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Conservation coalition calls for clean energy in Powder River Basin of Wyoming

Groups fight to halt sale of massive West Antelope II coal leases

(05/04/2010) -

Cheyenne, WY (May 4, 2010) — A coalition of conservation groups late yesterday called on the U.S. Interior Board of Land Appeals to halt the mining and sale of more than 400 million tons of coal in the Powder River Basin of northeastern Wyoming to safeguard clean air, protect the climate, and open the door for clean energy.

“We can’t strip mine our way to clean energy,” said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program Director for WildEarth Guardians.  “Every ton of coal mined from the Powder River Basin is a ton of progress we lose in maintaining clean air and keeping our climate safe.”

The West Antelope II leases would mine more than 400 million tons of coal, enough to fuel 173 coal-fired power plants for an entire year.  When burned, the coal would release more than 735 million tons of carbon dioxide, the amount released every year by 127,591,540 passenger vehicles.  On March 23, 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management decided to offer the West Antelope II leases for sale.

The Powder River Basin has been described as a “root contributor” to global warming in the United States.  The region is the largest coal production region in the nation, every year strip mining more than 500 million tons of coal, which is then burned in hundreds of coal-fired power plants across the country.  The Bureau of Land Management has disclosed the region is linked to more than thirteen percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.

“Here in the West, climate change is putting our scarce water resources at risk, threatening our forests and abundant wildlife, and threatening our ranching heritage,” said Brad Mohrmann with the Sierra Club in Sheridan, Wyoming.  “We can’t meaningfully address these impacts without decreasing our dependence on coal and transitioning to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.”

WildEarth Guardians, the Sierra Club, and Defenders of Wildlife filed their petition for a stay before the Interior Board of Land Appeals to prevent the sale of the West Antelope II Leases.  The groups cited the Bureau of Land Management’s own findings that the leases would lead to violations of federal and state air quality standards and would fuel the release of massive amounts of carbon dioxide in the United States, as well as the agency’s refusal to consider alternatives that would address these impacts.

The petition for stay comes as the Bureau of Land Management is pushing to offer twelve new coal leases in the Powder River Basin that could collectively mine up to 5.8 billion tons of coal—as much coal as has been mined from the region in the last twenty years.  Together, these proposals threaten to lead to the release of more than 9.63 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, nearly one and a half times the amount of greenhouse gases released in the United States in all of 2008.

“Coal is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels out there and one of the most significant contributors to climate change.  Given what we know today about the fragile state of our climate, it’s absurd to consider mining and burning an additional 400 million tons of coal,” said Adam Kron, staff attorney with Defenders of Wildlife.  “The Obama administration needs to pull the plug on West Antelope II and other pending Powder River Basin coal leases.”

Under federal regulations, the Interior Board of Land Appeals has forty-five days to rule on the groups’ petition for stay.

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.  With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit www.defenders.org.



Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 573-4898 x 1303, cell (303) 437-7663
Brad Mohrmann, Sierra Club, (307) 672-0425
Adam Kron, staff attorney, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-3224