BLM Extends Public Comment Period to June 10 on Draft Environmental Assessment for Lifting the Pause on the Issuance of New Federal Coal Leases


Bureau of Land Management

Media Contact:

WASHINGTON – The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a draft environmental assessment (EA) for public comment today, evaluating the potential environmental impacts of lifting the coal pause on federal lands. Federal coal leasing is a critical component to the Nation’s energy security, job creation and proper conservation stewardship.

Publication of the draft EA opens a 15-day public comment period beginning May 22, 2019 and ending June 10, 2019 (updated June 4, 2019).

The BLM has prepared the draft EA in response to the U.S. District Court of Montana’s Order issued on April 19, 2019, regarding Citizens for Clean Energy et al. v. U.S. Department of the Interior et al. The district court ruled that Secretarial Order (SO) 3348, issued under former-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, constituted a major federal action triggering compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), despite the fact that to date no SO has required NEPA analysis. The BLM prepared the draft EA to be responsive to the district court.

Former-Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Zinke’s predecessor, issued Secretarial Order 3338 pausing certain federal land coal leasing decisions in January of 2016. Secretarial Order 3338 was not accompanied by any NEPA analysis – making it legally vulnerable under the district court’s reasoning. This draft EA is the first NEPA analysis to evaluate the application of the pause.

The Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) participated as a cooperating agency in the preparation of the draft EA, evaluating the potential environmental effects of the issues and alternatives identified.

The Lifting the Pause on the Issuance of New Federal Coal Leases for Thermal (Steam) Coal Draft EA (DOI-BLM-WO-WO2100-2019-0001-EA) is available on the BLM’s ePlanning website at:


Despite Congressional direction under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 (MLA)  – “an Act to promote the mining of coal, phosphate, oil, oil shale, gas, and sodium on the public domain” – in January 2016, former Secretary Sally Jewell issued Secretarial Order 3338 pausing the processing of federal coal leases for thermal (steam) coal with several exemptions and exceptions. 

In March 2017, former Secretary Ryan Zinke issued Secretarial Order 3348 (Zinke Order) lifting the pause and implementing President Trump’s Executive Order 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth. The Zinke Order effectively restored the status quo that existed prior to the Jewell Order allowing the Department of the Interior to carry out Congress’s long-standing mandates for coal leasing set forth in the MLA and FLPMA.

How to submit comments:

If you wish to provide a comment, it may be submitted through the BLM’s ePlanning platform under the “Documents” section at the above noted web address. For more information on this project, contact Kathleen Lacko, Project Manager, at (202) 912-7311.

Interested parties may submit comments, by any of the following methods:

·         Mail: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 20 M Street, S.E., Room 4204, Washington, DC 20003, Attention: Kathleen Lacko, WO-320.

·         Personal or messenger delivery: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 20 M Street, S.E., Room 4204, Washington, DC 20003, Attention: Kathleen Lacko, WO-320.

·         Website: The EA is available on the BLM’s ePlanning platform under the “Documents” section at:

Comments, including names and addresses of respondents, may be available for public review upon request. Individual respondents may request confidentiality. If you wish to withhold your name or street address from public review or from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act, you must state this prominently at the beginning of your written comment. Such requests will be honored to the extent allowed by law. All submissions from organizations or businesses, and from individuals identifying themselves as representatives or officials of organizations or businesses, will be made available for inspection in their entirety.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.