Wyoming coal, Cliven Bundy and megadrought

HCN.org news in brief.



Cliven Bundy, the rancher who refuses to recognize the federal government, held a rally near his land in Nevada in April. The three-day rally drew about 150 people and celebrated last April’s “stand-down,” when armed militia and protesters halted a Bureau of Land Management effort to round up Bundy’s trespassing cattle. Bundy has since become a celebrity for extremists. At his rally, we met ex-cops, ex-firefighters, ex-military, a roofer, a tattoo artist, a mom-turned-Constitutionalist. Joe O’Shaughnessy, the leader of an Arizona militia who was part of a “security detail” to protect Bundy last year, told HCN that his Facebook group membership has skyrocketed over the last 12 months. “It’s out of control,” he said. As for Bundy, he told HCN he is unsure the government will ever take action against him: “The question is, who’s the criminal? Is Cliven Bundy the criminal, or is the federal government and their bureaucrats the criminal?”
-Tay Wiles 

Cliven Bundy holds one of his grandsons at a Bunkerville, Nevada, event on the first anniversary of the Bureau of Land Management’s failed attempt to remove his cattle from federal land.
John Locher/AP Photo

24 million acres covered in the original Northwest Forest Plan, in Washington, Oregon and California.

2.5 million acres in western Oregon covered in new BLM plans expected to allow more logging.

The Northwest Forest Plan was supposed to mark an end to the timber wars that crippled the region’s economy in the 1990s. Now, the plan might be unraveling. This spring, the Bureau of Land Management and the Forest Service will revisit the plan, with an aim to replace it by 2019. At a Forest Service “listening session” in Portland in March, activists complained too many trees are already allowed to be cut. Industry advocates, meanwhile, say they’ve never gotten to harvest all the board-feet promised under the original plan. A new plan seems as unlikely as the old to settle the long-simmering conflict over Pacific Northwest forests.
-Paul Koberstein


A team of economists at the University of Wyoming has released a study that shows how much Wyoming depends on coal. The industry accounts for 14 percent of the state’s economy and 6 percent of its employment. And it’s in decline. Natural gas and renewables are taking a bite, as are the increased costs of deeper mining in the Powder River Basin. That could add up to a 20 percent cut in production by 2030. And while some scenarios are grimmer than others, Wyoming will have to look to other sectors, like agriculture and tourism, to make up the loss.
-Kindra McQuillan


Click to view larger.
Rhodium Group and University of Wyoming Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan proposal would mandate a 30 percent reduction in CO2 from 2005 levels. Simulations were run without energy efficiency measures by users, where the coal industry would carry the costs, or with energy efficiency measures, which would effectively distribute costs more broadly across the economy. Simulations were mixed with potential in national markets only and in regional markets for coal, where more demand exists but where export is proving difficult.

The EIA simulations are based on greenhouse gas taxes of different levels, each with an annual 5 percent increase, with anticipated natural gas production and with lower natural gas prices, which would come from higher production. All of these scenarios make coal more expensive and natural gas more attractive.


The percent decline expected in the Custer County, Idaho, budget if Congress lets the Secure Rural Schools Act, which compensates counties for federal land ownership, expire in October.
-Sarah Tory



The short answer: not yet. But we should be thinking about long-term drought and how to use water more wisely. HCN recently sat down with four experts in water, climate and the economy, for an hour-long Soundtable livestream. In the future, dry regions will be drier, and that means a lot of the arid West will have to rethink how it manages water.
-Brian Calvert

Low water levels at Lake Mead.
John Gurzinski/ lasvegasphotography.com



The Forest Service says it will try to reinstate an exemption to Colorado’s roadless rule, to allow coal mines to build roads in a protected area. The exemption was struck down last year by a federal judge, who said the government failed to assess the impact of future coal mining on the climate. Agency officials will now try to calculate greenhouse gas impacts from extracting coal and using it to generate electricity. But they aren’t sure how to do so. Jim Bedwell, the agency’s Rocky Mountain region director of recreation, lands and minerals, tells HCN: “That’s all very much evolving.”
-Elizabeth Shogren

You say:

Dina Roberts:
“Leave the coal in the ground and let the forests soak up the carbon we are already emitting. The Forest Service should recognize its mission is changing.”

John Wrede:
“Not only no, but heck no. Leave our elk pastures alone!”

Nancy Lee Kaminski:
“Roads are the beginning of the end for our majestic wildlands! If the GOP ever really created ‘jobs, jobs, jobs,’ the extractive industries would not be able to destroy our natural world with claims of ‘jobs, jobs, jobs.’ ”

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