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Tue, 2013-12-03 09:58Sharon Kelly
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Toxic Coal Ash Disposal Proves Costly and Hazardous, Duke Energy's Sutton Lake Contamination Questioned

A new report out from Wake Forest University concludes that coal ash waste from Duke Energy’s Sutton coal plant in Wilmington, NC is elevating levels of selenium pollution in nearby Sutton Lake. The lake, prized by fishermen for its largemouth bass population, has been contaminated, according to a study released today by Prof. Dennis Lemly, Research Associate Professor of Biology at Wake Forest, with high levels of selenium. Selenium has been linked to deformities in fish – including two-headed trout – and can cause a condition known as selenosis if people consume high enough doses in their food or drinking water.

Several conservation groups, including the Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center, which joined the University in announcing the findings, filed suit against Duke Energy Progress, Inc. this summer, arguing that pollution from the Sutton plant's coal ash is “killing a regional fishing lake and is threatening a community’s drinking water.”

The new report, which found that the coal ash pollution kills over 900,000 fish and deforms thousands more in Sutton Lake each year, is likely to bolster the plaintiffs' case in that suit.

The research also highlights one of the most fundamental problems with American energy policy: policy-makers and the public have been unwilling to recognize the true costs of the fuels we use to make electricity.

Mon, 2013-11-18 03:42Brendan DeMelle
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International Coal and Climate Summit Hears Tough Love from UNFCCC Head As Protests Highlight Poland's Coal Addiction

The second week of the COP19 UN climate change conference in Warsaw kicked off today with a focus on the continuing obstruction of the bad actors in the process - Japan, Australia and Canada - as well as the head-scratching decision by the Polish government to co-host a ‘clean coal’ conference just down the street from the national stadium where the COP19 UN negotiations are taking place.

This morning, Greenpeace unfurled a banner on the front of Poland’s Ministry of Economy building in protest of the World Coal Association’s International Coal and Climate Summit taking place inside. Beneath the banner, activists held a People Before Coal rally (#Cough4Coal), inflating a giant set of pink lungs and calling for an immediate phase-out of coal plants worldwide in order to safeguard public health, ecosystems and the global climate.

Poland’s move to co-host the World Coal Association’s ‘clean coal’ summit in the midst of the UNFCCC conference is widely seen here as a slap in the face to the assembled delegates, NGOs and activists from around the world. **Update: Poland was awarded the Fossil of the Day award on Monday for its coal boosterism, and activists have re-named the country #Coaland on Twitter.**

The fact that the Coal and Climate Summit is being held under the auspices of the Polish government is further proof that it cares neither for the well-being of its citizens nor the environment,” Dr. Michal Wilczynski, the former Chief Geologist and ex-Deputy Minister of Environment in Poland said in a statement.

Inside the coal industry summit, Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, had some tough love to share with the assembled coal executives. The coal industry “must change rapidly and dramatically,” she said, noting that coal has “an unacceptably high cost to human and environmental health.” She stressed that the world must “leave most existing [coal] reserves in the ground” in order to avert climate chaos. 

“The IPCC's findings have been endorsed by 195 governments, including all of those in which you operate. We are at unprecedented greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere; our carbon budget is half spent. If we continue to meet energy needs as we have in the past, we will overshoot the internationally agreed goal to limit warming to less than two degree Celsius.”

Figueres concluded with an appeal to the executives to “look past next quarter's bottom line and see the next generation's bottom line.”

Thu, 2013-11-07 05:00Graham Readfearn
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Heartland Institute Tries To Poison Classrooms With Partisan Climate Pseudoscience

YOU have an important decision to make,” wrote Diane Bast from the conservative Heartland Institute in a memo posted to science teachers across the US last month.

“Will you tell your students the “science is settled” on global warming, as the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) claims it is?”

The Heartland Institute likes to ask disingenuous questions like this.  Who can forget its disastrous billboard campaign of last year with that picture of terrorist and murderer Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski and the words “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?”

Not surprisingly, after hearing of the billboard key private sponsors and funders of Heartland pulled their support quicker than you can say “What on earth were they thinking?

The Heartland Institute is a conservative free market “think tank” that has made the ideologically-driven denial of climate change science one its core causes. The organisation has accepted millions of dollars from the likes of Exxon, family foundations built on polluting industries and many millions more via a slush fund financed by anonymous conservative millionaires.

Diane Bast, the wife of Heartland president Joseph Bast, was writing to the science teachers to introduce the free copies of its enclosed Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change report - Climate Change Reconsidered II.

“Like the IPCC's reports, NIPCC's reports cite thousands of articles appearing in peer-reviewed science journals relevant to the subject of human-induced climate change,” wrote Bast, who said the report was “comprehensive, objective, and faithful to the scientific method.”

Yet the report is anything but. Australian astrophysicist Dr Michael Brown, of Monash University in Melbourne, described it succinctly as “partisan pseudoscience”. Dr Brown wrote in The Conversation:

Mon, 2013-11-04 10:19Steve Horn
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MSNBC "Leans Forward" Into Running "Native Ads" Promoting Fracking

Three years into its “Lean Forward” re-branding campaign, MSNBC has given new meaning to the catchphrase, leaning forward into running branded content promoting hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”)

Looking to beef up its web presence, MSNBC has brought “Lean Forward” online with a new and improved website, calling it a “Platform for the Lean Forward, progressive community.” A key part of funding that platform: running “native advertisements” for America's Natural Gas Alliance and General Electric.

“General Electric and America’s Natural Gas Alliance are the site’s launch partners,” explained an October 30 MediaPost article.

GE, the first native ad partner for msnbc.com, will collaborate with MSNBC to deliver a content series that highlights how the 'Industrial Internet' and 'Brilliant Machines Innovation' are reshaping our world. America’s Natural Gas Alliance will be featured in sponsored polls in the 'Speak Out' section of the site centered on natural gas facts.”

GE, former owner of NBC, of which MSNBC is one of its many tentacles, is fully invested in the fossil fuel industry, with assets in fracking, coal, offshore drilling, tar sands, and more. ANGA is the shale gas industry's lobbying tour de force, both at the federal and state level.

Native advertising - also referred to as “branded content” or “native content” - is quickly replacing banner ads and pop-up ads as the go-to channel of reaching consumers for advertising executives. 

“Native content is a digital advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience, matching both the form and function of the environment in which it is placed,” explained a recent MarketingWeek article.

If banner ads and pop-up ads are “overt ads,” then native ads are best described as “covert ads,” akin to the controversial “video news releases” for TV news.

Sun, 2013-11-03 10:57Steve Horn
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Coal Baron and Major Ken Cuccinelli Campaign Donor Sues Blogger for Defamation, Invasion of Privacy

Robert Murray, owner of the Ohio-based coal giant, Murray Energy Corporationfiled a defamation lawsuit against a prominent liberal blogger and The Huffington Post

Filed on September 25 in Belmont County's Court of Common Pleas, Murray's complaint accuses Mike Stark, creator of FossilAgenda.com and Stark Reports, and The Huffington Post of defamation and invasion of privacy stemming from Mr. Stark's September 20 article, “Meet the Extremist Coal Baron Bankrolling Ken Cuccinelli's Campaign.”

Stark, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and David Halperin, former Senior Vice President of the Center for American Progress pushed back this week, filing a motion asking the presiding federal judge to dismiss charges for the case.

Published in the midst of the heated Virginia gubernatorial race between Republican Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe - one of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign chairmen - Stark's piece apparently struck a nerve with Murray, one of Cuccinelli's key campaign contributors.

Ken Cuccinelli; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

In the piece published on The Huffington Post, Stark points to the $30,000 that Murray Energy has given Cuccinelli, as well as Robert Murray's campaign work on behalf of 2012 Republican Party presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Stark also covers Murray's call for the impeachment of President Obama at a recent speaking engagement, along with his firing of 150 workers after Obama's 2012 victory over Mitt Romney and the prayer he offered the U.S. public after Obama's 2012 victory. 

Thu, 2013-10-31 12:53Farron Cousins
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"War on Coal" Talking Point Rises From The Grave Again

A common theme in cheesy slasher horror movies is to have the main characters lulled into a false sense of security.  The rampaging psychopath has seemingly been destroyed, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, and just as someone cracks a joke, the killer re-emerges and claims another victim.  This scenario is playing itself out in American politics.  But instead of a serial killer, the rampaging psychopath is the coal industry’s pollution of the public discourse.

As I’ve pointed out in the past, the coal industry-sponsored talking point of an Obama administration “war on coal” failed to resonate with the American public during the 2012 election cycle.  That’s not speculation, it’s the industry’s own admission.  They conceded that the public didn’t buy into the idea, and that it was a lousy attempt.  Despite this evidence, their bought and paid for political lackeys are still beating the 'war on coal' drums.

Last week, it was Republicans Ed Whitfield and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claiming that they would make the “war on coal” a staple of next year’s midterm elections.  Not being one to miss the opportunity to misinform the public, Republican Senator Rand Paul from Kentucky made it clear this week that he, too, would be using the “war on coal” as a major talking point for the next 12 months in an attempt to smear his political opponents.

Fri, 2013-10-25 10:00Farron Cousins
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Climate Policy Already Headlining 2014 Midterm Elections

The U.S. may still be more than a year out from the 2014 midterm elections, but Republicans in Congress are already making the Obama administration’s climate policies a key issue for voters.

Republican Representative Ed Whitfield from Kentucky announced this week that he intends to make the President’s climate change policies, specifically stricter standards on coal-fired power plants, a top talking point during the coming campaign season.  Whitfield also announced that he would introduce legislation to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to regulate coal plant emissions.

The Hill quotes Whitfield as saying, “We are going to mark this legislation up, we are going to get it to the floor, we want to get it over to the Senate, and we want those senators running next year to have to have a discussion with whoever their opponent may be about the future of fossil fuel in America.”

Whitfield wants to force the issue of “restrictive” climate policy onto Democrats who are running in conservative areas of the country, with an emphasis on those running in areas that are entrenched with the dirty energy industry, like his home state of Kentucky, along with West Virginia and the Carolinas.

Representative Whitfield has long been a mouthpiece for the dirty energy industry during his tenure as the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power; a position that has earned him more than $900,000 in campaign donations from the oil, coal, and gas industries.

Thu, 2013-10-24 05:00Farron Cousins
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US Chamber President Tom Donohue Pushes Deceitful Dirty Energy Talking Points

Tom Donohue, the president of the massive business lobbying group the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is once again doing the bidding of the dirty energy industry by claiming that America is on the verge of complete “energy security.”

On the pages of the U.S. Chamber’s Free Enterprise website, Donohue claimed that America has become an “energy rich” nation, no longer susceptible to problems like the gas shortage of the 1970’s.  In Donohue’s own words:

We’re sitting on a 200-year supply of oil and have enough natural gas to last us 115 years. And we’re discovering more resources every day. Thanks to new technology, entrepreneurship, and access to private lands, we’re able to develop more of it than ever—particularly the unconventional oil and gas, which was previously too costly to reach…

…Our national energy policy is still based on the false assumption that we are an energy-poor nation. The federal government continues to keep 87% of federal lands off limits for energy development. Our affordable and abundant coal resources are under constant regulatory threat by EPA. The administration is proposing new regulations on shale energy development, even though it is already stringently regulated at the state level. And some in the government still want to pick winners and losers among energy industries.

Donohue would have us believe that the United States is sitting on vast energy reserves that would quench our dirty energy addiction for centuries, but the pesky federal government is trying to keep those honest energy companies down. 

This is the same government that, a few paragraphs earlier Donohue inadvertently admitted, had allowed increased oil and gas drilling in the United States and reduced our need for imports:

Sun, 2013-10-13 12:21Ben Jervey
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BLM's Coal Leasing Woes Continue: New GAO Report Coming This Month

More bad news is coming for the Interior Department’s coal leasing program. This month (or later, if the federal shutdown persists), the U.S. Government Accountability Office is expected to release findings from a year-long investigation into the Bureau of Land Management’s federal coal leasing program, which oversees the auction of coal tracts on publicly owned lands.

You’re forgiven if this sounds familiar. In July, another federal body – Interior’s own Inspector General – condemned the program, releasing a highly critical report that documented a number of flaws in the BLM’s Coal Management Program.

While we’ll have to wait for the GAO’s report to get into the details, it’s safe to assume that it will include serious criticism of the program that seems to be failing on every level. The Inspector General analysis examined specific lease auctions – in one case finding that the taxpaying public was stiffed about $52 million because the BLM was ill-equipped to figure out (or uninterested in figuring) “fair market value” for the coal in a particular tract – but this GAO report will look at the program as a whole, which was plagued by scandal in the early 1980s. Reforms were mandated as a result of a GAO report at the time, but two decades later, many of the changes demanded have still yet to be implemented.

Tue, 2013-10-08 06:00Guest
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Why Are Coal Industry PR Pros Laughing About Climate Change in Private Talks on Export Terminals?

Ed. Note October 17: In response to misleading allegations from Edelman and the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, DeSmog has posted a follow-up demonstrating clearly that Mr. Stark's presence was known and that he had introduced himself to both Ms. Hennessey and Mr. Ferguson prior to the conversation.

This is a guest post by Mike Stark from FossilAgenda.

Last month, I attended Platt’s 36th Annual Coal Marketing Days. As a journalist predominantly focused on climate change and the coal industry for the past year, I was pleasantly surprised at how much ground was covered. At the same time, I was not surprised by the subdued mood that permeated this event.

If coal is your business, your best days are behind you, whether you're a mining executive or a PR flack. And the convention attendees were incapable of hiding their forlorn resignation. The gallows humor was contagious, even to someone who can be characterized as generally happy to see one of the world's dirtiest fuels in decline. 

But one flickering glimmer of hope was provided by Lauri Hennessey, a Vice President at Edelman, the world's largest public relations firm notorious for its corporate greenwashing campaigns.

Lauri Hennessey represents the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports, a front group for coal mining and rail corporations that would profit from the export of Powder River Basin coal. Listen to her hallway conversation with some Arch Coal executives reflecting on the prospects of coal export terminal proposals in the Northwest: 


  

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