What’s the Right Source of Energy for Now? And Who Does the Analysis When?

A truck hauls 447 tons of coal at Peabody Energy’s North Antelope Rochelle coal mine in Wyoming. Environmentalists are suing the U.S. Forest Service over actions that would allow one of the world's largest surface coal mines to expand. (Courtesy photo/WesTech)

This news story reminds me that some people are against oil and gas development, some against coal, some against wind, biomass, and solar (and nuclear). It also reminds me that some agencies have argued that the right place to do NEPA on the GHGs from coal-fired power plants (or other plants) is when the plant is permitted. Not when the material is mined nor when the power lines are permitted. And certainly not to analyze the same GHG impacts several times..

Seems to me like the decision lies with the power plant owners who buy coal (since they are likely to buy it from somewhere else, if not Wyoming). This is from a person who may be paying higher electric bills because my utility wants to switch to natural gas fired power plants.

Environmentalists renew attack on Wyoming coal that fuels LES plant

By staff and wire reports | Posted: Saturday, December 10, 2011 10:45 pm

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Environmental groups last week took their legal fight to rein in carbon dioxide produced from burning Wyoming coal to a new agency, the U.S. Forest Service.

Their effort is directed at the potential expansion of a mine served by both the Union Pacific and BNSF Railway, and from which comes fuel for the Laramie River Station, a generating plant that is owned in part by Lincoln Electric System.

The Forest Service oversees national grasslands and in October signed off on expansion of the North Antelope Rochelle Mine farther into the Thunder Basin National Grassland. The surface coal mine there is among the world’s largest.

Three groups — WildEarth Guardians, the Powder River Basin Resource Council and Sierra Club — say the Forest Service didn’t adequately consider how burning the additional mined coal would affect the climate. They sued the Forest Service in U.S. District Court in Colorado.

The groups are opposing the agency’s OK of plans to lease the South Porcupine coal tract. The five-square-mile tract near Wright, Wyo., holds 402 million tons of coal and is owned by Peabody Energy Corp. of St. Louis.

Burning the additional coal beneath more than 1,600 acres of national grassland would release more than 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the annual output from more than 150 coal-fired power plants, the lawsuit said.

The Forest Service seems to have taken climate change seriously in other contexts, Jeremy Nichols with WildEarth Guardians told The Associated Press.

“They’ve said things like global warming is a serious threat to national forests and grasslands. Well, that’s great. Now do something about it,” Nichols said.

U.S. Forest Service spokesman Steve Segin said the agency is reviewing the complaint. A spokeswoman for Peabody pointed out that the company is not party to the lawsuit and declined to comment.

Environmentalists are seeking all possible avenues to attack the coal industry, said Marion Loomis, executive director of the Wyoming Mining Association.

“They’re just throwing everything they can at the wall and seeing what sticks. Hopefully the industries and the consumers will be successful in countering their arguments and will continue to rely on coal for many years in this country. Certainly the rest of the world will rely on coal,” Loomis said.

Two concentric loop tracks at the mine connect with the BNSF Railway and Union Pacific railroads’ joint trackage, according to Peabody’s website. Coal from the complex is currently delivered to more than 40 electricity generating customers operating more than 80 power plants throughout the United States, the website says.

Other recent lawsuits linking Wyoming coal and climate change targeted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Citing federal figures, environmentalists say that more than 40 percent of all U.S. coal comes from Wyoming, making the state the original source of about 13 percent of U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.

The BLM has been planning to lease the coal that is the subject of the lawsuit in February, said BLM spokeswoman Mary Wilson.

The lawsuit also said the coal mine expansion would disrupt wildlife habitat, land used for ranching and recreational opportunities.

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