Recent lease approvals and signs that the Obama administration is falling in love with the nation’s coal industry have Jeremy Nichols of New Mexico’s WildEarth Guardians longingly reminiscing about the bygone days of the Bush administration.
“BLM’s statement that it can’t limit methane emissions from mining federally-owned coal is just wrong and a step backward from the Bush administration. It’s not the kind of change we can believe in,” Nichols said, referring to last month’s U.S. Bureau of Land Management environmental review of the proposed New Elk coal mine in southern Colorado and a lease approval for the Elk Creek mine in western Colorado.
In both cases, BLM officials concluded they legally could not require the flaring or capture of methane from the mines despite a Bush administration BLM decision that the agency could require methane mitigation. Methane is 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas contributing to global warming.
Nichols also was highly critical of last week’s decision by the BLM to lease the West Antelope II coal mine in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin – the nation’s most abundant source of coal. West Antelope II will allow the strip mining of up to 400 million tons of coal, which equates to the release of a billion tons of CO2 once it’s burned in power plants.
That pretty much makes the recently approved EPA increase in federal fuel efficiency standards for automobiles – estimated to result in a one billion ton reduction in CO2 emissions – a total wash. Not to mention negating the good will engendered by Obama administration guidance last week limiting mountaintop removal practices in coal-mining operations in Appalachia.