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SHERIDAN — An environmental group has labeled the Powder River Basin as one the major potential sources of carbon pollution in the United States. The report, released by the Sierra Club Thursday entitled, “Dirty Fuels, Clean Future,” outlines the group’s national policy recommendations to counteract climate change.
The PRB is in the group’s sites because of the extensive coal mining operations on federal lands that take place in the Basin, which generates 370 million short tons of coal each year from its 16 strip mines.
The report cites an executive order made by President Barack Obama in his first year in office that provides for voluntary reporting of carbon emissions from land leased from the federal government.
The Sierra Club used publicly available data to calculate carbon dioxide emissions of the PRB along with other targeted projects, and found PRB emissions to be ten times above targeted future fuel economy levels.
The calculations reported do not include methane, ozone or other greenhouse gasses, and are purported to be conservative figures of actual carbon dioxide emissions.
The campaign to “keep dirty fuels in the ground,” highlights several courses of federal action to curtail carbon emissions. They include toughening laws about emission reporting, encouraging market competition by considering global markets when calculating a “fair market value,” and closing royalty loopholes that provide for exploitation of international markets.
In a separate report issued Friday, the group chastised the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality for issuing an air permit Feb. 11 for Ambre Energy’s proposed west coast export terminal dubbed the Morrow Pacific Project. In that report, the Sierra Club stipulates that more than 3,000 health professionals object the project because of environmental health risks associated with increased coal dust in the air.
The Sierra Club cites information from the Environmental Protection Agency that indicates burning coal to make electricity is the largest source of carbon pollution in the United States, and the PRB provides 42 percent of the nation’s coal.
Coal from the PRB fuels more than 230 power plants in 35 states, and is linked to 13 percent of national greenhouse gas emissions.
The Wyoming-based Green River Oil Shale, along with oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean,the Monterey Shale Oil formation in California and the Marcellus Utica Shale Gas in Pennsylvania were the other targeted project areas in the Dirty Fuels report.