coal industry

Wed, 2013-12-18 05:00Sharon Kelly
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Despite Flaws, Pennsylvania Regulators Fast Track FirstEnergy Coal Ash Disposal Plans

Across the U.S., the shale rush has unleashed a frenzy of excitement about domestic energy supplies.

But the oil and gas produced from fracking comes along with billions of gallons of wastewater and tons of mud and rock that carry radioactive materials and heavy metals.

As problems with disposal mount, the industry has offered mostly vague promises of “recycling” to describe how the waste will be handled over the long run.

As the nation gears up to produce vast amounts of shale oil and gas — and the toxic waste that comes along with it — it’s worth taking a look back at the failures of another industry to handle its toxic waste responsibly — the coal industry. 

Communities across America are still struggling to resolve problems left behind decades ago from coal mining and related industrial pollution.

These aren’t merely yesterday’s problems – the ash from burning coal at coal-fired power plants remains the single largest wastestream in the U.S.

Fri, 2013-06-28 14:21Sharon Kelly
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Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz Relies on Dubious Coal Tech for Obama Climate Strategy

The key takeaway from President Obama's major climate change announcement this week was his intent to batten down on coal. But if history is any indication, the man Mr. Obama selected to run the Department of Energy may have different plans.

Ernest J. Moniz has a long history of supporting coal-powered electricity, staking his arguments in favor of coal on a technology that remains entirely unproven: carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

Mr. Moniz will be in a uniquely influential position when it comes to confronting these problems. President Obama announced that he would rely on executive agencies instead of Congress, so Mr. Moniz's Energy Department will play a crucial role in determining precisely how Obama’s strategy is administered.  

The day after Obama's speech, Moniz told Congress  “the President advocates an all-of-the-above energy strategy and I am very much in tune with this.”

What’s wrong with an all-of-the-above strategy? It extends reliance on fossil fuels, at a time when scientists warn that we can only burn twenty percent of current reserves before the world tips past the crucial 2 degree Celsius point. Beyond two degrees, some of the most devastating impacts of global warming will be felt. Keep in mind that, if all of the world’s coal is burned, global temperatures could rise by a jaw-dropping 15 degrees Celsius, a study published in the prestigious journal Nature last year concluded.

The stakes, when it comes to controlling American greenhouse gas emissions, are huge.

Fri, 2013-01-18 14:52Laurel Whitney
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Thousands of Miners' Benefits In Jeopardy As Patriot Coal Claims Bankruptcy

On January 29, Patriot Coal Co. will begin Chapter 11 bankruptcy hearings in St. Louis, MO claiming that it's become a “victim of the markets” and can no longer pay its debts. These “debts” include millions of dollars of retiree health benefits. If the company goes under, the benefits may go along with it.

That's why the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) is suing. Filed back in October, the lawsuit cites the Employee Retirement and Income Securities Act, which states that coal companies must provide health insurance for retired miners.

However, the UMWA isn't suing Patriot Coal.

Most of the 10,000 workers in the class action lawsuit have never actually worked for Patriot. They actually put in their time (many with upwards of 30 years of service) with Peabody Energy Corp. and Arch Coal Inc. The UMWA contends that Peabody and Arch sold off the benefits to a company that was doomed to fail, therefore getting rid of the debt and leaving thousands without health insurance.

Mon, 2012-11-19 17:43Steve Horn
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Revealed: NERA Economic Consulting is Third Party Contractor for DOE LNG Export Study

Reuters has revealed the identity of the mysterious third party contractor tasked to publish the economic impact study on LNG (liquefied natural gas) exports on behalf of the Department of Energy (DOE). Its name: NERA Economic Consulting.

NERA” is shorthand for National Economic Research Associates, an economic consulting firm SourceWatch identifies as the entity that published a June 2011 report on behalf of coal industry front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). ACCCE's report concluded, “clean-air rules proposed by the Obama administration would cost utilities $17.8 billion annually and raise electricity rates 11.5 percent on average in 2016.”

That report went so far to say that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations of the coal-generated electrcity sector would amount to some 1.5 million lost jobs over the next four years.

NERA was founded by Irwin Stelzer, senior fellow and director of the right-wing Hudson Institute’s Center for Economic Policy. In Oct. 2004, The Guardian described Stelzer as the “right-hand man of Rupert Murdoch,” the CEO of News Corp., which owns Fox News. 

According to NERA's website, the late Alfred E. Kahn, the “father of deregulation,” advised NERA's 1961 foundation

Wed, 2011-09-28 14:04Carol Linnitt
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Dogwood Initiative Exposes BC's Dirty Coal Export Secret

British Columbia plays a special role in the pollution and warming of the atmosphere, according a new report from the Dogwood Initiative on BC’s rapidly expanding coal industry and its implications for the province’s contributions to climate disruption. 

The BC government plans to reduce emissions by 33 percent from 2007 levels by 2020. Yet BC is preparing to emit more than its fair share of climate threatening pollution due to the province’s steady increase in coal production and export.

As the Dogwood Initiative report shows, BC is outsourcing more than just dirty energy: the province’s carbon emissions are nearly doubled when you factor in BC coal burnt in other countries.

Fri, 2011-07-08 13:03Josh Nelson
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Reducing Air Pollution is Well Worth the Cost

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to protect states from sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution emitted from coal plants in other states. After dragging its feet for a while, the Bush administration introduced the Clean Air Interstate Rule in 2005. Due to its over-reliance on emissions trading, the Clean Air Interstate Rule was shot down (PDF) in December 2008 by the U.S. Court of appeals for the District of Columbia. One year ago today, the Obama administration proposed a plan – the Clean Air Transport Rule – to replace the Bush administration’s flawed Clean Air Interstate Rule.

Finally, today, the EPA finalized an updated version of this rule, now appropriately named the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (large PDF), which requires power plants in 27 eastern states and the District of Columbia to significantly reduce sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide pollution.

The public health benefits of this rule, which goes into effect at the beginning of 2012, promise to be enormous (PDF, p. 12):


Tue, 2011-02-08 17:19TJ Scolnick
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Coal’s Main Man(chin) In Washington

On the heels of three short-sighted pieces of legislation in the US Senate aiming to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPAs) authority over global warming pollution (from Senators Barrasso, Rockefeller and Inhofe), last Thursday, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) delivered his first attempt to end the EPA’s general oversight capacity with the “EPA Fair Play Act.”

In spite of popular support for the EPA (77% feel the agency should be allowed to “do its job”), Manchin’s first piece of legislation has significant implications for undermining health, safety and environmental protections and bolsters Newt Gingrich’s recent calls to dismantle the EPA.
Thu, 2011-01-20 10:28Brendan DeMelle
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Coal Money And Violent Rhetoric Hold Appalachia Captive to Dirty Energy

While Rep. Gabrielle Giffords continues her amazing recovery in the wake of the tragic Tucson shootings, the coal industry and its captive members in Congress and the right wing media continue to talk about a “War on Coal.”

The industry front group Friends of Coal issued “A Call to Arms” yesterday announcing the “Rally for Coal” taking place this afternoon at the West Virginia capitol and featuring the state’s top politicians. Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin’s office quickly labeled the “Call to Arms” rhetoric “an unfortunate use of words,” but wouldn’t confirm whether Tomblin had any plans to discuss the use of such violent rhetoric with the coal industry.

Mon, 2011-01-03 15:20Brendan DeMelle
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Future of Coal Dims Further in 2010, But Dying Industry Still Killing and Polluting

2010 was a dark year for the dirty U.S. coal industry, with the deaths of 48 coal miners – the deadliest year in nearly two decades – and widespread recognition of the threat posed by hazardous coal ash waste to waterways nationwide. 

2011 hasn’t started off very well either, with a New Year’s Day article in the Washington Post noting the industry’s failure to begin construction on a single new coal-fired power plant in the United States for the second straight year.

An excerpt from the Post story:

“Coal is a dead man walkin’,” says Kevin Parker, global head of asset management and a member of the executive committee at Deutsche Bank. “Banks won’t finance them. Insurance companies won’t insure them. The EPA is coming after them… . And the economics to make it clean don’t work.”

Not only are the coal barons failing to build new plants, but their aging fleet is also facing a huge wave of coal-plant retirements thanks to new and emerging EPA regulations, as Grist’s Dave Roberts summarized last month. 

Nevertheless, the coal industry’s best efforts to flood Washington with lobbyists and dirty PR tricks seem to have crippled President Obama’s campaign pledge to end mountaintop removal and stalled out EPA administrator Lisa Jackson’s momentum towards regulating coal ash as the hazardous waste it surely is.

Thu, 2010-01-07 15:38Brendan DeMelle
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Scientists Call for Moratorium on Mountaintop Removal Mining

A group of the nation’s leading environmental scientists is calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to stop issuing new mountaintop mining permits, arguing that the ecological and human health costs of the controversial mining practice are “pervasive and irreversible.” 

The group of scientists published the first comprehensive assessment of the ecological and health impacts of mountaintop removal mining today in the journal Science, describing how the impacts of current and former mountaintop removal operations will be felt for centuries, with major implications for water quality, biodiversity, and human health.  Shockingly, there’s never been a comprehensive assessment of MTR impacts until now.

Published only a few days after the Obama EPA misguidedly approved the expansion of Hobet 45, part of the largest mountaintop removal coal mine in West Virginia, the paper concludes that mountaintop removal’s impacts are much too steep to justify.  The authors’ analysis of peer-reviewed research unequivocally confirms irreversible environmental impacts from mountaintop removal, a practice that also exposes local residents to a greater risk of serious health problems.

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