CAP, The Wilderness Society Call on Obama Administration to Account for Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Fossil Fuels Extracted from America’s Public Lands and Waters

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Greenhouse gas, or GHG, emissions from the oil, gas, and coal extracted on federal lands and waters account for more than 20 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions and 24 percent of all U.S. energy-related emissions, according to a report released today by the Center for American Progress and The Wilderness Society, or TWS.

"This report shows a clear blind spot in the nation’s climate change strategy and underscores the need to account for the amount of greenhouse gases traced to public lands,” said Chase Huntley, senior government relations director at TWS.

The report provides new estimates of the total GHG emissions that resulted from the combustion of fossil fuels extracted from federal lands and waters in 2012 and calls on the Obama administration to develop a comprehensive strategy to reduce emissions from the development of taxpayer-owned resources. The federal government does not comprehensively account for the GHG emissions resulting from the development of the country’s public resources, and these emissions are overlooked in the administration’s strategies to address climate change.

“This report shows a clear blind spot in the nation’s climate change strategy and underscores the need to account for the amount of greenhouse gases traced to public lands,” said Chase Huntley, senior government relations director at TWS. “We hope the administration will act on these recommendations to ensure energy development on public lands is part of the climate solution, not the climate problem.”

In addition to estimating overall emissions, the report finds that combustion of coal from federal lands accounted for more than 57 percent of all emissions from federal lands and waters and that taxpayer-owned coal from Wyoming and Montana—primarily in the Powder River Basin—accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. GHG emissions.

“The Department of the Interior’s coal program in the Powder River Basin is the single largest source of U.S. carbon pollution and—for the sake of taxpayers and Western states—is in dire need of reform,” said Matt Lee-Ashley, Senior Fellow and the Director of the Public Lands Project at CAP. “Following on Secretary Jewell’s call to action on climate change earlier this week, now is the time to develop and implement a strategy to reduce emissions from our own lands and waters.”

Today’s report also provides new estimates for the rising emissions that are being wasted through venting and flaring practices on federal lands and waters, finding that methane emissions from these practices on onshore federal leases rose more than 51 percent between 2008 and 2013.

The analysis is based on an updated report from Stratus Consulting on GHG emissions from federal lands and waters that was jointly commissioned by CAP and TWS.

Click here to read the report and more on the issue.

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Jennifer Dickson

Josh Mantell
The Wilderness Society,
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