The Carbon Impact of Coal Exports

This week, NWF released an issue brief entitled “Accounting for Carbon Pollution from Coal Mining on Federal Lands” which looks at the overall carbon impact of the coal being leased and exported from public lands. In primarily western states like Wyoming and Montana, coal on public lands is leased to coal companies for mining.  Increasingly, as domestic demand for coal declines, this coal is exported through coal terminals in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.

The golden eagle is one of the species threatened by coal mining in the west. Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Doug Pfeil.
The golden eagle is one of the species threatened by coal mining in the west. Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Doug Pfeil.
These public land coal leases are leading to the extraction of coal in areas of precious wildlife habitat, like the Powder River Basin, and resulting in our carbon pollution being exported as the coal is burned abroad.  Exporting pollution undercuts efforts here at home to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

This comes at a time when President Obama is making great strides to limit carbon pollution, most notably through the limits of carbon emissions for new and existing power plants. The massive amount of carbon emissions from proposed coal exports would severely undermine the forward progress we are making to tackle climate change.

Taking the Next Steps

NWF offers key recommendations to fully account for the carbon impact of the coal leased on federal lands:

  1. The Obama administration must fully account for the carbon impacts of coal leases to ensure they don’t undermine its broader carbon-emission reduction goals.
  2. Consistent with the Obama Administration and the Department of Interior (DOI)’s commitment to address climate change, The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must consider the full climate impacts of continued U.S. coal leasing and exports.
  3. The Obama Administration should incorporate the cost of climate-related impacts when setting royalty rates for coal leases.

President Obama has made climate a national priority for his final term in office. We need an all of the above carbon pollution reduction strategy, and unless we are accounting for the carbon impact of major federal actions like coal leases, we aren’t making the rapid progress needed to avert dramatic consequences from runaway climate change.

Bringing strong voices to Washington DC

coal exports people at white house
The NWF delegation in front of the White House after a meeting with White House officials
To help bring this message to decision makers in Washington, NWF sponsored a fantastic group of concerned citizens and activists from Montana, Washington and Oregon to come to D.C. Participants ranged from professional fishermen and women to climate scientists to life-long conservationists.

This diverse group met with top officials from Senate offices and key federal agencies to share with them their concerns about disconnect between coal exports and coal leasing, and our commitment to addressing climate change and carbon pollution.  Washington decision makers really valued hearing the stories of these people whose communities and businesses are being impacted by climate change and coal mining. It is only by being heard that we can hope for action.

Take Action

These proposed export terminals threaten our wildlife, communities and climate. Speak up against coal export terminals in the Pacific Northwest.