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Murray Energy employees write a clearly voluntary defense of their boss

Robert Murray is a pretty cool guy. He runs his coal company like a fiefdom, demanding tribute from his white-collar employees and free labor from his blue-collar ones. I don't know where he lives, but if it turned out to be in a Gothic castle atop a thundercloud-choked mountain outside of Wheeling, I wouldn't be surprised.

Robert Murray
Reuters / Danny Moloshok
Robert Murray prepares to cast a spell.

Last month, Murray's company, Murray Energy, filed a lawsuit against Charleston Gazette reporter Ken Ward alleging libel. As part of a settlement on the suit, Murray Energy employees themselves wrote a glowing editorial for the Gazette. It is called "A Great Man For Coal Miners and Their Families" and Robert Murray was probably very pleasantly surprised when he opened his paper and saw it.

Some excerpts:

This letter is being written as your offered settlement in the litigation filed against The Charleston Gazette, The Daily Gazette Company, et al., and Mr. Kenneth Ward on July 25, 2012 by Murray Energy and Subsidiary Companies and Mr. Murray in the Court of Common Pleas, Belmont County, Ohio. The complaint is for profound damages, libel, defamation, and the deliberate concoction of lies by The Charleston Gazette newspaper, Gazette website and Coal Tattoo 'blog'.



‘Hope’ and ‘pray’: New York subway’s defense against Sandy

Up to 60 million people may be impacted by Hurricane Sandy this week and in the weeks to come. A hefty chunk of that population are subway-reliant New Yorkers, who would do well to read this while sitting down with a paper bag handy.

MTA Photos
MTA constructs a flood barrier last night on the tracks.

The city's been without subway service since last night at 7 p.m., only the second shutdown in the system's history. But how temporary is it? Gizmodo thinks this may be closer to a permanent condition.

This could be the storm that kills the New York subway system.

From The Wall Street Journal:

Read more: Cities


One of the most polluted bodies of water in New York is flooding

The Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn is gross. An EPA Superfund site, the agency describes it as "one of the nation's most extensively contaminated water bodies." The contaminated water "poses a threat to the nearby residents who use the canal for fishing and recreation."

Listen Missy!
The Gowanus Canal.

And thanks to Hurricane Sandy, the Gowanus is flooding.

From the New York Observer:

With the combined effects of the surge from Hurricane Sandy and high tide, the Gowanus Canal broke its banks this morning in multiple locations and flooded over many of the streets in mandatory evacuation Zone A along its shores. The Observer was on hand to take pictures of the waters. It was far worse than anything we witnessed with the initial Sandy surge at high tide last night.

While the only serious flooding we saw last night was on 2nd Street, this morning saw waters creeping up almost every block next to the canal near Carroll Gardens. Flooding in the canal is troubling as its a superfund site that is home to extensive industrial activity and has a long, well-deserved reputation as a hotbed of toxic sludge and pollutants.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


Sandy will make gas prices go up or go down, maybe

"Burn my remains, please."

This is how the mind works: With this gigantic, unprecedented storm bearing down on the East Coast, will my gas prices go up? Because, you know, I'm fine with the gas and oil that I burn creating massive, deadly storms, but I am not OK with the prices of gas and oil going up as a result. Death and destruction, sure. Another 20 cents a gallon? HOW DARE YOU SIR

Anyway, the answer is, no. Your gas prices are probably not going to go up.

From Business Insider:

Shut-ins at East Coat refineries appear to be causing gas prices to rise today. But Hurricane Sandy will likely cause oil and gas prices to drop as drivers avoid roads.

The effect of what analysts refer to as "demand destruction" will likely be felt later this week, Reuters' energy analyst John Kemp writes.

In other words: Less driving means more fuel means lower prices. Hooray!


Romney might be willing to consider supporting wind, now that Iowa is close

An Iowa wind farm.

Iowa has one of the nation's most robust wind industries, employing between 6,000 and 7,000 people directly and indirectly [PDF]. For Iowans, the expiration of the wind production tax credit (an incentive that allows the industry to compete with entrenched fossil fuel generation) is a huge economic threat.

From the Omaha World-Herald:

Rob Hach owns Anemometry Specialists, an Alta, Iowa, company that builds testing equipment for wind farms. Even though he's a staunch Republican, Hach is ticked off enough by Mitt Romney's opposition to wind energy subsidies that he's campaigning for President Obama. “Iowans vote for politicians who support Iowa,” Hach said.

He comes from a long line of German business owners, and Hach has turned three formerly vacant storefronts in a small, northwest Iowa town into an award-winning company that employs 26 people and builds testing equipment for wind farms.

But Hach was out working for his party's opponent, President Barack Obama, at the Iowa State Fair last weekend, after a TV commercial for the Democratic president was shot in his Alta, Iowa, business a couple of weeks back.

He's turned his back on the GOP nominee because Mitt Romney opposes the continuation of a key federal incentive for wind power development, saying that wind energy should stand on its own without subsidies.

Ah, but not to worry, Mr. Hach! Mitt Romney has rarely met an issue he's not willing to jettison in the face of political opposition.


Here are all of the ways that coal is bad for your health

Well, this is very surprising.* From Australian Broadcasting Company:

The study of international evidence showed increased rates of cancer, heart, lung and kidney disease, as well as birth defects, in communities near coal mines and coal-fired power stations.

The researchers analysed 50 studies from 10 countries, including the US, the UK and China.

Library of Congress
West Virginia coal town, 1974.

The full study [PDF] articulates the health effects of coal pollution more clearly, by analyzing reports from coal communities around the world.


Sandy has arrived

The Times Square subway station, vacant.

It's a strange day in New York City. Probably D.C., too, but I can't vouch for that. The city isn't shut down, just static, sitting in place. It's been taken offline in weird ways: power in some parts of lower Manhattan, steam and the subways, the stock exchanges. It's a weird mix of hyper-preparedness and insouciance. Lights are on in apartment windows, people are walking around, businesses are open, businesses are barricaded. It's 8 million people saying, "OK, let's see what happens."

Resources as the storm winds up: Reuters has a liveblog, as does the Atlantic Wire and the Times. If you want to know what to expect, see the Times or the Wall Street Journal, each of which has state-by-state guides. Sandyfeed has real-time text updates. You don't need us to tell you to take precautions if you're in an area expected to face the storm -- if you've ignored the government and other media outlets, you'll ignore us, too.

For us, the question is this: Why is this happening? Before we see how bad Sandy gets, we can't help but wonder why it's on the horizon. Why is this storm, this massive, largest-storm-of-its-kind happening and happening now? We're biased to assume that it's related to the climate, to the second-warmest ocean waters in a century, to the unprecedented ice melt in the Arctic. The always-sage Andy Revkin looks at the storm and soberly assesses that it's hard to attribute to climate change, as one would expect. Because nothing is climate change made manifest. Nothing ever. It's all a big maybe, like the big maybe that's a few hundred miles from my house, that shut down the daily lives of millions of people. Will it have minimal damage? Maybe. Will it obliterate cities? Maybe. It's all a big maybe until it's unignorable and too late.

Read more: Climate & Energy


Infocomic: New report shows big gains for cycling and transit, if not city infrastructure

A new report from the National Conference of State Legislatures is full to the brim with findings on American urbanism and transportation alternatives. They even mention environmental preservation 25 times!

Transportation, energy and environmental policies are inextricably linked. Today, 95 percent of the nation’s transportation is fueled by oil; transportation consumes about 28 percent of the nation’s energy and produces 27 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gases, second only to electricity generation.

But the report shows that more of that transportation is being powered by our own damn selves.

Read more: Cities, Living, Politics


Oil companies offer helpful tips on how their employees should vote


From the Wall Street Journal:

The U.S. oil industry is for the first time making a direct political pitch to its employees and others, borrowing from traditional union tactics in a bid to secure a friendlier environment in Washington. …

Companies tend to shy away from such direct involvement in elections because they worry about a backlash from lawmakers and employees.

The industry's campaign is focused on the roughly nine million Americans whose jobs are tied to the oil and natural-gas industry, from drillers to truck drivers to low-skilled workers who help build pipelines. The goal is to persuade a majority of Americans to support expanded oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing and pipeline construction, including the Keystone XL Pipeline.

"We realized that we are sitting on a vast resource of employees who can register their views," said Jack Gerard, the president of the American Petroleum Institute, the industry's Washington trade association and organizer of the effort.

"A vast resource of employees," many of whom have mouths and can vote! Nice observation there, Jack.

As noted in the first paragraph, this isn't new, really. For decades -- well more than a century, really -- employers have worked to impress their views about unions upon employees. Holding mandatory meetings and passing out literature about how much better the workplace would be without workers having a voice on the job are a long-standing scourge to the labor movement. And now, the oil industry suddenly realizes, the same idea can be applied to politics.


Empire State Building goes green in more ways than one

Once the site of the Empire State Building was a farm with a little stream running through it. Today it's getting a tiny infusion of its former identity in the form of huge, multi-million dollar retrofits that aim to help the environment, the tenants, and of course the owner.


From the Natural Resources Defense Council Switchboard blog:

A series of cost-effective, energy-efficient retrofits have dramatically reduced energy waste in the Empire State Building, saving $2.4 million in operating costs in the first year alone. In the next few years, when the project is complete, the building is expected to reduce its energy use by nearly 40 percent--and save about $4.4 million each year.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy