WildEarth Guardians Confronts Massive Coal Mine Expansion in Powder River Basin

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Trump Administration Plans to Hand Over Publicly Owned Coal to Cloud Peak Energy, Undermine Climate Protection and Public Interest

Contact: Shannon Hughes, (630) 699-7165, shughes@wildearthguardians.org

Denver, CO – WildEarth Guardians is challenging the Trump Administration’s latest scheme to deny climate change and prop up the dying coal industry, confronting plans to give away millions of tons of publicly owned coal for Cloud Peak Energy to expand its massive Antelope strip mine in Wyoming. 

“This doesn’t just defy the public interest, it completely eviscerates it,” said Shannon Hughes, Climate Guardian for WildEarth Guardians. “As coal keeps polluting our air, despoiling our land, and fouling our water, the last thing the American people want is to keep Cloud Peak’s coal mining on life support.” 

In comments submitted on September 29, Guardians called on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management to reject an application by Cloud Peak Energy to acquire 441 million tons of publicly owned coal in the Powder River Basin of northeastern Wyoming. 

Citing the devastating climate impacts of coal burning and the ongoing decline of coal and rise of clean energy, Guardians called for Cloud Peak’s demands to be denied. 

Called the “West Antelope III” coal lease, it would allow Cloud Peak to expand its Antelope strip mine, the third largest coal mine in the U.S. Coal from the Antelope mine fuels power plants across the country and is even exported through facilities on the West Coast to Asia.  It would extend the life of the mine by 10 years. 

The proposal comes even as industry is collapsing. 

Since January 1, 2017, companies have withdrawn three applications to acquire massive amounts of publicly owned coal in the Powder River Basin, the nation’s largest coal producing region. The most recent was Arch Coal’s withdrawal of an application for a one-billion-ton coal lease that would have expanded the company’s Black Thunder mine. 

The Bureau of Land Management itself has acknowledged there has been a marked decrease in American coal demand and production in the past 10 years as renewable energy and lower natural gas prices have made coal less competitive. 

Cloud Peak’s application for the West Antelope III coal seems to be aimed at taking advantage of the Bureau of Land Management’s practice of selling publicly-owned coal for extremely low prices. Since 2010, coal from the Powder River Basin has consistently sold for less than $1.00 per ton. 

The practice has drawn fire from government investigators, including the

Interior Department’s Inspector General and the U.S. Government Accountability Office, for costing taxpayers and undermining the public interest. 

“The only reason Cloud Peak wants the American public’s coal is so it can pad its assets at our expense,” said Hughes.  “While President Trump and his Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, may believe it’s okay for taxpayers to pay for coal companies to get rich, we see it as corruption and another sign that the federal coal program is rotten.” 

In testimony at a recent public hearing in Wright, Wyoming near the Antelope mine, WildEarth Guardians publicly called out the Bureau of Land Management for allowing Cloud Peak to drive what should be an objective, public interest-driven process. 

The Bureau of Land Management is continuing to accept comments on the West Antelope III coal lease.

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