EcoFlight partnered with Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) to conduct a tour of federal coal leasing in the Powder River Basin. The purpose was to showcase the extensive research and knowledge of two experts on the issue - Tom Sanzillo and Mark Squillace. The tour included stops at the Wyoming and Montana capitals for presentations to state officials at the governor’s budget office, the state auditor’s offices, the attorney general’s office and the Legislative Fiscal Division.
Coal mining in the Powder River Basin has a profound impact on the land and nearby communities. Those impacts span from air and water pollution to the disruption of historical agricultural production to the loss of hunting grounds and wildlife habitats and contribute to climate change.
With a slowing domestic demand for coal, companies have been looking at foreign markets for exports where they can fetch a higher price. The royalties paid to the government however, do not reflect those higher prices, meaning states are missing out on millions of dollars. Exporting coal, particularly from the Powder River Basin, would open new mines, expand existing mines and require new rail lines in an area that is already dominated by the industry and one of the largest coal mines in the world. Impacts from increased coal operations would negatively affect surrounding communities, air and water quality, and accelerate climate change, and states would not get fully compensated.