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Coal Mining, Development and Processing—The Associated Water Problems

Edward W. Clyde, Proceedings of 21st Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (1975)

Coal constitutes approximately 93 percent of this nation's fossil fuel reserves, but at the present time, it is providing only about 17 percent of our energy. The President is referring to our dangerous reliance on foreign oil and the energy companies are making massive commitments to the development of coal and oil shale. A major role for the western states is anticipated. They have a large share of the nation's coal reserves. Much of it is easily accessible. Generally, it has a much lower sulphur content than eastern coals, so that it is environmentally desirable as a fuel. All of the processes for the utilization of coal and oil shale involve the use of significant quantities of water. Last week there was an announcement in our Salt Lake papers that power plants with a total capacity of more than 11,000 megawatts are now proposed in Southern Utah or nearby Nevada.1 This is approximately [164] four times the capacity of the enormous Kaiparowits project. Exact figures are not available on all six of the proposed plants, but the press release stated that four of them on which data is available will consume 28.7 million tons of coal per year and will require 146,000 acre feet of water. More than 1,600 miles of transmission lines will be required to carry the electricity, most of which is destined for Southern California. There is also an immediate demand for approximately 75,00