By Ben Geman and Andrew Restuccia - 03/22/11 08:04 PM EDT
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, in announcing the coal plan Tuesday, touted the need for an “all-of-the-above” energy approach — the same phrasing Republicans employ when calling for more oil, gas, nuclear, coal and renewables development.
"There’s no place in the country that captures this all-of-the-above approach quite like Wyoming,” Salazar told reporters on a conference call, noting oil-and-gas development in the state as well as its major coal production.
Interior said Tuesday it would hold four coal lease sales — covering 7,441 acres — over four months, beginning in May, and offer tracts estimated to contain 758 million tons of low-sulfur coal.
The department estimates the lease bids and royalties will generate between $13.4 billion and $21.3 billion over the life of the leases, of which nearly half would flow to the state.
Wyoming has been the nation’s biggest coal producer for decades, and coal supplies about half of U.S. power.
“We need to recognize that coal is a very abundant resource in the United States,” Salazar said in Cheyenne, Wyo., where he made the announcement with Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead (R). “Coal will be a part of the energy portfolio in America for the future.”
But burning coal also emits more greenhouse gases than other energy sources, and Salazar touted the Obama administration’s programs to help develop carbon capture and storage technologies.
Salazar also said more coal development plans in the region are pending. Interior said Tuesday that its Bureau of Land Management “expects to announce the availability of records of decision for the South Porcupine, North Porcupine, North Hilight and West Hilight coal sale tracts in the Wyoming portion of the Powder River Basin.”
“Combined, these tracts cover 13,965.75 acres containing an estimated 1.6 billion tons of mineable coal,” Interior’s announcement states.