WildEarth Guardians Vows to Double Down on Fight to Save Climate from Coal
U.S. Interior Department Shortchanges Public to Line Peabody's Pockets
Cheyenne, WY—Despite all signs that coal leasing is violating federal environmental laws, shortchanging taxpayers to the tune of billions of dollars, preventing meaningful renewable energy development, and worse, fueling global warming in the midst of extreme heat waves and wildfires, the Department of the Interior yesterday sold more than 721 million tons of coal for Peabody Energy to strip mine from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.
“With wildfires raging in the West, temperatures breaking records in the Rocky Mountains, and our water supplies dwindling, it is unbelievable that the Interior Department would be so bullheaded and continue to auction off such massive amounts of coal,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “This is beyond reckless and a sign that the Interior Department under President Obama is enormously detached from science, reality, and the promise of a safe climate. This has to stop and we intend to ramp up our efforts to make it stop.”
The North Porcupine coal lease, one of the largest ever sold by the U.S. Interior Department, opens the door for Peabody to expand its North Antelope-Rochelle mine, the second largest coal mine in the world. When burned, the North Porcupine coal will release more than 1.1 billion metric tons of carbon pollution. This equals the amount of carbon released by 261 coal-fired power plants annually and comes at a time when the atmosphere is already dangerously choked with rising levels of carbon dioxide.
The Powder River Basin of northeastern Wyoming produces 43% of the nation’s coal, more than any other region in the country. This coal is strip mined and burned in power plants from coast to coast, releasing 13% of all U.S. carbon pollution and making the region responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than any other activity in the nation.
Peabody ships its Powder River Basin coal to more than 30 states to be burned in over a hundred coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Increasingly, the company is aiming to export coal from its mine to Asia and other points abroad.
Yesterday’s coal sale came despite growing signs that leasing in the Powder River Basin is corrupt, illegal, and locking the nation into a dirty energy future.
In May, WildEarth Guardians filed suit to overturn the North Porcupine coal lease, along with three other massive leases, over the failure of the Bureau of Land Management—the Interior Department agency charged with leasing federal coal—to meet basic environmental laws.
And earlier this week, two major reports were released showing that federal coal leasing in the Powder River Basin is both making coal companies rich at the expense of American taxpayers and preventing clean energy development.
The first report, released by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, found that coal leasing in the Powder River Basin has shortchanged the public to the tune of $30 billion over the last 30 years. The report has spurred investigations by Government Accountability Office and the Interior Department’s Inspector General.
The second report, released by the Center for American Progress, found that federal lands and minerals are almost exclusively dedicated to fossil fuel energy production, with coal comprising 65% of all electricity generated from federal lands and minerals. The vast majority of this coal comes from the Powder River Basin of Wyoming. The report shows that, despite commitments by the Interior Department to foster renewable energy, coal continues to reign.
In response to these revelations, WildEarth Guardians joined a number of organizations in calling on the Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, to halt the North Porcupine coal lease sale and to call a time out on new coal leasing in the Powder River Basin.
In spite of these calls, the Interior Department moved to sell the North Porcupine coal lease to Peabody, a move that the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis says will cost American taxpayers more than $1 billion.
“The Interior Department is making clear, it is committed to coal at all costs,” said Nichols. “Well, we’re here to say that we’re committed to the climate, to clean energy, and to our communities at all costs. From here on out, we intend to ramp up our efforts to put an end to this misguided leasing and to use every tool available to truly power past coal.”