Accounting for Coal

Coal is one of the dirtiest energy sources on the planet. It is used to produce half of America's electricity and is the country's leading source of climate change pollution.

Coal is a dirty business from the mine to the plant and beyond. Coal threatens our fish and wildlife, pollutes our waters, destroys our mountains, and releases toxic chemicals into our communities.

We have nearly 600 large coal plants in the United States. Pollution from these plants produces dirty air and water that affect our health, and acid rain and toxic sludge that destroys wildlife and wild places across the country. It's critical that we end our dependence on coal and transition to a clean energy future.

Coal Export

Nearly half of all of the coal that the U.S. burns comes from the Powder River Basin (PRB) in Wyoming and Montana—America's largest source of coal. Now some of the world’s largest coal companies are hoping to ramp up mining at the PRB and ship the coal overseas, which will result in the destruction of public lands and wildlife habitat as well as increased health risks for local communities. The National Wildlife Federation and our allies are fighting to prevent the mining of sacred places, like Otter Creek, and to stop the proposed port terminals to ship PRB coal to Asia.

Accounting for the Carbon Impacts of Coal Exports

The National Wildlife Federation released an issue brief entitled “Accounting for Carbon Pollution from Coal Mining on Federal Lands” that looked at the overall carbon impact of the coal being leased and exported from public lands. Increasingly, as domestic demand for coal declines, this coal is exported through coal terminals in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. The leasing and export of coal on public lands could result in the emissions equivalent of 280 power plants.

Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

Mountaintop removal mining is an especially destructive method of extracting coal that has far-reaching environmental effects. Vast acres of trees are cleared and mountaintops are blasted apart in order to expose underlying coal seams for extraction. Mountaintop removal mining has already destroyed some 500 mountains, decimated 1 million acres of forest, and buried an estimated 2,000 miles of streams.

The practice is particularly devastating to areas of the Appalachian range, leveling mountains and leaving enormous scars across our eastern forests. National Wildlife is pursuing an innovative strategy to stop the worst abuses of Big Coal and protect the communities and wildlife in the region.

Toxic Coal Ash

Coal ash is an abundant and dangerous by-product of burning coal for electricity, and has disastrous effects on human health and wildlife in communities across the United States. For decades, coal plants have been able to dump this toxic byproduct into unlined ponds and landfills, resulting in spills into rivers, streams, and even entire communities.

Fact Sheet: National Wildlife Federation and Affiliates Comment on Coal Leasing Program—Comments on the scope of the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement to reform the federal coal leasing program.

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Where We Work

More than one-third of U.S. fish and wildlife species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. We're on the ground in seven regions across the country, collaborating with 52 state and territory affiliates to reverse the crisis and ensure wildlife thrive.

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