Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, January 15, 2016

Contact: Randi Spivak, (310) 779-4894,

Obama to Pause New Federal Coal Leases

‘Keep It in the Ground’ Movement Gains Momentum

WASHINGTON— The Obama administration today is announcing plans to halt new coal leases on public lands in the United States as it reexamines how the nationwide leasing program for coal is carried out.

“Coal has been a massive culprit in the climate crisis, so this is big news that the United States may finally be pulling back,” said Randi Spivak, public lands director for the Center for Biological Diversity. “But it can’t end here. We need a permanent ban on new coal leases on public lands and the same for oil and gas. These fossil fuels are dangerous for our climate, and we need to keep them in the ground.”

The Obama administration’s move will provide a temporary reprieve from pollution from coal that comes from federal land. The review of the coal program will include royalties that are paid to the federal government for extracted coal.

“This is a very big move by President Obama,” Spivak said. “Stemming the tide of the climate change crisis requires big, bold and courageous steps — and that should include ending coal extraction on public land. This ban needs to extend to oil and fracked gas for all federal fossil fuels to speed the transition to renewable energy.”

A study commissioned by the Center for Biological Diversity and Friends of the Earth last year found that banning new fossil fuel leases on public lands and oceans would keep up to 450 billion tons of carbon pollution from reaching the atmosphere — the pollution equivalent of about 118,000 coal-fired power plants.

The analysis showed that the potential carbon pollution from any new federal fossil fuel leases would be incompatible with the United States' ability to meet its global obligations to avert the worst effects of the climate crisis.

“Every ton of coal, every drop of oil that comes out of our public lands will be burned and worsen climate change — setting the stage for more heat waves, freak storms, rising seas and droughts,” Spivak said. “The Obama administration is moving in the right direction with this coal decision but we’ll need more action and soon.”

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 990,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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