Press Release

How Best to Assess Federal Coal Leasing

Sep 28, 2016

WASHINGTON—Last January, Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell announced the start of a comprehensive review to evaluate the federal coal leasing program, which had not been subject to such an examination in more than 30 years. The goal of the review is to see if the program is presently structured to provide taxpayer fairness and account for environmental concerns, such as addressing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. It is estimated that the review could take approximately three years.

Today, a team of researchers from Resources for the Future (RFF) posted a new policy brief, “Applying EIA’s National Energy Modeling System to US Coal Projections: Strengths and Weaknesses for BLM’s Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.” The brief examines how the standard model for such assessments—the Energy Information Administration’s (EIA’s) National Energy Modelling System (NEMS)—can be most useful to the review that is being conducted by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Broadly, the RFF research team suggests two conclusions: First, while NEMS is a nuanced and important model for energy and climate research, policymakers should weigh a variety of new and existing scenarios beyond the reference and side cases as well as other model inputs when preparing the programmatic environmental impact statement.

Second, the paper suggests a series of potential scenarios that could likely put further downward pressure on coal-powered electricity generation, which should be considered by policymakers in developing actions. The authors state that, most significantly, if the United States is to achieve its climate commitments, increased policy pressure will likely fall on the electricity sector, thereby reducing coal generation beyond the 2016 NEMS projections.

The authors of the new brief are RFF Senior Fellow Alan Krupnick, Co-Director of the RFF Center for Energy and Climate Economics; Nathan Ratledge, Co-Principle Investigator, RFF Oil and Gas/Public Education Project; and Laura Zachary, Research Assistant, RFF Oil and Gas/Public Education Project.

Read the full policy brief: Applying EIA’s National Energy Modeling System to US Coal Projections: Strengths and Weaknesses for BLM’s Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement.

Resources for the Future does not take institutional positions. Please attribute any findings to the authors or the research itself. For example, use "According to research from RFF …" rather than "According to RFF …".

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Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, DC, that conducts rigorous economic research and analysis to improve environmental and natural resource policy.