Groups decry Salazar's dirty energy giveaway

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Secretary of Interior announces 2.3 billion tons of new coal mining, 3.9 billion tons of new carbon dioxide

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (03/22/2011) -

Although the American West holds enough renewable energy potential to fully power the entire United States, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar today announced at a press conference that he intends to open the door for 2.35 billion tons of new coal mining in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.

When burned, the 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, further cementing the United States as a leading contributor to climate disruption.  Furthermore, coal’s pollution is dangerous to public health and contributes to four of the five leading causes of death in the United States.

“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.”

Salazar’s announcement is a stark contrast to his call for clean energy.  Interior, for example, touted that in 2010, 4,000 megawatts of renewable energy development were authorized.  And in today’s press conference, Secretary Salazar announced Interior’s intent to authorize more than 12,000 megawatts of renewable energy by the end of next year.

“The clean energy economy is here and it is growing,” said Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign. “Americans in communities across the country are standing up every day to demand clean energy that doesn’t make them sick.  With the vast potential for renewable energy that exists across the country - like the Wyoming wind developments that Secretary Salazar mentioned in today’s press conference - we now have the opportunity to move America beyond coal and usher in our clean energy economy.”

Yet in opening the door for 2.35 billion tons of coal mining, Salazar’s announcement effectively enables more than 300,000 megawatts of coal-fired energy—30 times more dirty energy development than renewable energy.

The Powder River Basin has been described as a “root contributor” to climate disruption in the United States.  The region is the largest coal production region in the nation, every year strip-mining nearly 500 million tons of coal, which is burned in more than 200 coal-fired power plants in 35 states.

The Bureau of Land Management, the Interior agency charged with leasing federal coal in Wyoming, has disclosed the region is linked to more than thirteen percent of all carbon dioxide emissions in the United States.

“Secretary Salazar’s announcement that coal production will be expanded in the Powder River Basin is a giant leap backward,” said Adam Kron, attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. “How can our country move toward a clean energy future if we’re doubling down on the dirtiest and most problematic energy source out there?”

Already, the Bureau of Land Management has been under fire for considering leasing nearly 6 billion tons of new coal in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.

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Defenders is committed to guiding our nation’s transition to clean energy and securing a bright future for wildlife. Learn more.

Contact(s):

Caitlin Leutwiler, Defenders of Wildlife, (202) 772-3226
Jeremy Nichols, WildEarth Guardians, (303) 573-4898 x 1303
David Graham-Caso, Sierra Club, (213) 387.6528 x 214

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit www.defenders.org.

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