Conservation Groups Urge Wyoming to Reconsider Turning Coal into Dirty Fuel

Plan would blanket region's people in stew of pollution


Andrea Issod, Sierra Club, (415) 977-5544

Medicine Bow Fuel & Power, LLC, proposes to build a mine and fuel production plant in Medicine Bow Wyoming that would convert coal mined at the site into liquid transportation fuel. The plant would emit air pollutants over the region and beyond, including cancer-causing benzene, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and other dangerous air pollutants. These pollutants can lead to cancer, lung and heart disease, asthma, and even premature death. Among those most at risk are children and the elderly, from the very fine dust and soot that causes heart disease, heart attacks, arrhythmias, asthma attacks, acute bronchitis, reduced lung function, and premature death. In addition, the proposed plant would significantly increase the risk of cancer due to the emission of benzene and other hazardous air pollutants.

The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality has stated that it intends to issue an air permit to the plant without requiring adequate protection for the public from the air pollution health risks.

Earthjustice, the Sierra Club, and the Wyoming Outdoor Council are taking action to hold the Wyoming DEQ responsible to its clear commitments under state and federal laws, which require much more thorough investigation and analysis and a meaningful opportunity for public review and comment before granting a permit for the facility.

"Wyoming is seeing increasing air quality problems, from dust in the Powder River Basin due to coal mining to ozone pollution in Pinedale due to oil and gas development. Now this coal-to-liquids plant near Medicine Bow would greatly reduce air quality in southeast Wyoming," says Bruce Pendery of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. "The state needs to publicly ask itself if this increasing move toward ‘non-attainment’ with air quality standards is what Wyoming wants and if such further air pollution is in the best interest of the public."

Conservation groups have filed formal comments with the state pointing out major problems and shortcomings with the proposed plant.

Liquid coal produces twice the global warming emissions of conventional petroleum fuels, and studies have shown that even with carbon capture and storage, global warming emissions from liquid coal can reach up to 25 percent above gasoline refined from petroleum. The state hasn’t made any effort to regulate the greenhouse gas emissions that would be generated by the proposed plant.

The plant would also greatly degrade air quality at nearby wilderness and park areas, including the Rawah Wilderness, Savage Run Wilderness, Mount Zirkel Wilderness, and Rocky Mountain National Park.

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