Fossil Fuels from America’s public lands generate 4.5 times more carbon than those lands absorb each year.
Forests and grasslands on U.S. public lands absorb carbon and are a key component to fighting the impact of climate change. Yet we allow companies to mine, drill, and frack to the point that the fuels we extract and burn from public lands emit far more carbon than the land can absorb each year.
25% of all U.S. fossil fuels are extracted from public lands
Taken from a 2014 report, historically the percentage has been much higher—peaking at 33% in 2003. But given the “boom and bust” pattern of the energy industry and the push by industry to expand energy extraction, the quantity of fossil fuels sourced from public lands is likely to increase
40% of all U.S. coal is mined on public lands
The lion’s share of fossil fuels on public lands is in coal production, mostly mined in the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana. Coal is far and away the dirtiest fossil fuel we burn.
21% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions originate on public lands
This percentage does not include the emissions generated by activities related to fossil fuel extraction such as the building of roads and facilities, operation of huge gas-powered vehicles, accidental emissions like leaked methane, and U.S. fuel sold and burned abroad.
Unconventional energy extraction (tar sands, hydraulic fracturing for shale oil and shale gas, oil shale, etc.) uses vast amounts of energy and water, causes permanent habitat destruction, and negatively impacts air and water quality.
Today, there are factions pushing to commit more and more public lands to energy exploration and extraction. Broads supports keeping fossil fuels in the ground and seeking alternative, clean energy sources.
Regulation of mining activities is based on the antiquated Mining Act of 1872, which did not anticipate that mining would become a large-scale industry conducted by multinational corporations. Hardrock mining (gold, silver, copper) leaves massive scars on the land and pollutes ground and surface water, impacting the health of the land, watershed, wildlife, vegetation, and humans. Infrastructure and roads add further damage to natural areas.
“…according to the EPA, hardrock mining is the number one toxic polluter in the United States, and has polluted 40% of the stream reaches of the headwaters of western watersheds.” —Earthworksaction.org
Even to this day, mining waste may be dumped directly into lakes and rivers. Companies are allowed to extract mineral resources from public lands without compensation for the resources removed—billions of dollars going into industry pockets, leaving a wasteland in their wake!
Though legislation has been introduced to reform the 1872 Mining Law, none have seen success. Meanwhile, the havoc on the land continues.
Check out our recommended reading list (below) to learn more about the affects of exploration and extraction on our public lands.
“There are as many as 10,000 existing mining claims on BLM and U.S. Forest Service lands near the Grand Canyon for all types of hard-rock exploration.”—Ecoflight