The Trump Administration’s refusal to acknowledge the reality of climate change is reaching bizarre lows (or is it heights?) in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, where the U.S. Bureau of Land Management is again pressing ahead to rubberstamp 2 billion tons of new coal mining and still claiming its decision will have no impact on the climate.
At issue are four coal leases, collectively referred to as the “Wright Area coal leases,” which were approved between 2011 and 2012. Called the North and South Hilight leases and North and South Porcupine leases, they would expand Arch Coal’s Black Thunder mine and Peabody Energy’s North Antelope-Rochelle mine, respectively.
Arch and Peabody are the two largest coal companies in the U.S. and the Black Thunder and North-Antelope mines aren’t just the largest in the U.S., they’re the two largest in the world.
After they were authorized by the Bureau of Land Management, WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club filed suit in federal court to overturn the decisions.
The suit targeted the Bureau of Land Management’s claim that approving the Wright Area leases would have no impact on the climate.
Although the leases contained 2 billion tons of coal that would unleash more than 3.3 billion metric tons of climate pollution when mined and burned, the agency asserted that even if the coal wasn’t mined, the emissions would still be produced.
The assertion was absurd and we didn’t buy it. And ultimately, neither did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. Last fall in an unanimous ruling, the Appeals Court, by no means a liberal body, held the Bureau of Land Management’s approvals to be “arbitrary” and ordered the agency to go back and do a new analysis.
Now, the Bureau of Land Management is up to the same games, although this time it’s worse. Although finally acknowledging that approving the Wright Area coal leases would increase carbon emissions and climate pollution, the agency is still bizarrely concluding that not approving the leases would have no impact on the climate.
“not offering the leases would not significantly affect nationwide greenhouse gas emissions.”
– U.S. Bureau of Land Management
To be clear, coal in the Powder River Basin, which includes northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana and is the largest coal producing region in the nation, is mined for one reason: to be burned. In fact, 43% of all coal mined in the U.S. comes from this region, contributing to 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
See for yourself the power plants fueled by Powder River Basin coal, click here or check out the map below.
To say that less mining in this region will have no effect on climate would be like saying making less movies in Hollywood would have no impact on the film industry. That’s absurd.
In any case, WildEarth Guardians is gearing up to fight back and many of you have already joined in resisting. Back in May, we sent out an action alert calling on our members to voice their opposition to the Wright Area coal leases.
More than 5,000 responded, a huge outpouring of support for clean energy. Thank you so much for your support! If you haven’t yet, stand with us in opposition to the Wright Area leases and send your letter today.
In the meantime, we’ve demanded the Bureau of Land Management allow for more time for public comments and we plan to submit extensive comments calling on the agency to abandon the Wright Area coal leases.
We won once in federal court and given the Trump Administration’s insistence on climate deceit, we’re prepared to win again. Stay tuned as we continue to push back against the Wright Area coal leases.