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Powder River Basin Coal Leasing

The federal coal-leasing program in the Powder River Basin is costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

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idea light bulbThe Powder River Basin, stretching across southeast Montana and northeast Wyoming, produces more coal than any other region in the United States. It is also home to the single-richest coal reserves in the country, containing an estimated 162 billion short tons of undiscovered, economically recoverable coal. By and large, the vast majority of this coal belongs to U.S. taxpayers and is managed on their behalf by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, or BLM. Approximately 40 percent of all coal produced in the United States comes from BLM-managed lands, with a staggering 87 percent of it mined in the Powder River Basin.

While the open-pit mines that stretch across the Powder River Basin have long been a source of cheap fuel, they are also one of the nation’s largest sources of carbon pollution. In fact, 13 percent of all U.S. fossil-fuel emissions stem from Powder River Basin coal, which is burned in more than 200 power plants across 35 states. This is equivalent to the annual emissions of 70 percent of all cars registered in the United States, or 1.5 times the annual emissions of Saudi Arabia. In fact, the Powder River Basin alone ranks globally as the seventh-largest emitter of carbon pollution annually, trailing six countries—China, the rest of the United States, India, Russia, Japan, and Germany.

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