Court Documents Show Coal Giant Peabody Energy Funded Dozens Of Climate Denial Groups

According to a new analysis by The Guardian, Peabody Energy, the U.S.’s largest coal mining company, has been funding dozens of different climate change-denying organizations for years.

The analysis is based on recently released court documents that came to light as a result of the company’s bankruptcy filings. In April, Peabody filed for bankruptcy as the global demand for coal continued to plummet.

DeSmog readers will recognize many names revealed to have received funding from Peabody, including climate deniers Willie Soon, Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer and Richard Berman. All three of these men have gained notoriety from the fossil fuel industry for publishing works and promoting the idea that climate change is just part of natural “warming and cooling” cycles that the earth goes through.

Then there are the familiar front groups revealed: Americans for Prosperity, American Legislative Exchange Council, CFACT, Institute for Energy ResearchState Policy Network, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and dozens more.

From The Guardian report:

These groups collectively are the heart and soul of climate denial,” said Kert Davies, founder of the Climate Investigation Center, who has spent 20 years tracking funding for climate denial. “It’s the broadest list I have seen of one company funding so many nodes in the denial machine.”

The company’s filings reveal funding for a range of organisations which have fought Barack Obama’s plans to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and denied the very existence of climate change…

Among Peabody’s beneficiaries, the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change has insisted – wrongly – that carbon emissions are not a threat but “the elixir of life” while the American Legislative Exchange Council is trying to overturn Environmental Protection Agency rules cutting emissions from power plants. Meanwhile, Americans for Prosperity campaigns against carbon pricing. The Oklahoma chapter was on the list…

The breadth of the groups with financial ties to Peabody is extraordinary. Thinktanks, litigation groups, climate scientists, political organisations, dozens of organisations blocking action on climate all receiving funding from the coal industry,” said Nick Surgey, director of research for the Center for Media and Democracy.

We expected to see some denial money, but it looks like Peabody is the treasury for a very substantial part of the climate denial movement.”

The Guardian also notes that Peabody was unique in their climate change denial. While most companies simply casted doubt about the idea that human activities like burning coal can change the climate, Peabody went as far as to claim that rising CO2 emissions were actually beneficial to the planet.

Last November, the company lost a court battle and were forced to admit to their own shareholders that investing in the company could be a liability due to threats of climate change and the effects that rising emissions could have on the industry.

Many of the groups that were listed as recipients of Peabody’s money were think tanks and lobbyists that were working both federally and with state governments to defeat environmental legislation that would have cracked down on carbon emissions. 

The documents uncovered by The Guardian are similar, though not nearly as damning, to the recently released Exxon files that show that the oil giant was well aware of the dangers of climate change and how their company was contributing to the problem for decades.

The Peabody climate denial funding revelations are sure to generate a lot of interesting chatter in Washington. 

Bloomberg News reports that President Obama's mentor at Harvard, Laurence Tribe, has received $435,000 from Peabody to help the company attack the Clean Power Plan.

As more and more coal companies are filing for bankruptcy, we've seen how the coal companies have been funding climate change denial quietly. Peabody used every avenue imaginable — think tanks, scientists, lobbyists, and politicians — in order to cast doubt on global warming science, and they are not alone in these efforts.

As The Guardian article concludes: 

Earlier this year, bankruptcy filings from the country’s second-biggest coal company, Arch Coal Inc, revealed funding to a group known mainly for its unsuccessful lawsuit against the climate scientist Michael Mann.

The $10,000 donation to the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E) was made in 2014, according to court documents filed in Arch’s chapter 11 bankruptcy protection case.

Last October, court filings from another coal company seeking bankruptcy protection, Alpha Natural Resources, revealed an $18,600 payment to Chris Horner, a fellow at E&E.

Visit the Center for Media and Democracy site to see the full list of individuals and groups taking Peabody's money.

Image via KOMU.com.