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Report: Greenhouse Gas-Public Land Connection Overlooked

PHOTO: Emissions traced to transporting coal and other resources extracted from public lands have been tallied up in a new report that calls for the federal government to track those emissions, and find ways to reduce them.  Photo credit: Tony Alter/Flickr
PHOTO: Emissions traced to transporting coal and other resources extracted from public lands have been tallied up in a new report that calls for the federal government to track those emissions, and find ways to reduce them. Photo credit: Tony Alter/Flickr
March 20, 2015

SEATTLE - 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 includes a tally of emissions from transportation, which is big for Washington since those resources are shipped by rail to ports, and more are proposed.

Joshua Mantell, government-relations representative for The Wilderness Society, said this information isn't accounted for anywhere - not even in the president's new order to reduce carbon emissions from the government sector.

"Making sure that we are able to monitor and measure all of the greenhouse gases that can be traced back to lands that all Americans own, I think, is a very important step," he said.

The emissions are calculated based on the burning of those resources to generate energy domestically, as well as emissions connected to mining and processing. In addition, the report makes estimates for emissions that come from venting and flaring, with methane gas from those practices rising more than 50 percent since 2008.

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

"Any comprehensive strategy to address climate change in this country should account for these emissions," she said.

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 - WA