Climate + Energy

Beyond Paris: On The Ground to Keep Fossil Fuels in The Ground


A train hauls coal through Wyoming’s Powder River Basin, the largest coal producing region in the United States. Massive strip mines in the region produce 40 percent of the nation’s coal and accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement last week was a major disappointment, but not altogether surprising given his allegiance to the fossil fuel industry. Still, it was a pretty major slap in the face considering that Americans supported the agreement by a ratio of five to one, including the thousands of cities, counties, states, universities and colleges, and businesses, who have since announced that they will remain committed to keeping global temperature rises in check despite the lack of support from Washington, D.C.

So what do we do in a time when our politicians deny science and our embarrassment of an executive branch doesn’t abide the will of the people?

We bring the fight for Paris back home in the American West, where we have the opportunity to do more for our climate than you could ever imagine.

We’re starting by ramping up our campaign to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Just last Friday, we submitted a formal objection to the U.S. Interior Department’s Office of Surface Mining over the agency’s plans to approve more than 38 million tons of new coal mining in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.

The Powder River Basin is already the largest coal mining region in the United States.  The region contains some of the world’s largest strip mines, which fuel hundreds of power plants across the nation and even some overseas. Around 10% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions are linked to coal mined from the Powder River Basin, making it a major contributor to global warming in the U.S.

For years, WildEarth Guardians has campaigned to slow and ultimately stop coal mining in the Powder River Basin. Keeping this coal in the ground prevents the release of massive amounts of carbon pollution, and sets the stage for the ultimate transition to clean energy in America.

In the wake of Trump, it’s clear that now, more than ever, we have to do everything possible to prevent new mining in the Powder River Basin. If we have any chance of sustaining climate progress, we have to set our sights on this region, which literally is the heart of the coal industry in the United States.

Our latest efforts take aim at the Dry Fork strip mine, located north of Gillette, Wyoming. The mine is the main fuel source for the nearby Dry Fork power plant, but also ships coal to other power plants in the region.  According to the Office of Surface Mining, the mine is responsible for nearly 10 million metric tons of climate pollution annually, equal to the amount released by more than 2.1 million cars (according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s handy greenhouse gas calculator, which for now, hasn’t been erased by Trump).

Powder River Basin Coal Images

Coal from the Dry Fork mine fuels the Dry Fork power plant. Photo obviously by Greenpeace.

Under Trump, the Department of the Interior wants to let the Dry Fork mine continue stripping coal and destroying our climate for five more years. Our response? Hell no.

Our objection may seem like small potatoes, but it’s literally just the tip of the iceberg and the first step toward meaningful climate progress.

Moving beyond Paris, it’s critical we take advantage of every opportunity to keep coal in the ground. Ton by ton, it all makes a difference. That’s why in the Powder River Basin and throughout the American West, we’re taking a more aggressive stand to shut down the coal industry. And we’re asking our members and supporters to join us.

WildEarth Guardians believes that to keep it in the ground, we have to fight back ON the ground. Nowhere is that more important than in the American West, and in particular the Powder River Basin.

It’s time to resist on a scale that’s commensurate with the crisis we face.  If we can persistently, aggressively, and effectively confront every attempt by Trump to open the door for more fossil fuel extraction, we will make a difference, regardless of his climate deceit.

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