Powder River Basin Coal Mines Could Drastically Increase Carbon Emissions

Wildlife in the Powder River Basin (PRB) of southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming are being mined out of their habitat. Coal companies are strip mining the public’s coal in the PRB and transporting it to the west coast ports to ship overseas. New coal mines and coal mine expansions are proposed to get even more coal out of the ground. These coal mines are devastating to our iconic places and the wildlife species that call the region home.

But these proposed coal mines and expansions pose an even greater threat: the coal in the Powder River Basin has a huge carbon impact. All of the mines, if built, would contribute over 16 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further exacerbating climate change and putting humans and wildlife at risk.

The following map, prepared by WildEarth Guardians, shows the carbon intensive mining project proposed throughout Montana and Wyoming.


Huge Carbon Deposit

A mule deer in the Powder River Basin.  Flickr photo by Kimon Berlin
A mule deer in the Powder River Basin. Flickr photo by Kimon Berlin
The coal mining expansion in the Powder River Basin is going to have an impact on worldwide carbon dioxide levels. As people across the globe try to work together to bring our carbon dioxide levels down, the 16 billion tons of potential carbon dioxide in the Powder River Basin projects would increase atmospheric levels of carbon. In fact, it would produce over 2 and a half times the amount of carbon dioxide emitted across the entire United States each year.

In addition to climate impacts, wildlife in the Powder River Basin are losing habitat every year to coal mining. The Powder River Basin is home to many iconic species of the West, including the Mule Deer which are already experience a steep decline in population throughout Montana and Wyoming. We know that their populations will decline even more through habitat fragmentation, disruption of migratory routes, loss of habitat from wildfires started by coal trains, increased stress from sound and vibrations of mines and trains and direct mortality through train collisions.  Many other species will experience similar negative impacts such as the elk, pronghorn antelope and sage grouse, as well as the endangered black footed-ferret.

The coal mines also pose a threat to the water in the region. Coal extraction depletes aquifers in an already arid landscape, which causes alarm for many local ranchers because it impacts the availability of water for wildlife and livestock.

If allowed to proceed, the coal mining projects in the Powder River Basin will create problems that we will be dealing with for generations after the coal has run out.  For a short term energy fix, we will live with irreparable environmental damages.  

Take Action ButtonThese projects proposed in the Powder River Basin will have rippling affects throughout our communities, wildlife habitats and climate. Take action now to protect  these areas by continuing to stop new coal mining in the Powder River Basin.