Interior Secretary: Ending War on Coal Necessary for Environmental Reasons, Jobs, National Security

By Melanie Arter | April 3, 2017 | 9:26pm EDT
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke (AP Photo)

( - Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Monday at the White House that ending the war on coal was important for environmental reasons, jobs and national security.

Zinke said he signed directives on his first day in office to expand public access to public lands - “important if you’re in the west, especially in the far west as Montana is.”


“We made sure we increased opportunities for traditional hunting, fishing, and conservation efforts, and we’ve invested millions across 12 states on preserving our conservation efforts there,” the Interior secretary said.

“On energy, much of last week was held on energy. We held one of our most successful leases - 122,000 acres for wind development on federal lands off Kittyhawk, North Carolina,” Zinke said.

“We also stopped the war on coal by continuing a coal leasing program and established an oversight committee to review and analyze across the board rents, royalties on our federal lands with the objective of number one, being transparent, number two, being Reagan - trust but verify, and number three, making sure that taxpayers that own the public lands are getting fair value, he added.

Zinke was at the White House to accept a check from the president that represented his first quarter earnings, which the president donated to the National Park Service.

“For those that don’t know me, I get my inspiration from Teddy Roosevelt, and the motto now in the Department of the Interior if you got to Yellowstone and have the opportunity to look at the Roosevelt Arch, inscribed in for the benefit and enjoyment of the people, and that’s our pledge.

When asked whether ending the war on coal runs contrary to what former President Theodore Roosevelt would have wanted, Zinke said, “Three things. One is environmentally, it’s better to produce energy here under reasonable regulation than watch it get produced overseas with none. Secondly, jobs matter. There’s a social cost of not having a job. In some of our communities, coal, mining, forestry are the only job,” Zinke said.

And third, Zinke said, it’s about national security. “It is better to make sure we’re not held hostage on our energy needs in this country, and like you, I don’t want my kids, sons, and daughters to have to fight for war over energy resources we have here, so national security is critical in our energy picture,” he said.

“The world is safer when America is stronger, and America is strongest not being dependent on foreign sources for energy. We can do it here right, and we will,” Zinke added.

“I’m the steward, and certainly, we’re not going to sell or transfer public land, and I don’t pick winners and losers, so coal isn’t getting any more of a better deal than anything else. … I want to make sure that what we do is cost effective, and it produces reliable, abundant, and affordable energy,” he said.

When asked if would return the land to its original pristine condition, Zinke said during his time as a Boy Scout, he was taught “that when you leave a campground, you leave it in the same or better condition you found it, and that’s why we’re looking at royalties and make sure we have a reclamation program that makes sense.”

“All of us want clean air, clean water, and I’m concerned as well as you are to make sure what we’re doing is in the best interest of the public in perpetuity,” he added.

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