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Guardians Keeps a Watchful Eye on Largest Coal-Fired Power Plant in Wyoming

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Jim Bridger is the largest coal-fired power plant in Wyoming and every year spews 13.2 million metric tons of carbon into the air (equalling the amount of carbon released annually by 2.8 million cars). See more photos from the trip at WildEarth Guardians’ Flickr page.

This weekend, I ventured to the Jim Bridger Coal Mine and Generating Station outside of Rock Springs, Wyoming.

The Jim Bridger mine has been a consistent target recently:

In 2016, we overturned the expansion of the mine (PacifiCorp had requested a 120-acre lease that would add 738,000 tons of coal).

In 2017, PacifiCorp was at it again and despite a major downturn in coal, had the audacity to ask to expand mining at Jim Bridger and acquire a new federal coal lease adjacent to the mine. We called on the U.S. Department of the Interior to reject PacifiCorp’s demands to be able to mine more coal at Jim Bridger. Further,  on September 11, 2017, the Interior Department’s Office of Hearings and Appeals rejected the Bureau of Land Management’s petition asking for illegally approved coal decisions to be upheld.

And in our most recent stance against the mine, Guardians filed what’s called a “citizen complaint” under the U.S. Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act detailing how PacifiCorp had been operating under an illegal lease modification and a faulty permit. This complaint is related to the favorable ruling we received from the Interior Department’s Office of Hearings and Appeals. We are still in the throes of this process, but essentially we are asking state regulators or the Office of Surface Mining to investigate the matter and hold PacifiCorp accountable. While it may seem like a narrow issue, it ultimately calls into question PacifiCorp’s illegal practices, as well as the Federal Government’s sloppy dealings.

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The plant has four huge stack units, which produce 2,120 megawatts of coal energy. It burns up to 9 million tons of coal per year, around a third of which now comes from other mines. Water to cool the plant and make steam has to be piped in from the Green River, more than 50 miles away.

PacifiCorp is the worst of the worst. They own more coal-fired power plants in the American West than any other utility company and also own several coal mines. What’s worse, PacifiCorp has been a defender of coal-burningattacker of clean energy, and has attempted to force westerners to subsidize the maintenance cost of its dying coal-fired power plants. Not only have they been pushing a dirty-coal agenda to line their pockets, they’ve ignored worker safety – after a miner’s death in 2017, federal mine safety data showed that PacifiCorp had been fined for roof safety violations more than 60 times since 2010. Their greed for profit over all else has made them a big target for us.

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Though the mine was an open-pit strip mine for decades, most of the coal now comes from underground operations.

As I ate my lunch in PacifiCorp’s “recreation area”,  the metallic taste from the stacks’ emissions was a reminder of how much we need to transition from dirty fossil fuels for the sake of our health, community, and economy.

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PacifiCorp’s “recreation area” (a few rock outcroppings surrounding the generating station’s retention pond).

We will continue to fight back against this behemoth power plant and mine with an array of armament and keep you informed every step of the way.