September 5, 2007
Contacts: Matt Spangler, BLM 202-452-5130
John Grasser, Department of Energy 202-586-6503
New Report Details Coal Resources on Federal Land in Powder River Basin
The Departments of Interior, Energy, and Agriculture today released a report that estimates the quantity of Federal coal resources, as well as identifies impediments to the development of these resources in the Powder River Basin.
The Inventory of Assessed Federal Coal Resources and Restrictions to Their Development found that the Powder River Basin, which straddles Wyoming and Montana, contains 550 billion short tons of total coal resources, or nearly 58 percent of the 957 billion short tons assessed or analyzed to date on all Federal lands. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management currently has under lease or lease application about 11.6 billion short tons of coal in the basin, which are not included in the 550 billion tons of Federal coal studied. (The report can be accessed at: http://www.fossil.energy.gov/epact/epact437_final_rpt.pdf)
"Were it not for coal mined on public lands in the Powder River Basin, many of the houses in America would not be able to turn on their lights," said Mike Nedd, the BLM’s Assistant Director for Minerals, Realty, and Resource Protection.
More than half of the electricity consumed annually in the United States is produced from the 1.1 billion tons of coal used domestically each year. Coal produced on Federal lands is also expected to be a potential source of clean diesel fuel for motor vehicles in the U.S.
The report issued today was mandated in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which directs the three Federal departments to conduct an inventory of coal resources underlying Federal lands, along with the extent and nature of any restrictions on the development of such resources.
The analysis of constraints to development centered on three issues: whether the lands are statutorily available for leasing; whether there has been any land-use planning to determine if the land in a given area can be leased; and whether development has been impeded by leasing restrictions and other conditions placed on lands where planning work has been completed.
The report found that approximately 1.5 percent of the Federal mineral estate assessed in the Powder River Basin – or 82,000 out of 5.4 million acres – is available for coal mining under standard lease terms. (These 82,000 acres represent about 27 billion tons of Federal coal that is available for mining under standard lease terms.) Nearly 88 percent of the Federal mineral estate in the basin is available for mining with varying degrees of access restrictions. About 11 percent of the Federal acreage in the basin is prohibited from being leased by statute or because of land-use planning decisions.
The Department of Energy led the inventory effort, providing technical expertise to guide the design and analysis process. The Interior Department’s U.S. Geological Survey assessed the coal resources that provided the basis for the study. The BLM and the Forest Service, an agency of the Agriculture Department, contributed land-use planning information detailing the availability of coal resources for leasing in the Powder River Basin.