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Report Shows Public Lands Contributing to Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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Greg Stotelmyer
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A new accounting of greenhouse gas emissions shows more than 20 percent of emissions in the United States are the result of oil, gas and coal extracted from federal lands.

The report from The Wilderness Society and Center for American Progress calls for a full inventory of those sources, and strategies to reduce emissions.

Joshua Mantell, government relations representative at The Wilderness Society, says the federal government has made great strides through efficiency programs.

"But I don't think we've really looked at the actual beginning sources," he says. "These are resources that are being pulled out of the ground, especially on federal lands, which are owned by all Americans."

President Obama issued an executive order late last week calling for a 25 percent cut in the federal government's carbon pollution output by 2025, but didn't include the federal land connection featured in the report.

The study also provides estimates for emissions that come from gas venting and "flaring" on federal land and water areas, with methane from those practices rising by a rate of more than 50 percent since 2008.

Claire Moser, research and advocacy associate with the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress, says a full accounting is needed to be effective.

"These emissions are not currently counted, and they should be," she says. "Any comprehensive strategy to address climate change in this country should account for these emissions and present a strategy to reduce them as well."

The report singles out coal from public lands as the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions. Most coal mining in Kentucky occurs on privately-held land, but is subject to state and federal environmental law.

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