April 5, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 5, 2023 – Senator Katie Britt (R-Ala.) last week in a hearing of the Senate Committee on Appropriations’ Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, questioned Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, regarding the Biden Administration’s red tape regulatory regime that continues to strangle economic activity across the country.

As Senator Britt noted in her line of questioning, Alabama’s Warrior Met Coal has applied to develop 24 million tons of metallurgical coal on federal lands adjacent to its current operations in Tuscaloosa County. However, their application has remained untouched by the Biden Administration since May 2022.

Mining coal underground on federal land results in an 8% royalty payment to the federal government, which is projected to amount to more than $500 million in currently untapped federal proceeds in this case. Some of that total would be returned to the State of Alabama for use. The beneficiaries would also include millions in state severance taxes and more than $100 million in economic benefit to the Port of Mobile.

Met coal is a key component in producing steel, which in turn is utilized for critical infrastructure and manufacturing. Additionally, Senator Britt outlined that the main global competitor to American met coal is Chinese met coal, which is not mined with the same environmental standards and economically fuels our nation’s top geopolitical adversary and national security threat.

A video of Senator Britt’s line of questioning can be viewed here.

A transcript follows:

Britt: Thank you Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member. Madam Secretary, thank you for being here today and testifying before this committee. Our nation’s public lands are an amazing resource and we have a responsibility to manage them effectively. Effective stewardship, however, does not mean simply closing them off from all humanity.

Stewardship of our public lands includes finding appropriate economic development to sustain local businesses and our national economy. Warrior Met Coal is one of our U.S. companies trying to work with the federal government to be a good steward of our public lands. Warrior Met Coal is an important economic driver in the State of Alabama. They employ 1,000 people and are the largest customer of our Port of Mobile.

The company focuses on mining met coal. And, as you know, met coal is a specific type of coal needed to make specialty steel used for roads, bridges, automobiles, renewable energy components, and a wide array of other critical uses.

The Department currently has a moratorium on the mining of thermal coal, which is used for energy production. However, we know that met coal is not the same as thermal coal, and the Department of Justice has stated that met coal is not subject to the reinstatement of the federal coal moratorium.

Warrior Met Coal has had an application with the Department of Interior to develop 24 million tons of met coal on federal lands right next to their current operations in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama. Warrior Met developed their application in cooperation with the Department – a process they started in 2009 and then restarted in 2014.

They have jumped through every hoop that the Department has asked because they are good stewards of our public lands. Frustratingly, it has been nearly a year since they have received a substantial update from the Department.

We believe that enough is enough. We find the lack of transparency and communication entirely unacceptable, as do many Alabamians negatively impacted by this bureaucratic stonewall. The only feedback the company has heard is, “The environmental analysis for this application is currently under technical and legal review.”

Madam Secretary, how long do you think a complete application should take to review? It would seem to me that this is something that you could commit to finishing in weeks and not months.

Haaland: Thank you very much for the question, Senator. And I know that these things can be frustrating sometimes. What I’ll say, that the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) has made me aware of the importance of this project to you and the state.

And I understand that it’s under review and ongoing now. An important part of BLM’s review is ensuring that it’s consistent with any and all court decisions, recent court decisions, and so I know that they were working through all of those issues, as well.

We are more than happy to make sure that you get – that you get updated, that we get in touch with your staff and updated you on the status of this project. I wish there was more that I could report now, but as soon as we can get a firm update, we’re happy to get back in touch with you. I know that’s not what you want to hear, but we’ll do our best.

Britt: Madam Secretary, I appreciate it. And what I hear from you is a commitment to keep me updated on this. I’d love to have your senior staff come over and brief me on any problems with the application

We have a lot of jobs and people who are working to achieve the American Dream. And all of that is hanging in the balance on this decision. And we want to be good stewards of the land. We want to make this work in a way that works for the Department.

We are doing our part, we need y’all to do yours. So, will you commit to me that you will send senior staff over to brief me on any type of impediments that we’re having, so that we can find a way to work through those and get this back on track?

Haaland: One of my staff will be in touch with your staff very soon, and we’ll figure out a time and day that suits you.

Britt: Thank you, I very much appreciate that.

Haaland: Thank you, ma’am.

Britt: Completing that application would mean a great deal, not only to the hardworking men and women at Warrior Met, but obviously to the community, and the Port of Mobile, and our state. So, I appreciate that.

Also, I want to make sure that everyone understands that the status quo just keeps the Chinese Communist Party in control. They produce the same kind of coal, obviously without the environmental standards that we have in the U.S.  So, I think approving this lease would elevate our economy, keep production of this critical met coal in the U.S., and provide a cleaner solution than what they are doing there in China.

I believe it is a win for everyone. So, I look forward to meeting with your staff and figuring out how we can cut through the red tape.