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Biden administration proposes drastic land leasing restrictions in largest coal-producing region: 'A monumental step forward'

The announcement comes amid a slew of recent optimistic environmental policies.

The announcement comes amid a slew of recent optimistic environmental policies.

Photo Credit: iStock

The Biden administration has proposed significant future lease restrictions in a major United States coal mining region in an attempt to reduce toxic air pollution.

According to the proposal, coal mines will soon no longer be able to lease from government land reserves in the Powder River Basin area in Wyoming and Montana, reported the Guardian. It's a plan that would ideally result in cleaner air, fewer health risks, and even a likely economic boost

Burning coal for energy has problematic effects on people and the planet, such as polluted air's potential for causing respiratory and heart issues, high costs of maintaining coal plants, heavy metals possibly contaminating the water supply, and workplace hazards for miners. 

The proposal aims to improve human and climate outcomes in the long term and accelerate progress toward renewable energy projects.   

"Coal companies in this region already have decades of coal locked up under leases, and it's hard to imagine they'll find buyers that far into the future given the competition from more affordable energy sources," Mark Fix, a Southeast Montana rancher and member of the Northern Plains Resource Council conservation group, told the Guardian.

However, what Fix called a "commonsense plan" was not met without pushback. Congressional Republicans protested the measure's potential impact on jobs, but many mines have closed over time because of operational progress and market competition regardless of rules. 

"Productivity gains led to fewer workers needed," Charles D. Kolstad wrote in a brief published by the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. "Environmental regulations did not kill coal."

The Washington Post called the Biden administration's proposal their "most ambitious effort yet" in addressing power-industry pollution. The announcement comes amid a slew of recent optimistic environmental policies — from investments in clean fuel hubs and climate-friendly transportation research to protections against lead in drinking water and oil drilling on Alaskan land.

Shifting from coal power can actually help businesses long-term. Besides the associated job creation and cost reductions, there are significant tax breaks and incentives available for pursuing renewable energy projects.

The proposal won't be final until the end of a required 30-day protest period. For now, Dream.org summed up the good news in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, that read, 

"A monumental step forward for climate action! Ending coal leasing in the Powder River Basin marks a significant stride toward reducing carbon emissions and protecting our planet's future."

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