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Powder River Basin Coal Singled Out in “Dirty Fuels” Report

PHOTO: Powder River Basin coal is singled out in a report by the Sierra Club that tracks carbon pollution. Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey
PHOTO: Powder River Basin coal is singled out in a report by the Sierra Club that tracks carbon pollution. Photo credit: U.S. Geological Survey
April 10, 2014

GILLETTE, Wyo. - Powder River Basin coal is singled out in a report released today by the Sierra Club that tracks carbon pollution across the country. The basin, in northeastern Wyoming, contains the largest coal reserves in the continental U.S. suitable for mining. The country has depended on the resource for electricity for decades, although coal demand has been declining in recent years.

According to Connie Wilbert, community organizer for the Sierra Club in Wyoming, coal from the Powder River Basin is burned in 235 power plants in 35 states, and the ramifications of the pollution from that coal are never considered when leases are granted.

"That means that our Wyoming coal from the Powder River Basin is linked to 13 percent of the greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States," she said. "It's a huge contributor to climate disruption."

The report calls for a "time out" for coal leasing on federal public lands, making the case that existing leases can more than meet demand for up to ten years. Coal companies often depend on having leases, even if not yet developed, to assure investors.

Although there has been a lot of push to send Wyoming coal overseas to keep production strong while domestic demand drops, those plans have not been realized because of local objections to more rail traffic and to building new ports in Oregon and Washington. Wilbert said there's no doubt Wyoming is dependent on coal for its livelihood, and that has to be considered as the energy economy changes.

"We also believe that the importance of moving away from the energy sources that cause all of the carbon pollution is so important that we have to make this transition, even though it's going to be difficult for us," she stated.

The report calls for new valuations for coal, considering the global demand, and for scrutiny of the royalty charges for coal extraction, which haven't been changed since the 1970s.

That report, "Dirty Fuels, Clean Futures" is to be available today at SierraClub.org.


Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY