Friday, August 13, 2010

Environmentalists shift focus from coal burners to curbing Western coal production

The collapse of the climate bill and increased export of coal to Asia has led some environmentalists to shift their focus from coal-fired electricity to curbing production of the fuel in the Western U.S. "Groups including the Sierra Club and WildEarth Guardians, a New Mexico-based environmental group, are challenging the legality of a series of new leases the Bureau of Land Management has begun issuing" for Powder River Basin coal in Wyoming and Montana, Mark Peters reports for Dow Jones Newswires. "They say the leases could open up as much as 5.8 billion tons of coal reserves for mining, ensuring the basin's dominance for years to come. The environmentalists claim the BLM isn't properly taking into account the impact of burning the coal on the climate."

"We are interested in getting to the heart of the problem," Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director of WildEarth Guardians, told Peters. "What goes on in the Power River Basin is of national interest." In what marked a rare Powder River Basin challenge, a coalition of environmental groups sued in federal court last month to stop the first of what's expected to be a series of BLM lease decisions, Peters writes. WildEarth has also sued Interior Secretary Ken Salazar "over the lease process as a whole, alleging it neither fosters competition among coal producers nor requires a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impacts," Peters writes.

"Coal producers warn a slowdown in replacing their reserves could eventually hamper U.S. electricity supplies," Peters writes. "Last week, Alpha Natural Resources Chief Executive Kevin Crutchfield described the opposition effort as in its infancy, not seeing any impact on mining in the near term." Environmental groups say increasing exports to Asia are of particular concern because they undercut domestic effort to reduce emissions. "That is a very serious line in the sand," Bruce Nilles, director of Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, told Peters of increased exports. (Read more)

No comments: