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Idea of the Day: Coal Leases Undermine the Obama Administration’s Commitment to Fight Carbon Pollution

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When it comes to the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, there’s a big carbon-breathing elephant in the room. Even as the White House moves aggressively to attack climate change through higher vehicle mileage standards; limits on coal-fired power plant emissions; and, most recently, a promise to attack fugitive methane emissions, it is paving the way for large amounts of carbon pollution through huge sales of federal coal from public lands in the West.

To date, the administration has sold half a dozen leases for about 2.1 billion metric tons of coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana, which produces more than 40 percent of U.S. coal—most of which is publicly owned. When burned for electricity, that 2.1 billion metric tons will produce nearly 6.1 billion metric tons of CO2, nearly equivalent to three years worth of CO2 emissions from all U.S. coal-fired electric plants.

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