On March 1, Montana Congressman Ryan Zinke spoke with US Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell at the House Committee On Natural Resources. Jewell responded to Zinke after he questioned her about the effect of the coal lease moratorium on jobs.

“The pause that we are putting on coal leases for the length of the P.I.S. had a number of exclusions to them,” said Jewell. “Exclusions for metallurgical coal, recognizing that existing coal mines have nearly 20 years or more than 20 years of coal under lease, but exceptions also so that if a mine is at risk of shutting down we can consider that an exception.”

Some in the industry have worried that the moratorium was a way to shut down coal mining in the United States, Zinke pressed Jewell on this issue.

“Do I have your commitment if a mine company applies for one of these exceptions your agency will work to ensure that processing those requests, an application is done before they have to shut down,” Zinke asked. “Yes, they have to come to us with sufficient time,” said Jewell. “They can’t come the day before they are going to shut down, but as long as they come to us and work with us, we are very happy to work with them.”

Shelby Demars from the pro coal group Count on Coal Montana, issued a statement after the hearing saying that Secretary Jewell’s comments “rang hollow”, and that the moratorium would lead to a loss of Montana jobs.