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The Obama administration is negating all their positive actions on climate change in one disastrous decision to lease an enormous area of federal land for coal mining in Wyoming's Powder River basin at fire sale prices.

Wyoming's Black Thunder Coal Mine outline over San Francisco

Today the Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management will hold the first of two major coal lease sales over the next month from public lands in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. Combined, they will allow the extraction of almost 316 million tons of taxpayer-owned coal that, when burned, will result in significant carbon pollution. The second sale is scheduled for September 18.

Burning this coal will release 523,524,951 tons of carbon dioxide into the air, according to a Climate Progress analysis using BLM’s environmental analyses and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator. This is equivalent to the emissions from nearly 109 million passenger vehicles every year. For comparison, there are approximately 253 million vehicles in the U.S.

I just traveled through parts of southwestern Virginia and southeastern Kentucky that are in desperate condition because their economy was based on coal. The jobs are leaving Appalachia and the people can't find work. Appalachian coal can't compete with natural gas and low-sulfur Powder River Basin coal from federal land sold at below free market prices in sweetheart deals in one buyer auctions. Very few jobs are generated from mining these ponderous pits with massive machinery. And there's no shortage of jobs in the region because of the fracking boom.This lease block sale will be a climate disaster and will hurt the Appalachian job situation. It's a lose, lose proposition.
a report by the Interior Department’s own Inspector General found that taxpayers have lost at least $62 million from undervalued coal, and that only a one cent per ton undervaluation can potentially cause a $3 million revenue loss. Additionally, a report last summer by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis alleges that taxpayers have lost $30 billion over 30 years because of the Bureau of Land Management’s inability to get fair market value for coal. And a recent Reuters investigation revealed that coal companies may be dodging higher royalty payments by valuing coal at low domestic rates and then selling it higher overseas.
American natural gas is so cheap now that coal can't compete with it for power production in the U.S., so the market for this coal would be China and other overseas nations. Selling American coal to China at below market prices to enable the Chinese to produce goods cheaply to undercut American producers and wreck the climate is the ultimate act of American neoliberal economic suicide.

There's one piece of good news.

Local protests to stop coal west coast coal ports have been working.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that there were no bids on the coal put up for auction by the BLM today. The company that had proposed the area be leased, Cloud Peak Energy, put out the following statement:

…in light of current market conditions and the uncertainty caused by the current political and regulatory environment towards coal and coal-powered generation and ultimately decided it was prudent not to bid at this time … We will continue to evaluate any possible future lease sales by the BLM of these tons in the North tract as market conditions improve.
Cloud Peak Energy is the fourth-largest coal company in the U.S. and according to the New York Times is “negotiating deals for roughly 21 million tons of export capacity with the builders of two proposed Washington State terminals.”

Keep up the good work my west coast friends. Stop the coal ports!

Update from the Comments: A lease block includes the San Rafael Swell.

The Bureau of Land Management intends to lease thousands of acres in the San Rafael Swell for oil and gas development, including many areas it has concluded hold wilderness and recreational values, such as Eagle Canyon and the area near the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry.
At its Nov. 19 auction in Salt Lake City, the agency will sell leases to 82 parcels covering nearly 144,000 acres in Emery, Carbon and Uintah counties.

While Emery County officials see much to praise in the leases, wilderness advocates say the sale indicates Utah BLM is headed in "the wrong direction" in how it decides which public lands to open up to energy development.

Dozens of the parcels overlay lands proposed for protection under America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act, pending before Congress.

We must stop this disastrous lease plan cold.

Submit your comment on the Longview Coal port here.

Comments submitted for a similar PNW port may be reviewed here if you need examples.

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Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Wed Aug 21, 2013 at 05:48 PM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots and Koscadia.

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