A coal mine operation in Wyoming.

A coal mine operation in Wyoming.

Katie Campbell, KCTS9/EarthFix

Washington has joined three other states to sue the Trump administration over coal leasing on public lands.  

The Obama administration blocked the sale of new coal mining leases in 2016. That was to study coal mining’s environmental impact and to review the royalties mining companies pay the US government. Those haven’t changed for forty years.  Then, in March, the Trump administration lifted the ban on selling coal mining leases.  

It was one of several elements in an executive order Trump signed, rolling back his predecessor’s climate policies.

Trump signed the order during a photo op with a group of coal miners. The president said the changes signal a “new energy revolution that celebrates American production on American soil.”

Washington, California, New Mexico, and New York responded this week, filing a federal lawsuit to halt coal leasing till an environmental impact statement can be completed. The Northern Cheyenne Tribe of Montana has filed a similar lawsuit.

A statement from the Washington Attorney General’s Office says coal from Montana and Wyoming would be shipped across Washington and the Pacific Northwest would suffer from the effects of climate change.

“Taxpayers deserve to have their natural resources managed responsibly,” Attorney General Robert Ferguson said in the statement. “Responsible stewardship requires an understanding of the costs and benefits of extraction, which just months ago these same agencies admitted they simply don’t have. That’s unacceptable.”