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Wyoming to expand coal mining

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by Staff Writers
Washington (UPI) Mar 25, 2011
The U.S. Interior Department announced plans to sell mining leases for federal lands in Wyoming's Powder River Basin holding about 750 million tons of coal.

"Coal is a critical component of America's comprehensive energy portfolio as well as Wyoming's economy," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in his announcement Tuesday with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.

"As the No. 1 coal producer from public lands, Wyoming provided nearly 40 percent of the domestic coal used to generate electricity last year and it's important that we continue to encourage safe production of this important resource."

The coal would take 10 to 20 years to mine.

Interior said the total bonus bids and royalty payments over the life of the leases are estimated to generate $13.4 billion to $21.3 billion, 49 percent of which would go to the state of Wyoming.

But the Interior Department's estimate of the economic benefits "was off by a factor of 10" and would more likely produce a total of approximately $2 billion, Marion Loomis, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association told the Billings (Mont.) Gazette newspaper.

Loomis said he had accepted Salazar's numbers, which had widely been included in news reports of the Interior's announcement, until they struck him as inaccurate and calculations revealed an apparent decimal-shift of an error.

Interior said more coal development plans are pending in the Wyoming portion of the Powder River Basin: the South Porcupine, North Porcupine, North Highlight and West Highlight tracts, covering nearly 14,000 acres. The tracts contain an estimated 1.6 billion tons of mineable coal, or a total of 2.3 billion tons when combined with the tracts announced this week.

Environmentalists criticized the lease sales, saying that the Interior Department neglected to consider the impact of coal mining on climate change and health.

When burned, the 2.35 billion tons of coal threatens to release more than 3.9 billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide, equal to the annual emissions from 300 coal-fired power plants, said environmental group WildEarth Guardians.

"We can't achieve a clean energy future by mining 2.35 billion tons of coal," said Jeremy Nichols, Climate and Energy Program director for WildEarth Guardians. "Rather than look ahead to our energy future, Secretary Salazar seems content to keep looking in the rearview mirror, keeping this country dangerously dependent on dirty energy."

But the Interior Department says the basin's coal contains 15 times less sulfur than eastern coal, so it burns relatively cleaner, releasing fewer greenhouse emissions.




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THE PITS
Wyoming coal leases to be auctioned
Washington (UPI) Mar 24, 2011
Huge coal reserves in Wyoming will be auctioned off in coming months, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said, despite a push for cleaner, renewable energy. Four coal leases adjacent to existing strip mines in the Powder River Basin, the largest coal-producing region in the United States, will total 758 million tons and take between 10 and 20 years to mine, the Los Angeles Times report ... read more

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