior announces repeal to federal energy valuation rule

The Interior Department announced a proposal to repeal recent amendments to a federal energy valuation rule.

The agency announced April 3 a proposal to repeal the entirety of the Consolidated Federal Oil & Gas and Federal & Indian Coal Valuation Reform Rule and requested comments on whether revisions to the pre-existing regulations that governed royalty values are appropriate or needed.

"The repeal would provide certainty and clarity to the regulated community by continuing to require compliance with lawful, longstanding, and well-known procedures," an Interior release said.

US House passes bills to reform EPA scientific process

Responding to criticism of the EPA's rules on climate change and other issues, the GOP-controlled U.S. House of Representatives approved two bills that seek to make the agency's scientific process more transparent and allow more industry participation on its independent review board.

Dubbed the Honest and Open New EPA Science Treatment Act of 2017, H.R. 1430 passed the House along party lines by 228-194 on March 29. The HONEST act aims to give "independent scientists a fair chance to validate the studies EPA uses to make new regulations," according to a release from the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, where the legislation originated.

On March 30, the House also passed H.R. 1431, or the EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2017, by 229-193. That bill would require at least 10% of the members on the EPA's independent scientific advisory board to come from state, local or tribal governments. The bill also would allow individuals to join the board even if they are affiliated with entities, including companies, that are affected by EPA action, so long as those ties are fully disclosed to the EPA and the public.

Wyo. lawmaker introduces bill that would ban coal lease moratoriums

Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., introduced a bill that would require a joint resolution of approval from the U.S. Congress to implement a federal coal lease moratorium.

"Yesterday, I introduced legislation to make sure that no future moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands can be imposed without congressional approval. Wyoming coal is a national treasure. Our fossil fuel industry provides power, jobs and economic growth in Wyoming and all across the country," Cheney said in a March 30 release.

Sierra Club: Trump can't undo progress on transition from coal to clean energy

The Sierra Club and other opponents of the coal industry are digging in for a fight to protect the Clean Power Plan from President Donald Trump, even though emissions are expected to hit the policy's targets more than a decade early.

"We're going to be spending a lot of time and effort fighting his efforts in the courts and on the streets going forward," Bruce Nilles, senior director of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, said. "This is not just one thing. He's got a bunch he's proposing to do. He has failed on enacting a Muslim ban. He's failed on stripping health care from 24 million Americans and he's going to fail on slowing the U.S. transition from coal to clean energy."

DOI report finds inadequate oversight of coal mine cleanup funds

The federal agency in charge of cleaning up former coal mining sites has failed to ensure that states are properly using grant money intended for reclamation projects, a federal evaluation determined.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement allowed states to divert the funds to other projects, according to a March 30 report from the Interior Department, and used an ineffective database that is unable to provide a comprehensive picture of the hazards those states face from abandoned mine lands.