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While Coal Industry Faces Headwinds, Region Still Fueling Climate Change, Air Pollution
Denver—WildEarth Guardians today is releasing a series of interactive online maps that shine a new and brighter spotlight on the nation’s largest coal producing region, the Powder River Basin of northeast Wyoming and southeast Montana.
“These new maps continue to confirm that coal mined in the Powder River Basin is taking a tremendous toll on our nation and our planet,” said Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians’ Climate and Energy Program Director. “Whether it’s the cost of climate change or the cost of air pollution, we are paying dearly as the coal industry strip mines this landscape.”
The new maps use the latest data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and other sources to highlight the location of the region’s coal mines, the location of coal-fired power plants fueled by Powder River Basin coal, and the climate and public health impacts of these power plants.
In total, the region fuels more than 300 electric generating units, which are responsible for 43% of all coal-fired power generation in America. Every year, these power plants release nearly 600 million metric tons of carbon pollution, around 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
The maps also emphasize that while the Powder River Basin is the largest coal producing region in the U.S., the number of power plants it fuels is on the decline. In the coming years, 72 coal-fired electric generating units are slated to shutdown in the U.S. and half are fueled by Powder River Basin coal.
However, the maps show that in spite of declining demand for Powder River Basin coal, companies are still pursuing new federal leases from the U.S. Department of the Interior to expand their mines. Nonetheless, while 21 federal coal leases have been proposed in the region since 2009, only five have actually been sold and withstood legal challenges.
Most recently, WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club won a federal lawsuit challenging the U.S. Interior Department’s approval of four massive coal leases that would have opened the door for nearly 2 billion tons of more coal mining.
The series finally highlights the ongoing campaign by WildEarth Guardians to keep Powder River Basin coal in the ground and help America transition to clean energy and more prosperous and sustainable economies.