U.S. Sen. Katie Britt boosted an Alabama coal-mining operation during a hearing with U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. In the hearing, Britt said some of President Biden’s economic policies are “strangling economic activity across the country.”

During her questioning, Britt (R-Montgomery) drew attention to Alabama’s Warrior Met Coal. The business has applied to produce 24 million tons of coal on federal lands adjacent to its current operations in Tuscaloosa County, she said. That application, since being submitted in May 2022, hasn’t been touched by the administration.

Britt acknowledged that federal lands of the country must be managed correctly, however she said, they shouldn’t be prohibited from being accessed.

“Our nation’s public lands are an amazing resource and we have a responsibility to manage them effectively,” Britt said. “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.”

She then provided Haaland with some general information about Warrior Met Coal and its importance to the state of Alabama.

“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,” Britt said. “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 (metallurgical) 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.”

Britt voiced her frustrations regarding the delay on Warrior Met Coal’s application.

“They have jumped through every hoop that the Department has asked because they are good stewards of our public lands.” she said. “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.’”

Haaland said that she understood the significance of the company for many in Alabama.

“I know that these things can be frustrating sometimes,” she said. “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.”

Haaland discussed the review process as well and told Britt that she would provide her with briefings on the situation.

“I understand that it’s under review and ongoing now,” she said. “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 thanked her for the offer and sought a commitment from Haaland that she would send senior staff to brief Britt on the matter.

“Madam Secretary, I appreciate it,” she said. “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.”

Haaland told Britt a member of her staff will be in touch soon.

“… We’ll figure out a time and day that suits you,” Haaland said.

“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,” Britt said. “So, I appreciate that.”

Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.