Part II BIG COAL
By Basia Yoffe
“Coal is the world’s dirtiest source of energy. The U.S. currently uses coal for over half of its electricity, and coal accounts for one-third of the country’s global warming emissions. And the dangers of coal don’t stop with climate change. Coal extraction is destroying mountains and poisoning communities in Appalachia. Burning coal causes asthma, heart disease, cancer, strokes, and other illnesses. It also pollutes our water with toxic mercury and other hazardous chemicals.” (From Friends of the Earth)
“Let us be clear. ‘Clean Coal’ is a fiction promoted by King Coal. Capture of carbon dioxide at power plants appears to be technically feasible, but the capture and disposal takes an enormous amount of energy. Capture alone would need to burn 25 percent more coal to produce the needed energy. Would developing countries like India and China be willing to do this unless it is paid for by western countries? What of the mercury, arsenic, sulfates, and other water pollutants? What of the problems with Mountain Top Removal and long-wall mining? Renewable energy must be developed.”
Hansen, J. E. (2009). Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. New York: Bloomsbury Press. ISBN 9781608192007
(Click here for book information and reviews.)
American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE, pronounced “ace”) is a front group for the coal industry. Through heavy lobbying, ACCCE works to convince lawmakers and lay people that clean coal is a viable and environmentally sound energy option. ACCCE ”believes in the robust utilization of coal” and promotes any legislation or legislator that furthers that goal.
Formed by the recombination of two earlier machinations of the coal industry, the Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED) and the Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC), ACCCE has an annual budget in excess of $45 million. Its funding comes from the country’s major coal-generated utilities, coal producers, and railroads. (See also PolluterWatch.)
ACCCE spent over $13 million from 2008 through 2010 on lobbying, almost $10 million of which was spent in 2008 alone.
The Center for Public Integrity found that 87 percent of Congressional members were ACCCE donation recipients in 2008: “Political action committees and individuals employed by ACCCE member firms, including many top executives, contributed $15.6 million to federal campaigns in the 2008 election cycle.” Presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama were the top two recipients of ACCCE money, at $302,474 and $241,870, respectively.
ACCCE spent over $16 million on energy and environmental advertising in 2010. Over $3 million of this money went to national in Washington, DC, Montana and Texas in the three months before the 2010 elections. (See also PolluterWatch.)
2008 Campaign Influence
In late 2008, Suzanne Hammelman, Senior Partner of The Hawthorn Group, sent out a lengthy report to “friends and family” outlining the work that Hawthorn had done on behalf of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. Here are two quotes from the text of the report.
“This campaign was focused in key states during the 2008 primary and general election campaign. Our challenge was to get the candidates, media, and opinion “influencers” to start talking about the importance of American coal to our energy future and the need to fund clean coal technology.”
“The presidential campaign concluded with both candidates, their running mates and surrogates talking about and supporting clean coal technology. The issue was mentioned in all four general election debates. This was a 180-degree turn from earlier in the campaign when none of the candidates were focused on this issue.”
The entire text of this report is a must-read for any activist.
Congressional Disinformation Campaign
Forged letters to several members of Congress, purportedly from minority groups such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), were apparently sent by a firm, Bonner and Associates. Bonner, it seems, was doing subcontract work for the Hawthorn Group, which in turn was working for the ACCCE. The letters urged the House members to vote against the Waxman-Markey climate bill. (The bill passed the House by a narrow margin, and the action is now in the Senate.)
Information taken from the New York Times
Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED)
In 2004, before CEED became a part of ACCCE, its president, Steve Miller, wrote a letter to then CEO of Peabody Coal. The entire letter is worth reading, but the following quote about mercury is very revealing.
“Our strategy in dealing with mercury has been two-fold: prevent states from taking precipitous or unwarranted action to regulate mercury and engage in the federal rulemaking to protect the interests of coal-based electricity.” (See also the Huffington Post and Sourcewatch on this topic.)
Influence on Children
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) tried to make coal seem warm and fuzzy by creating the “coal carolers”—illustrated lumps of coal singing Christmas carols whose altered lyrics praised coal power. After widespread scorn, ACCCE took down the carolers from its website. VP for Communications, Joe Lucas, defended the use of “Silent Night” to sell dirty energy.
“Arch Coal, Inc. is a coal producer in the United States. During the year ended December 31, 2009, the Company sold approximately 126.1 tons of coal [more than 160 million in 2010], including approximately 7.5 million tons of coal it purchased from third parties. The Company sells coal to power plants, steel mills and industrial facilities. As of December 31, 2009, it operated 19 active mines at 11 mining complexes located in the United States. The Company operates in three segments: the Powder River Basin, the Western Bituminous region and the Central Appalachia region. On October 1, 2009, the Company acquired Rio Tinto’s Jacobs Ranch mine complex in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming, which included 345 million tons of coal reserves, and integrated it into the Black Thunder mine.”Information taken from the New York Times
Arch Coal, Inc.
One CityPlace Dr., Suite 300
St. Louis, MO 63141
Phone: +1 (314) 994-2700
Fax: +1 (314) 994-2878
Net Sales/Revenues for 2010: $3.19 Billion
Total Assets as of 2010: $4.52 Billion
Power and Influence of Arch Coal
2010 Lobbying Expenditures: $1,910, 000
2009 Lobbying Expenditures: $2,320,000
Joe Manchin (D-WV) received more than $80,000 from individuals and committees associated with the coal-mining industry in the 2010 special election to fill out the term of the late Senator Robert Byrd. The first speech on the Senate floor of 2011 by the former West Virginia governor defended Arch Coal. Senator Manchin introduced the EPA Fair Play Act of 2011, arguing that the EPA overstepped its authority in vetoing a Clean Water Act permit the Army Corps of Engineers had issued for West Virginia’s largest mountaintop removal mine. His bill would prohibit vetoes of properly vetted permits. He says the ruling on Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 mine has a chilling effect on any industry that’s been issued similar permits.
Elliott “Spike” Maynard was also a top recipient of coal-mining industry money in 2010, in his losing bid to unseat West Virginia Congressman Nick Joe Rahall II. Maynard joined Joe Manchin in decrying the ruling on the Spruce No. 1 mine. He made the following statement during the race: “The Obama, Pelosi, Rahall war on coal miners hit its peak today with the proposed veto of the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County. This tree hugging trio is working to destroy the entire economy of southern West Virginia through the EPA.”
Arch Coal wields its power in higher education. In December 2008, Washington University in St. Louis announced the formation of the Consortium for Clean Coal Utilization, funded with $5 million each from Peabody Energy and Arch Coal and $2 million from Ameren UE. Students, faculty, and members of the St. Louis community immediately opposed the Consortium because its name featured the term “clean coal,” a disingenuous advertising slogan and a conspicuous feature in light of the Consortium’s corporate sponsors. In August 2009, Peabody CEO Gregory Boyce and Arch Coal’s CEO Steven Leer received spots on Washington University’s Board of Trustees.
Arch Coal, along with Peabody Coal and others, are backers of ACCCE (American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity), the coal-industry front group formed by merging Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC) and the Center for Energy and Economic Development (CEED). Joe Lucas of Americans for Balanced Energy Choices said about the 2008 elections: “We are out there talking to everybody, from people who are running for president of the United States down to Joe Six-pack.” It paid $5 million to CNN to co-sponsor at least six presidential debates and air other network advertisements.
“Massey Energy Company is a coal producer in the United States. It produces, processes, and sells bituminous coal of various steam and metallurgical grades, primarily of low sulfur content, through the 23 processing and shipping centers (Resource Groups). At January 31, 2010, the Company operated 56 mines, including 42 underground mines (two of which employ both room and pillar and longwall mining) and 14 surface mines (with 12 highwall miners in operation) in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia. The Company produces coal using four mining methods: underground room and pillar, underground longwall, surface, and highwall mining. In April 2010, the Company completed its acquisition of Cumberland Resources Corporation.
“The Massey Energy Company is the biggest coal-mining business in central Appalachia. It owns the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, WV, where a methane gas explosion on April 5, 2010, killed 29 people, making it the most deadly mining accident in the nation since December 19, 1984, when 27 workers died in a fire at the Wilberg Mine in Orangeville, Utah. The blast came just four years after federal regulators overhauled mine safety laws. That overhaul, the first in over three decades, came after 19 miners died in a series of accidents in West Virginia and Kentucky—including one that brought criminal charges against a subsidiary of the Massey Energy Company, based in Virginia, the owner of the mine where the Montcoal explosion took place.
“Massey’s Upper Big Branch was warned that it had a ‘potential pattern of violations’ in a December 6, 2007, letter from the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The letter noted that the mine had received 204 violations that were deemed serious and significant over the previous two years, well above average.
“But six months later, the safety agency announced that the Upper Big Branch mine and 19 others that were warned that December had all instituted plans to fix their problems, and had received fewer violations. Upper Big Branch escaped the stepped-up enforcement even though it continued to amass violations, federal records show.”
Information taken from the New York Times
Massey Energy Company
4 North 4th St.
Richmond VA 23219
Phone: +1 (804) 788-1800
Fax: +1 (804) 788-1801
Net Sales/Revenues for 2010: $3.04 Billion
Total Assets as of 2010: $4.61 Billion
In January 2011, it was announced that Massey Energy Company would be bought by competitor Alpha Natural Resources for $7.1 billion.
Power and Influence of Massey Energy
The company’s former chief executive, Don Blankenship, is a highly active GOP fundraiser and bankroller who is known for his outspoken opposition to labor unions; the Upper Big Branch Mine is not unionized.
The Massey Energy chairman garnered national attention in 2004 when he contributed $3 million to the campaign of a West Virginia judicial candidate who later played a pivotal role in overturning a $50 million judgment against Massey Energy. The U.S. Supreme Court later ruled that the judge should have recused himself from the case.
The Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a watchdog group, calculates that individuals and PACs connected to Massey Energy have contributed more than $300,000 to federal candidates in the past two decades, 91 percent of which went to Republicans. Top recipients include current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has collected $13,550 from Massey-connected contributors, records show.
Blankenship contributed the federal maximum of $30,400 in 2010 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and he has supported Senator James M. Inhofe (R-OK) and the successful races of GOP Senate candidates Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Information taken from the Washington Post
On Oct 30, 2009, Fayette County, WV, Judge Paul Blake ruled in an age discrimination lawsuit that more than 200 miners who were not rehired after Massey Energy bought a bankrupt West Virginia mine were entitled to a settlement of $8.75 million. The suit covers 229 miners, including 82 union miners. Massey has been ordered to rehire the miners. Under the terms of the settlement, the 82 union miners will each receive $38,000. The remaining miners will receive $19,000.
Massey Energy engages in extensive public relations to win the hearts and minds of the people in communities it damages. Among Massey Energy’s contributions to the community are an annual Christmas Extravaganza for local children, financial assistance to local schools, and college and post-graduate scholarships. Massey co-sponsors the Appalachian Leadership and Education Foundation (ALEF) and in 1997 formed Doctors for our Communities with Marshall University, providing medical-student loans that are waived if the recipient practices medicine for a minimum of seven years in Massey’s operating region.
The Massey Cancer Center of Virginia Commonwealth University is named in honor of William E. Massey for his financial endowment.
In 2005, Massey established the Family Wellness Center, which offers medical services to employees’ families in McDowell and Logan Counties in West Virginia, who often lack access to primary care physicians and health care facilities. A Harvard study found that these counties, perhaps due to the nature of mining operations, rank among the 25 worst countywide life expectancy averages in the United States.
Peabody Energy Corporation is a the largest private-sector coal company in the world. “The Company owns majority interests in 28 coal-mining operations located in the United States and Australia. In addition to its mining operations, it markets, brokers and trades coal. The Company operates in four principal segments: its three mining segments and its Trading and Brokerage segment. The Company’s three mining segments are Western U.S. Mining, Midwestern U.S. Mining and Australian Mining. Its fifth segment, Corporate and Other, includes mining and export/transportation joint ventures, energy-related commercial activities, as well as the management of its vast coal reserve and real estate holdings through initiatives, such as participation in developing mine-mouth coal-fueled generating plants; developing British Thermal Unit (BTU) Conversion technologies, which are designed to convert coal to natural gas and transportation fuels, and advancing carbon capture and storage initiatives.”
Information taken from the New York Times
Peabody Energy Corporation
701 Market St.
St. Louis, MO 63101
Phone: +1 (314) 342-3400
Fax: +1 (314) 342-7799
Net Sales/Revenues for 2010: $6.86 Billion
Total Assets as of 2010: $11.36 Billion
Power and Influence of Peabody Coal
2010 Lobbying Expenditures: $4,913, 000
2008 Lobbying Expenditures: $8,404,000
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is a major campaign donation recipient of Peabody energy. Among other misdeeds, McConnell led the fight to block the renewable electricity standard and the green tax package from the 2007 energy bill, calling them “millstones.” (See also AlterNet.)
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is a major campaign donation recipient of Peabody energy. Last year, he led the charge in the Senate to prevent the EPA from regulating carbon emissions, insisting that Congress should be the one to “determine how best to reduce greenhouse gases in a way that protects West Virginia’s economy.” He is but one among many politicians and executives blocking progress on global warming.
House Republicans circulated a PowerPoint document that purported to show the regional breakdown of costs for energy consumers under the Waxman-Markey climate and energy bill during the summer of 2009. Upon examination, the document was found to have been written by Peabody Energy.
Peabody Energy was a backer of the infamous, discredited Wegman Report, which sought to disprove anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming.
During the years approximately 2006 to 2010, in highlighting coal’s cost to health and the environment, the Sierra Club and its allies stopped more than 145 new coal plants from breaking ground. In order to recover from these defeats, Peabody Energy is now proposing to grow its market by shipping coal overseas to impoverished countries. Peabody Energy recently announced its new campaign to “end global energy poverty.”
Attacks on Labor
Peabody Energy fights organized labor. The Reverend Theodore Erickson, a veteran of several coal-country labor disputes, told Sebastian Jones of the Nation that Peabody has been “aggressively decimating its unions” since the 1990s by closing unionized mines and opening new facilities nearby as a minority stakeholder. “Once the mine is fully staffed with nonunion people,” Erickson explained, “Peabody will buy the remainder...and the mine is forever nonunion.”
On September 30, 2010, a coalition of Native American and conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Surface Mining (OSM) for withholding records relating to Peabody Energy’s coal-mining operations on tribal lands in northeast Arizona. OSM has so far refused to publicly release pertinent records, including the current operating permit for Peabody’s coal mining. According to Nikke Alex, executive director of the Black Mesa Water Coalition, “For decades, OSM has quietly issued permits to Peabody in a way that has thwarted meaningful public involvement and community understanding of Peabody’s mine operations. OSM’s permitting actions have a direct and irreparable impact on our community. These records must be released to the public.”