The Powder River Basin — Ground Zero in Confronting the Climate Crisis
Getting to the Root of the Problem
Coal is, by far, the single largest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. and the world. Leading climate researchers have called for a complete transition away from coal in the next 25 years.
In the West we have our best opportunity to make this transition. It starts with stopping the massive amounts of coal that are mined from the Powder River Basin, the largest coal-producing region in the United States.
Straddling Wyoming and Montana, the region's strip mines produce more than 40% of the nation's coal and fuel more than 200 U.S. power plants, and increasingly provide coal to Asia and Europe.
The burning of Powder River Basin coal is currently responsible for 13% of country's carbon pollution. If exports grow, the region's global carbon footprint will only intensify.
To effectively curb carbon pollution in the U.S. and abroad, WildEarth Guardians is striving to slow and ultimately stop the flow of coal from the Powder River Basin. By doing so we not only effectively rein in coal-fired power plant pollution, we also stop export plans before they even start.
By targeting the source of the problem we can prevent the global climate crisis from worsening.
That coal has to stay in the ground. You can't make the math of climate change work at all if you get the huge coal deposits of the Powder River Basin
out and pour them into the atmosphere. —BILL McKIBBEN
Stopping the Federal Giveaway
More than 7 billion tons of coal could be mined, unleashing 12 billion tons of carbon. That's twice the total greenhouse gases released every year in the United States and four times greater than the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, one of our nation's most pressing climate risks.Adding insult to injury, taxpayers are subsidizing this impending global warming catastrophe. The Interior Department is proposing to sell this coal at below cost and with no competition, even as studies report American taxpayers have lost $30 billion on Powder River Basin coal sales in the last 20 years.
With companies now greedily selling overseas, the Department of Interior's push to sell cheap coal is coming at the expense of our climate, and our country. In 2013, President Obama committed the United States to combat climate change. Yet the Interior Department's Powder River Basin plans would completely undermine the President's pledge. It's an empty victory if we shutter coal-fired power plants at home, yet at the same time allow coal to be exported and burned abroad. Our strategy to fight export demand or any demand for that matter is to win at the source and to keep the coal in the ground.
WildEarth Guardians is challenging every new Interior Department plan to sell coal. We are forcing a new paradigm that will make coal more expensive and thus, clean energy more competitive. At every turn we will fight the coal industry to keep coal in the ground.
Ultimately, every ton of coal kept in the ground is a ton of progress made toward clean energy.
A Better Way Forward
Fortunately we're making an impact. Not only has our legal, political and grassroots pressure forced the Interior Department to consider much-needed reforms, but also the coal industry is under financial stress.Twice in 2013, Interior Department plans to sell more coal in the Powder River Basin failed. Citing the declining coal market, companies simply refused to pay for the coal offered by Interior. Industry itself has called for a moratorium on coal sales until 2016.
The window of opportunity is now. Our efforts are clearly succeeding, creating delays and uncertainty while also increasing the costs. We have a chance to turn the Interior Department around and keep coal permanently at bay, ushering in the clean energy future we need to safeguard our planet.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
WildEarth Guardians has worked since 2009 to shine a spotlight on the climate catastrophe unfolding in the Powder River Basin. Through legal challenges, media outreach, and pressuring the Obama Administration, we have made the Powder River Basin a national climate issue.
In 2010 we formed a coalition of local, regional and national environmental groups whose collective mission is slowing and ultimately
stopping coal mining in the Powder River Basin.
Keeping coal in the ground and leading our Nation's transition away from fossil fuels is costly.
Winning, however, takes commitment. We've already overcome tough odds, thwarting new coal sales and fomenting attrition among the
coal industry. Yet we have to build on this progress. The time is right to tackle existing mining in the Powder River Basin and secure
a lasting shift away from coal. Through new legal efforts, mounting grassroots pressure, and aggressive media and public outreach, we can take the next step toward success.
WildEarth Guardians needs to expand our capacity to effectively leverage the opportunities we, and a changing world, are creating. We need $300,000 over each of the next three years to expand our Climate & Energy Program and fund our "Keep the Coal in the Ground" campaign. Your financial investment can help us win the climate fight that we can't afford to lose.
photo credits: coal train: public domain; coal mine: U.S. News Northwest; demonstration: Caliber Magazine; dirty facts background: Robert Ladkowski/123rf.com;