Obama administration will announce halt on new coal leases

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By KEVIN FREKING
Associated Press
    
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Obama administration will announce a moratorium Friday on any major new coal leases on federal lands until it completes a comprehensive review of whether the fees charged to mining companies provide a fair return to taxpayers.
    
An administration official says companies will continue to mine the large amount of coal reserves already under lease. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the moratorium in advance of the announcement.
    
President Barack Obama said during the State of the Union address that he would push to change the way the federal government manages its oil and coal resources.
    
Government auditors have questioned whether the 12.5 percent royalty rate for coal is the right rate.
    
The impact of the moratorium is unclear given the declining domestic demand for coal.

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