Tuesday, January 05, 2016

2016: When Climate Activists Aim to Halt Federal Coal Leases

With the Keystone XL pipeline rejected and Royal Dutch Shell's Arctic drilling plans abandoned, activists have a new agenda for 2016: bringing climate accountability to the federal fossil fuel program.
The Obama administration's sweep of climate policies, from rules curbing power plant emissions to tightening fuel economy standards for cars, has so far bypassed one of the government's biggest carbon-polluting programs: leasing public land to companies for extraction of oil, natural gas and coal. In 2012, federal fossil fuel production released more than 1,340 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent—that's similar to the annual emissions of more than 280 million cars, according to a report by the liberal think-tank Center for American Progress. This must change if the United States is serious about moving to a low-carbon economy and meeting its goal of reducing emissions 32 percent compared to 2005 levels by 2030, climate campaigners say. "We can't even begin to move in that direction if the United States is going to keep auctioning off publicly owned coal, oil, and gas, effectively giving the fossil fuel industry every incentive to stay in business," said Jeremy Nichols, climate and energy program director at WildEarth Guardians. The Denver-based green group is focused on overhauling the federal coal program, the program's largest emissions source. The group won one high-profile lawsuit on this issue in May, when a federal court judge ordered regulators to redo a coal expansion application in Colorado; the judge ruled that they insufficiently accounted for climate impacts in their environmental assessment, among other issues. Next year, WildEarth Guardians expects decisions for similar pending lawsuits across Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming...more

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