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Report: Greenhouse Gas Blind Spot on Public Lands

PHOTO: A new accounting of greenhouse-gas emissions connected to oil, gas and coal extracted from federal lands shows that more than 20 percent of those emissions in the entire United States can be traced to public lands. Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management.
PHOTO: A new accounting of greenhouse-gas emissions connected to oil, gas and coal extracted from federal lands shows that more than 20 percent of those emissions in the entire United States can be traced to public lands. Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management.
March 20, 2015

A new accounting of greenhouse gas emissions connected to oil, gas and coal extracted from federal lands shows that more than 20 percent of those emissions in the United States can be traced to public lands.

The report from The Wilderness Society and Center for American Progress called for a full inventory of those sources, and strategies to reduce emissions.

The federal government and California have made great strides through efficiency programs, said Joshua Mantell, government-relations representative for The Wilderness Society, "but I don't think that we've really looked at the actual beginning sources - resources that are being pulled out of the ground, especially on federal lands which are owned by all Americans."

President Obama issued an executive order Thursday calling for carbon pollution from the government sector to be cut by 25 percent by 2025 - but it didn't include the public-land connection featured in the report.

The study also provided estimates for emissions that come from venting and flaring on federal land and water, with methane from those practices rising more than 50 percent since 2008.

Claire Moser, research and advocacy associate at the Center for American Progress, said a full accounting is needed to be effective.

"These emissions are not currently counted, and they should be," she said. "Any comprehensive strategy to address climate change in this country should account for these emissions and present a strategy to reduce them, as well."

The report singles out coal from public lands as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The study, "Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Fossil Energy Extracted from Federal Lands and Waters: An Update," is online at wilderness.org.

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