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Federal government putting profits over health of state residents
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit in federal court yesterday that seeks to protect state residents from dangerous pollution that results from coal mining. The lawsuit challenges the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) decision to restart federal coal leasing on public land while, at the same time, cutting short an ongoing, and long overdue, environmental review of the program.
Coal mined on public lands is transported by train through California and exported from ports in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Richmond and Stockton — areas next to several vulnerable communities. The transport of coal in open-top rail cars, as well as its storage and handling at export terminals, emits dangerous pollution. These emissions can result in a wide variety of serious health problems, including asthma, bronchitis, cardio-vascular diseases and cancer.
“President Trump is skirting the law and threatening the health of Californians. We should protect the air we breathe and the water we drink, not disregard the environment for the sake of profits,” said Attorney General Becerra. “The Administration is needlessly endangering lives. We will continue to fight the federal government’s misguided policies that threaten our air and water and the health of Californians.”
The Attorneys General of New Mexico, New York and Washington joined Attorney General Becerra in filing the lawsuit.
The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requires that DOI considers the coal leasing program’s climate change and environmental justice impacts. In addition, the Mineral Leasing Act and other laws require that DOI receive fair market value for coal leases, a standard that DOI’s outdated management structure has failed to achieve.
In January 2016, then-Secretary Jewell issued an order to commence a new environmental review and imposed a moratorium on most new leasing activity until that review was complete. However, on March 28, President Donald Trump issued an executive order directing Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to amend or withdraw the moratorium. The following day, Secretary Zinke issued an order that restarted the federal coal leasing program and terminated the ongoing NEPA process.
Attorney General Becerra has been fighting to protect California’s environment by challenging the federal rollback of pollution standards for motor vehicles, defending the historic Clean Power Plan abandoned by the Trump Administration and intervening in a lawsuit to uphold energy efficiency standards, among other actions.
A copy of the lawsuit is attached to the electronic version of this release at oag.ca.gov/news.