During a hearing this morning in Washington, D.C., Montana Senator Steve Daines told Interior Secretary Sally Jewell that the moratorium on leasing coal on federal lands was ' a direct assault on the Montana economy.'

“Our state relies on production of coal, including federal coal, to support our state’s essential services,” Daines said. “Coal production creates good-paying union and tribal jobs and affordable electricity prices. Yet, this administration seems committed to taking that lifeline away – combined with the EPA Power Plan, and now with this moratorium on the coal leasing program it’s creating a significant problem for Montana – in fact, a crisis.”

Daines asked Secretary Jewell for a commitment that the moratorium would not exceed three years, but Jewell said she could not make that promise, because it would be beyond her control.

"Sir, my position here will end in 11 months," Jewell said. "I can't commit for my successor on a time frame, but I can reassure you that we will complete this as quickly as we possibly can. My goal is to have an interim report out that clearly describes the scope of this project with a time line, by the time I'm out of this job."

In January, Daines was highly critical of the Obama administration for its plans to place a moratorium on new coal production on federal lands.