Groups protest resource plan covering Wyoming PRB coal

Wyoming citizen organizations and national environmental groups wrote to the Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on June 19 asking them to order a re-write of BLM’s Buffalo Resource Management Plan due in part to coal mining concerns.

The draft plan calls for leasing over ten billion new tons of coal and approving about 15,000 new oil and gas wells in the Wyoming portion of the Powder River Basin over the next two decades.

The Wyoming PRB is by far the largest coal-producing region in the country, hosting several massive strip mines owned by companies like Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and Cloud Peak Energy, according to GenerationHub.

The groups contend that opening up more than a decade’s worth of coal from federal lands at a time of declining national coal demand is unnecessary, threatens vulnerable water resources and wildlife habitats, and would put BLM out of step with important actions the Obama administration is taking on climate and clean energy, including the recently proposed carbon pollution limits for power plants.

In their letter, the groups wrote: “The proposed RMP perpetuates BLM’s business-as-usual approach to resource development and locks our nation in to a future reliant on coal, oil, and gas. BLM’s RMP fails to acknowledge — let alone attempt to address — the significant greenhouse gas emissions that will be created from development of the federal mineral estate” Leasing ten billion tons of new coal resources is not a responsible action nor is it consistent with the administration’s climate objectives.”

“It’s time for the Bureau of Land Management to get its district offices to finally enter the 21st-century with both feet, and begin looking at keeping these dirty fuels in the ground,” said Connie Wilbert, Associate Field Organizer, Sierra Club, Wyoming Chapter. “BLM should help reduce unnecessary pollution on public lands and preserve the West’s natural legacy. Right now, we’re on a path that threatens our health and local resources, while simultaneously obstructing national climate and clean energy progress.”

The Powder River Basin produces roughly 40 percent of the nation’s coal, almost exclusively from public lands, and is one of the country’s major oil and natural gas fields.

BLM’s Buffalo Field Office released its draft resource management plan and supporting environmental impact statement for public review in June 2013. Following the release of the draft RMP/EIS, the BLM received 134 public comment letters and is currently revising the document, as appropriate, based on these comments. A notice of availability announcing the release of the proposed RMP and final EIS is anticipated to be published in the Federal Register on Aug. 1. Publication of the NOA will initiate a 30-day protest period.

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Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy's Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication's editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor's degree from Central Michigan University.

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