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Joe Smyth's Posts

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More protests against Peabody Coal from students and frontline communities

Students at Washington University in St. Louis are in day three of a sit in to protest their University’s relationship with Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private sector coal company. Caroline Burney, a Senior at Washington University, explains in Why we’re sitting in at WashU (And we’re not leaving): In St. Louis, Peabody ingratiates itself to the local community by posing as a benefactor of the arts, charitable corporate ‘citizen,’ and hero tackling “energy poverty.” It all sounds pretty good until you realize that Peabody Energy is the world’s largest private sector coal corporation whose business model propagates climate change …

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More problems for coal exporters: clean water protections

Ambre Energy and its financial backers at Resource Capital Funds received some more bad news this week for their efforts to build coal export facilities on the Columbia River. Earthfix reports: In Oregon, the state owns all the land submerged in water -– including riverbeds. In a letter sent Friday, DSL operations manager Lori Warner-Dickason told project developers that a portion of their project will be taking place over state-owned submerged lands. That means they will need to lease additional state land before the project can operate. “Just like any other landlord, the State of Oregon has broad discretion to …

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Bill Koch is the latest executive to leave the coal business, saying it “has kind of died”

Another executive has apparently decided to ditch the shrinking US coal mining industry: Bill Koch, who made billions selling petcoke and coal with his company Oxbow Carbon. Energy and Environment News reports: "The coal business in the United States has kind of died," Koch said during a phone interview Friday, "so we're out of the coal business now." Bill Koch is the younger brother of notorious oil billionaires Charles and David Koch, and while he has not played a major role in funding climate denial and right wing extremist groups like his brothers, he has used his wealth in other …

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Alpha coal executives get $2 million bonuses amid falling stock price and record Clean Water Act fines

Alpha Natural Resources, the third largest US coal company, had a rough few days in the stock market last week. First, it tumbled after news that the company would have to pay $200 million to stop illegally dumping toxic pollution into the waterways of Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as a $27.5 million fine - the largest penalty in history under section 402 of the Clean Water Act, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. (Of course, a better approach would be to properly regulate the coal industry and actually prevent pollution into our waterways from …

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Meet Ross Bhappu, the money behind coal export proposals on the Columbia River

The coal industry’s efforts to export huge amounts of taxpayer-owned coal from Montana and Wyoming to Asia has generated unprecedented opposition in the Pacific Northwest - tens of thousands of people have rallied, attended public hearings, and called on their elected officials to oppose coal export terminals that would disrupt and pollute communities and pose one of the biggest threats to the climate of any fossil fuel project in the world. This controversy, along with the high risk nature of these proposals, has meant that many investors have avoided backing them. A major signal of these investor concerns came in …

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Secretary Jewell highlights Pacific Northwest climate impacts, but dodges questions about coal leasing

The same week that a Government Accountability report highlighted problems with the way the Interior Department is leasing taxpayer owned coal, Interior Secretary Jewell was touring the Pacific Northwest to discuss the impacts of climate change. That included a discussion with scientists in Seattle and a tour of Mount Rainier to “see firsthand the impacts of a changing climate on the park’s glaciers, rivers, infrastructure, access and neighboring communities.” During that tour, Secretary Jewell was asked about the Interior Department’s role in fueling those climate impacts through the federal coal leasing program. From the audio of an interview with Ashley …

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Senator Markey calls on Secretary Jewell to suspend federal coal leases, as Peabody brags about exporting our coal

Senator Ed Markey called for a suspension of new federal coal lease sales this week, following the release of a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report that highlighted problems with the Department of Interior’s coal leasing program. Markey detailed his concerns in a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell with eight questions about the coal leasing program, including one focused on the BLM’s failure to account for coal exports: BLM's guidance states that appraisal reports determining Fair Market Value should consider specific markets for the coal being leased, including export potential. But the GAO found that some offices, such as Wyoming, …

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“Clean coal” is still poisoning people’s water and air

A state of emergency has been declared in West Virginia following a spill into the Elk River of a chemical used to treat coal before it’s burned, called “4-methylcyclohexane methanol” -- some details from ThinkProgress: Residents of nine counties in West Virginia have been told not to use or drink their water after a chemical used by the coal industry spilled into the Elk River on Thursday. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency as more than 100,000 customers, or 300,000 people, are without safe drinking water. “Don’t make baby formula,” said West Virginia American Water Company president …

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Congressional Climate Task Force calls for coal leasing reform

The Bicameral Task Force on Climate Change today released several recommendations for the Department of Interior to support President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, including a call to reform the federal coal leasing program. The white paper states: BLM should also revisit policies that subsidize fossil fuel development on federal land by increasing royalty rates for federal coal leases, reviewing its procedures for determining “fair market value” during its coal leasing process, and reforming its leasing practices in the Powder River Basin The Department of Interior’s coal leasing program (administered by the Bureau of Land Management, or BLM) has come under …

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Coal summit in Warsaw confronted by climate activists – and science

As the World Coal Summit kicked off in Warsaw today, activists and scientists sought to remind the negotiators at the UN climate talks that the coal industry’s business plans are incompatible with global efforts to address climate change. Greenpeace activists held a banner on the roof of the Polish Ministry of Economy, where the coal summit is being held, which read, “Who rules the World? Fossil industries or the people?” Another large banner on the building read, “Who rules Poland? The coal industry or the people?” The Polish government’s controversial decision to host an event promoting the coal industry while …

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