Southern Company

Southern Company's Kemper Coal Plant Could Get Billions in Tax Credit Bail-Out

By Dan Zegart from Climate Investigations Center

If Donald Trump really wants to get rid of federal corporate welfare, he should be frantically tweeting against a congressional plan that could send billions to the grossly mismanaged Kemper power plant by expanding tax credits for injecting carbon dioxide into oil fields.

These so-called “45Q” tax credits would get richer and could even become a permanent part of the federal tax code depending on which of three bills now being considered by Congress becomes law. 

And that could result in the so-called “clean coal” Kemper facility that utility giant Southern Company is building in eastern Mississippi getting between $789 million and $4.5 billion, according to a new report co-authored by Friends of the Earth and Taxpayers for Common Sense — Coal Tax Subsidies: A Boon For Kemper.

Weeks Before Dakota Access Pipeline Protests Intensified, Big Oil Pushed for Expedited Permitting

Dakota Access oil pipeline installation between farms, as seen from 50th Avenue in New Salem, North Dakota.

In the two months leading up to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' decision to issue to the Dakota Access pipeline project an allotment of Nationwide 12 permits (NWP) — a de facto fast-track federal authorization of the project — an army of oil industry players submitted comments to the Corps to ensure that fast-track authority remains in place going forward.

This fast-track permitting process is used to bypass more rigorous environmental and public review for major pipeline infrastructure projects by treating them as smaller projects.

To Fight Clean Power Plan, Fossil Fuel Companies Paid for Private Meetings with Republican State Prosecutors

Republican Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma.

Just one week before Republican state attorneys general asked federal courts to reject the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, which requires states to regulate emissions from electricity generation, they met privately — for a handsome fee — with energy companies Murray Energy and Southern Company, which are also suing to halt the plan’s implementation. 

The timing of the secret meetings and financial contributions reveal what appears to be a well-coordinated effort to hobble the Obama administration’s climate policy agenda.

Southern Company's 'Big Bets' on Kemper 'Clean Coal' Plant: A Rigged Game?

This is a guest post by Dan Zegart crossposted from Climate Investigations Center

From the very beginning, the story of utility giant Southern Company's Kemper clean coal plant is a long trail of broken promises, according to a New York Times investigation - and the project's numerous critics.

These include many of the 186,000 utility customers in 23 largely rural, mostly low-income counties in southeastern Mississippi that are now on the hook for a good part of the plant's estimated $6.6 billion cost - this after Southern promised them and state and federal officials in 2010 that the first-of-its-kind power station wouldn't cost more than $2.4 billion. 

That figure lasted only a few months, followed by a promise of $2.8 billion. 

A Brief Guide to Southeastern Anti-Solar Front Groups

This is a guest post by Dan Zegart of Climate Investigations Center

No one who reads this space regularly would be surprised to hear that the big utility companies employ front groups to further their political agendas in the states in which they operate.

After all, we’ve reported here on a scientist who was little more than a pseudo-scientific front for a big power company — Willie Soon, whom Southern Company, which is heavily-dependent on carbon dioxide-rich coal for its power plants, clandestinely funded to do research pointing away from human-produced CO2 as a cause of global warming.

Now an investigation by two Environment & Energy (E&E) reporters has traced a network of industry fronts and astroturf grassroots organizations spreading across the southeastern United States, all united in attacking state laws or regulatory or other efforts to make rooftop solar panels economical to use by allowing customers to sell any surplus electricity back to the grid. 

Was Climate Science Denialist Willie Soon Funded To Do Science Or Was It Just PR Cash From The Fossil Fuel Industry?

Willie Soon fossil fuel funding

So one of the climate science denial industry’s most celebrated scientists has been caught describing his research work as “deliverables” to his fossil fuel funders.

Dr Willie Soon, the aeronautics engineer who dabbles in public health, atmospheric science, solar physics and sea level rise, describes himself as an “independent scientist”.

More often though over the years, he is described by others as an “astrophysicist” at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, lending him credibility which most serious climate scientists would argue Soon’s science doesn’t deserve.

As one University of Michigan professor put it to the Chronicle of Higher Education: “Why is anyone even listening to him? Because he’s got ‘Harvard’ after his name. Once you take that away, who is Willie Soon? He’s nobody.”

In recent days, the Smithsonian has pointed out that even though Soon is employed as a “part time researcher at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory” they don’t actually pay him. “Dr. Soon pursues external sources to fund his research activity,” a statement said.

Soon has solicited more than $1.5 million since 2001 from fossil fuel companies and conservative foundations.

Coal electricity generator Southern Company, Exxon, Donors Trust, the Charles G. Koch Foundation and the American Petroleum Institute have been among his key funders.

Willie Soon's Climate Science Denial Wasn't Ever Credible: Climate Scientists

Willie Soon climate science denial

“The science that Willie Soon does is almost pointless.” - NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt, to the New York Times

Recent revelations regarding Smithsonian scientist Willie Soon's financing and coordination with fossil fuel companies for studies undermining the science of climate change has received quite a bit of attention. Our friends at the Climate Investigations Center have links to source documents, letters to the IRS and Congress, letters to journals that Soon appears to have mislead, and some of the press covering all of this.

The drama has largely outshone the main point among most scientists: Willie Soon's work is vastly discredited. For those who aren't familiar with Willie Soon's fossil fuel company contracting over the last fifteen years, there is probably a legitimate question of whether or not this guy deserves to be in his current pinch.

Frankly, he had it coming.

Scientists and science reporters have often had to waste their time addressing the interference of Soon and his cohorts, who take advantage of the public's general unfamiliarity with scientific nuance. 

But scientists too are talking about Dr. Soon's work and what it means for the troubled peer-review process that the most stringent journals usually adhere to. Here is a summary of some of the most interesting conversations in science publications about Willie Soon's #Fakexpert scandal.

The Real Train Wreck: ALEC and "Other ALECs" Attack EPA Regulations

When business-friendly bills and resolutions spread like wildfire in statehouses nationwide calling for something as far-fetched as a halt to EPA regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, ALEC is always a safe bet for a good place to look for their origin.

In the midst of hosting its 39th Annual Meeting this week in Salt Lake City, Utah, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is appropriately described as an ideologically conservative “corporate bill mill” by the Center for Media and Democracy, the overseer of the ALEC Exposed project. 98 percent of ALEC's funding comes from corporations, according to CMD.

ALEC's meetings bring together corporate lobbyists and state legislators to schmooze and then vote on what it calls “model bills.” Lobbyists, as CMD explains, have a “voice and a vote in shaping policy.” In short, they have de facto veto power over whether the prospective bills they present at these conferences become “models” that will be distributed to the offices of politicians in statehouses nationwide.

For a concise version of how ALEC operates, see the brand new video below by Mark Fiore.

Students Get Lobby Group Material From Chris de Freitas in Climate 101 Lectures

Chris de Freitas

New Zealand-based academic and climate sceptic Dr Chris de Freitas has been caught using material from US lobby groups in lectures to first year university Geography students.

Students who listened to the “Geography 101” lectures on climate from Dr de Freitas, an associate professor at The University of Auckland’s School of Environment, admitted to being “quite convinced” that a scientific debate was still raging over the causes of global warming.

A report in the New Zealand Herald highlighted how Dr de Freitas had ignored key texts, ignored recent extreme weather events and argued that climate change was almost entirely down to natural variations.

In the lecture notes, published by author Gareth Renowden on his Hot Topic blog, one student wrote in the margins that “CO2 has a lot of beneficial effects… don’t believe the propaganda”.

Heritage Foundation Wastes No Time Spinning Court Ruling On Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against plaintiffs yesterday in a lawsuit (American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut) brought by six states against several utility companies and the government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority. The states (California, Connecticut, Iowa, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont) were attempting to force the utility companies to cut their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the grounds that the emissions were a “public nuisance.” The Court unanimously declared that the judiciary should stay out of the matter because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) already has the authority to regulate emissions under the Clean Air Act.

President Obama previously stated that he stood with the utility companies in this suit, as well as in a similar suit being decided in a lower court. The utility companies in the suit included Duke Energy, American Electric Power, Southern Co, Excel Energy, and the aforementioned Tennessee Valley Authority.

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation wasted no time yesterday in claiming that the Court’s ruling was a major blow to environmentalists, and managed to take a cheap shot at some of the liberal members of the court:

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