What Biden’s coal pause means for the climate

By Benjamin Storrow | 05/17/2024 06:31 AM EDT

The Powder River Basin produces most of the nation’s coal, but whether the administration’s lease freeze helps the climate depends on how long it lasts.

A truck carries 250 tons of coal at Spring Creek mine in Montana.

The Biden administration is proposing to end new coal leases from federal lands in the Powder River Basin. Matthew Brown/AP

When the Obama administration announced a pause on new coal leases in 2016, it created a political firestorm.

Republican lawmakers and governors joined coal companies to call it a new front in the so-called war on coal. Former President Donald Trump quickly axed the moratorium when he took office the next year.

Now, history might be repeating itself.


The Bureau of Land Management on Thursday proposed halting new coal leases in the Powder River Basin, a region of rolling prairie in eastern Montana and Wyoming that is home to 40 percent of U.S. coal production. The political reactions once again came hard and swift.