tagged w/ Coal
Andy Stern frames the debate in Wisconsin correctly as a 15-state power grab to take away worker’s rights. Under the cover of a fiscal crisis created by Wall Street and a deep economic recession, right-wing politicians in Wisconsin and elsewhere are trying to pin the blame on public employees and strip them of their bargaining rights. This is a power grab.
But this wouldn’t be a Republican power grab without some profit-taking for corporate allies, now, would it?
The fight in Wisconsin is over Governor Walker’s 144-page Budget Repair Bill. The parts everyone is focusing on have to do with the right to collectively bargain being stripped from public sector unions (except for the unions that supported Walker running for Governor). Focusing on this misses a large part of what the bill would do. Check out this language, from the same bill (my bold):
16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).
As Mike Konczal explains, this would allow the state to make no-bid sales, overriding public interest concerns, of heating, cooling or power plants. This rider is just an invitation to corruption, and part of a familiar pattern of selling off state-owned property to fill a budget gap in the short term, with disastrous consequences in the long term. See the sale of Chicago’s parking meters. Hat tip to Ed from Ginandtacos on this one, who writes:
If this isn’t the best summary of the goals of modern conservatism, I don’t know what is. It’s like a highlight reel of all of the tomahawk dunks of neo-Gilded Age corporatism: privatization, no-bid contracts, deregulation, and naked cronyism. Extra bonus points for the explicit effort to legally redefine the term “public interest” as “whatever the energy industry lobbyists we appoint to these unelected bureaucratic positions say it is.”
He rightly connects the Koch Brothers, who have been active in purchasing power plants and who basically funded Scott Walker’s gubernatorial run, to this rider. This is corporate cronyism of the worst order.
We can get into minutiae about the pay of state employees or percentages of pension fund liabilities over time. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is a naked power grab to fatten the coffers of corporate benefactors, in addition to busting the only worker-led counterbalance to that inevitability.http://www.fouryearsgo.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Coal-Plant.jpg Andy Stern... more
By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
An Ecuadorian judge ordered Chevron this week to pay $8.6 billion in damages for polluting the Amazon rainforest from 1964 until 1990. The payout is the second largest ever in an environmental case, with only the damages BP agreed to pay in the wake of last summer’s Deepwater Horizon spill being higher.
Environmental lawyers and advocates hailed the case as a landmark victory, but as Rebecca Tarbotton reports at AlterNet, Chevron is still planning to fight the case.
“In fact, the oil giant has repeatedly refused to pay for a clean up even if ordered to by the court,” she writes. “In one chilling statement, Charles A. James, Chevron’s vice president and general counsel, told law students at UC Berkeley that Chevron would fight ‘until hell freezes over, and then skate on the ice.’”
The Cost of Doing Business
Chevron can continue to fight the case because it’s cheaper for them to fund their lawyers than to cough up billions. Like so many environmental issues, this one comes down to money, which environmentally destructive corporations always seem to have and activists, regulators, and victims simply don’t.
In Washington, the newly empowered Republican Party is doing its darndest to make sure that remains the case. It’s budget season, and the Environmental Protection Agency is one of the prime targets for cutting in Republicans’ budget proposals. Kate Sheppard reports at Mother Jones that House Republicans are not only trying to take away $3 billion from the agency, but also are pushing to bar the EPA from regulating carbon or other greenhouse gasses. Putting this in context, Sheppard writes:
The National Wildlife Federation says the cuts amount to a “sneak attack” on existing environmental laws like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, because they would make it basically impossible for the EPA to do its job. The huge cut—the biggest in 30 years—”would jeopardize the water we drink and air we breathe, endangering the health and well-being of all Americans,” Gene Karpinski, the president of the League of Conservation Voters, said Monday.
The need for green
But environmentalists have their backers, too. At Grist, Bill McKibben, the author and climate activist who co-founded the climate group 350.org, has an interesting look at how the Sierra Club’s National Coal Campaign, led by Bruce Nilles, banded together with other environmental activists to successfully shut down proposals for coal-fired power plants across the country. One of the keys, of course, was money:
A consortium of foundations led by the Rockefeller Family Fund helped provide not only resources for the fight but crucial coordination. By the summer of 2005, RFF’s Larry Shapiro, David Wooley from The Energy Foundation, Nilles, and others formed a loosely organized “coal cadre.”
The coordination was crucial not only for the advocacy groups involved, which each have different strengths and geographical bases, but for the money men as well:
“I first went to Florida in 2005 to meet with several groups fighting coal plants,” said Shapiro. “I thought I would figure out who we could give $50,000 to. After my trip, I realized it wasn’t a $50,000 project — it was a million-dollar project. Over time, the Energy Foundation and others got into the game, so we ended up with some real money.”
In the end, McKibben reports, RFF gathered together, from its own pockets and from other foundations, $2.8 million.
On top of the type of advocacy work that McKibben details, there’s another reason why more communities and companies are moving away from coal-fired power plants: they have a choice. Plants fueled with natural gas are a popular alternative, but as Gina Marie Cheeseman writes at Care2, in some areas, onshore wind power can compete with coal on costs.
“In some areas of the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and Sweden, the cost of wind power ($68 per megawatt hour) generated electricity is competitive with coal-fired power ($67 a megawatt hour),” Cheeseman writes. Wind power is also, she notes, competitive with natural gas, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Close to home
These sort of adjustments make it easier for consumers to make sustainable choices. And in the end, personal choices do impact the amount of carbon humanity is spewing into the atmosphere. As two recent European studies showed, men make choices that generally produce more carbon emissions than women, Julio Godoy reported for Inter Press Service.
One study focused on France, the other on Germany, Greece, Norway, and Sweden. The second study, conducted by researchers at the Swedish Defence Research Agency, found that men ate more meat, drank more processed beverages, and drove more frequently and for longer distances. Annika Carlsson-Kanyama, one of the study’s authors, has argued that their results apply more broadly, too.
“These differences are not specific to the four countries studied, but are generalised across the European Union and have little to do with the different professional activities of men and women,” she told Godoy.
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger An Ecuadorian judge ordered Chevron... more
BREAKING! This morning Greenpeace activists have scaled the Bridgeport Harbor Generating Station coal elevator and unfurled a huge banner reading "Shut it Down: Quit Coal." The coal plant is an aging, inefficient plant that endangers the health of Bridgeport residents, including the children attending the six schools located within a one mile radius of the plant.BREAKING! This morning Greenpeace activists have scaled the Bridgeport Harbor... more
Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management LLP, which buys shares of companies it deems socially responsible, aims to start a $500 million fund to invest in Asia, said two people briefed on the plan.
The fund may start by July, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. It will buy shares of Asian companies that adhere to Generation’s investment guidelines of focusing on “economic, social and environmental” sustainability, while eschewing “short-term” profit goals.
Generation is looking to invest in countries including China and India as Asia’s growth, and the region’s demands for natural resources, increasingly affect the world economy. The firm, which targets pension funds and wealthy clients, closed its main global equity fund in 2008 to new money after assets rose to about $5 billion. Gore, the former U.S. vice president, founded London-based Generation in 2004 with David Blood, who previously headed asset management at Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Generation’s Asian fund, like the global equity fund, will only make bets that stocks will rise, according to the people. The fund will be separate from Generation’s venture-capital business, which provides funding for renewable-energy firms and companies that create markets for trading carbon emissions.
Generation’s earnings almost quadrupled in 2009 to 31.5 million pounds ($50.8 million) from 8.3 million pounds in 2008, according to a Sept. 9 filing with the U.K.’s Companies House.
Generation was eligible to distribute most of the profits to its 10 partners, including Gore, Blood, 51, and Peter Knight, a campaign manager to former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Five percent of the firm’s earnings go to the Generation Foundation, a U.K.-registered charity that researches sustainable development.
more at link...
Ironically, China builds approx. 2 coal-fired power plants per week and are exempt from environmental standards. So they keep spewing dirty coal pollution in the air for cheap, while our few clean plants our subject to higher costs through regulation. Mr. Gore and his Illuminati friends know this and will make billions.
They've already created a world trading market for CO2 to fund their global government. Global Warming aka fear mongering the weather to make money. Only the New World Order could pull off a Ponzi scheme this big.Feb. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management LLP, which buys... more
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
The argument against natural gas got a boost this week, when a congressional investigation turned up evidence that oil and gas companies were using diesel gas to extract gas from the ground.
Natural gas companies have insisted that their newly popular hydraulic fracturing (known as “fracking”) techniques are safe, but as Care2’s Kristina Chew reports, “environmentalists and regulators have become increasingly concerned that the fracking chemicals—including toluene, xylene and benzene, a carcinogen, which are all from diesel gas—are seeping out into underground sources of drinking water, in violation of the Safe Water Drinking Act.”
The Environmental Protection Agency is conducting an inquiry into the environmental impacts of fracking, and some states are considering more stringent regulations of the practice, including disclosure of the chemicals that go into fracking fluid. Gas companies have argued that the blend of chemicals is a trade secret and must be kept private, but the findings of the congressional investigation suggest otherwise. Eartha Jane Melzer reports at The Michigan Messenger, “In a letter to EPA administrator Lisa Jackson… Reps. Henry Waxman, Edward Markey and Diana DeGette reported that although the EPA requires permits for hydraulic fracturing that involves diesel none of the companies that admitted using diesel have sought or received permits.”
And, as Melzer reports, diesel is the only chemical used in fracking that’s currently regulated under the Safe Drinking Water Act. That companies have been sneaking it into the ground does not strengthen the industry’s case for independence.
Ensuring that natural gas companies do their work without threatening water supplies is becoming ever more crucial, as the fuel becomes one of the go-to replacements for coal. In Massachusetts, for instance, some legislators are pushing for a coal plant in Holyoke to start using natural gas or renewable energy, rather than being shut down, as Nikki Gloudeman reports at Change.org.
And although renewables are thrown in there as an option, right now the clearest way to replace the amount of energy generated by coal is natural gas. This year’s line on energy policy from Washington, however, is that the country should support innovations in clean energy.
Will Obama’s new direction on this issue go anywhere? Grist’s David Roberts has been arguing that any energy policy that leaves out climate change is missing the point.
However, Teryn Norris and Daniel Goldfarb (also at Grist), of Americans for Energy Leadership, a California-based non-profit, have a smart rebuttal. They argue that clean energy needs the boost in research and development that Obama is promising. Ultimately, they, write, “these investments will drive down the price of low-carbon energy and pave the way for stronger deployment efforts — perhaps even including a strong carbon price at some point — both here and in the developing world, where the vast majority of future emissions will originate.”
But, about climate change!
And to be fair, the federal government is trying to lead the way on investing in renewables. As Beth Buczynski reports at Care2, the Department of Energy is working on a $2.3 million solar energy project that would power its Germantown, Md., location.
Not every one is willing to wait for investments to take hold, however. On the National Radio Project’s show, “Making Contact”, Andrew Stelzer examines what climate activists are doing, post-Cancun, to push forward debates on climate change. Ananda Lee Tan, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alterantives argues, for instance, “Community-led climate justice in the U.S. has been winning. The largest amount of industrial carbon that has been prevented in this country has been prevented by community-led groups, grassroots groups fighting coal, oil and incinerators.”
Cause and effect
Whether the solution comes from industry, government, or grassroots groups, the country’s energy policy will change over the next few decades. And what’s troubling is that it’s not clear what the impact will be. Take natural gas: Washington favors it right now because it’s thought to have lower carbon emission than coal. But any time humans introduce new factors into the environment, they can have unexpected consequences.
That’s not only true for the energy industry, too. In Texas, for instance, the government is trying to eradicate an invasive plant species, a type of giant cane called Arundo that is growing all over the Rio Grande Valley. As Saul Elbein reports for The Texas Observer, it’s been hard to eradicate:
There are three primary ways to control invasive plant species: Kill them with herbicides, clear them with bulldozers and machetes, or attempt to introduce a new predator. The least controversial approach, clearing the cane, is not going to work. There are thousands of square miles of the stuff, and Arundo cane is nearly impossible to cut out. Each stalk has a thick taproot that sends shoots in every direction. You can bulldoze or chop the cane down, and it will grow right back. Worse, any stress on the plant—say a machete blow—causes it to send out more root stalks. Every chopped-up joint of cane that floats downstream can sprout another stand.
But, Elbein reports, scientists have come up with a different solution: They’ve bred wasps that originate in the same region as the cane to come in and eat it. They’ve also taken precautions that the wasps won’t have their own adverse impact on the environment by ensuring that they can only survive on this particular type of plant. But even then, it’s a tricky business.
“The wasps have to survive,” John Adamczyk, an entomologist running the project, told Elbein. “They have to not all get eaten. Then it becomes a question of whether they can keep the cane in check.”
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger The argument against natural gas got a... more
In the valleys of Appalachia, a battle is being fought over a mountain. It is a battle with severe consequences that affect every American, regardless of their social status, economic background or where they live. It is a battle that has taken many lives and continues to do so the longer it is waged. It is a battle over protecting our health and environment from the destructive power of Big Coal.In the valleys of Appalachia, a battle is being fought over a mountain. It is a battle... more
The New York Times...
January 15, 2011
Judy Bonds, an Enemy of Mountaintop Coal Mining, Dies at 58
By DENNIS HEVESI
Ankle deep in the stream by the house where his coal-mining family had lived for generations, Judy Bonds’s 6-year-old grandson, Andrew, scooped up fistfuls of dead fish one day back in 1996.
“What’s wrong with these fish?” he asked.
“I knew something was very, very wrong,” Ms. Bonds told Sierra magazine in 2003. “So I began to open my eyes and pay attention.”
Ms. Bonds soon discovered that the fish had been poisoned by debris from the mines in the mountains above the West Virginia hollow where her family had lived since early last century. Within six years, she and her Marfork Hollow neighbors had to abandon their homes.
That day in the stream, Ms. Bonds found her mission. Since then, thousands of people — neighbors, environmental activists, politicians, mining company officials, industry regulators and crowds at the rallies she organized — have heard from the short, round-faced woman known as the godmother of the movement to stop mountaintop-removal coal mining.
Ms. Bonds died of cancer — it had spread from her lungs — on Jan. 3 in Charleston, W.Va., at age 58, said Vernon Haltom, who leads the Coal River Mountain Watch, an advocacy group. He and Ms. Bonds had been its co-directors since 2007.
Based in a former post office in Whitesville, W.Va., the organization is dedicated to banning the mining process by which mountaintops are blasted off to expose coal seams, with tons of loose rock cascading into adjacent valleys and carbon dioxide billowing into the atmosphere.
The tumbling rock — called valley fills — clogs streams and rivers and leaches chemicals, previously sealed underground, into water systems.
“There are many things we ought to do to deal with climate change,” James E. Hansen, a climatologist at NASA and Columbia University, said Thursday, “but stopping mountaintop-removal is the place to start. Coal contributes the most carbon dioxide of any energy source.” Carbon dioxide traps heat from the sun and prevents it from escaping the atmosphere.
In 2001, three years after she joined Coal River Mountain Watch as a volunteer, Ms. Bonds became the organization’s $12,000-a-year outreach director, a position she accepted after working as a waitress, then manager, at a Pizza Hut while a single mother.
In her new job, she began staging protest rallies, testifying at regulatory hearings, filing lawsuits, picketing mining company stockholders’ meetings, organizing letter-writing campaigns. A primary target was the Massey Energy Company, which owned the mines around Marfork Hollow and other Appalachian communities. Last April, an explosion at the Massey Company’s Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal, W.Va., killed 29 miners in what was the nation’s worst mining disaster in 40 years.
“She became the voice for communities around the country fighting mountaintop-removal,” Mr. Haltom said of Ms. Bonds. “She spoke to audiences of one person to 6,000.”
One of her standard lines was, “Stop poisoning our babies.”
In 2003 Ms. Bonds received the Goldman Environmental Prize, an annual $150,000 prize that goes to unrecognized “grass-roots environmental heroes.”
“Her dedication and success as an activist and organizer have made her one of the nation’s leading community activists confronting an industry practice that has been called ‘strip mining on steroids,’ ” the Goldman Foundation said.
For years, Ms. Bonds had envisioned a “thousand-hillbilly march” in Washington. That wish was fulfilled last September, when about 2,000 people joined what was called the Appalachia Rising, leading to the arrest of about 100 protesters outside the White House. But by then she was too ill to join the march.
Julia (she preferred to be called Judy) Belle Thompson was born on Aug. 27, 1952, one of nine children of Oliver and Sarah Thompson. Her father stopped working in the mines at 65 and soon died of black lung disease. Besides her grandson, she is survived by her daughter, Lisa Henderson; two brothers, Ernie and Paul; and three sisters, Wanda Webb, Marilyn Thompson and Jamie Adkins.
Danger came with Ms. Bonds’s activism: phone threats, insults, physical attacks.
“She was walking right behind me when she got belted by a burly miner’s wife,” said Dr. Hansen, who in June 2009 joined a march at Marsh Fork Elementary School in Sundial, W.Va., to protest its proximity to a coal-processing silo and a slurry dam, parts of a 2,000-acre mountaintop-removal site.
“She fought to get a safe new school for the kids,” Mr. Haltom said. “In the old one, the kids breathe coal dust in class.”
But last April, he continued, “everything came together: a new school at a safe location about 10 miles up the road. The kids will start attending class there in the fall of 2012.”The New York Times... January 15, 2011 Judy Bonds, an Enemy of Mountaintop Coal... more
It was another tough year for the coal industry. In the last 25 months not one coal-fired power plant broke ground for construction in the United States. In 2010 alone a total of 38 proposed plants were erased from the drawing board, the most ever recorded in a single year. Utilities also announced 12,000 MW in coal plant retirements -- or enough power to bring electricity to a whopping 12 million American households. And even Massey Energy's infamous henchman Don Blankenship is set to retire, effective next month.
Indeed coal executives got what they deserved in their stockings this holiday season -- big lumps of black coal. "I predict historians will point at 2010 as the year that coal's influence peaked and began declining," says Bruce Nilles, deputy conservation director of the Sierra Club, whose organization released a year-end report on coal in the U.S.
Nilles is correct; the coal boom out west looks to be over, as companies like Arch and Peabody scramble to figure out what to do with their vast reserves while U.S. markets begin to dwindle. The EPA has also not been as friendly to this portion of the energy sector as in years past, placing most coal permits for mountaintop removal on hold and even recommending a veto of the proposed Spruce Mine in West Virginia, which would be the largest of its kind in the country.
With the help of Rainforest Action Network and other grassroots activists, financing for new mining projects from the likes of PNC and UBS will prove difficult from now on. In 2010 both banks joined the growing number of lending institutions that are turning their backs on mountaintop removal ventures. During the first half of this year renewable energy projects also accounted for 93 percent of all proposed projects.
Back in 2001 the outlook for the coal trade looked much different. At the time, a total of 150 plants were proposed in the U.S. It was to kick off the coal rush of the millennium. But citizen opposition mounted in the form of legal battles, public education efforts, demonstrations and well-executed divestment campaigns all over country. From the streets of Washington to the rural outback of South Dakota people became outraged. Concern for public health and the awareness of coal's contribution to climate change increased dramatically. The result has been exceptional: a total of 149 of those 150 plant proposals have been halted outright.
Who said environmentalism is dead? When it comes to coal anyway, the movement is alive and well with dozens of victories under its belt in the last two years alone.
Nonetheless, it's just the beginning. According to Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Space Institute, ending emissions from coal is "is 80 percent of the solution to the global warming crisis." Hansen says this is because of three straightforward reasons: 1) according to most estimates coal is much more plentiful than oil and gas; 2) coal is far more carbon intensive than any other fossil fuel; and 3) coal use is concentrated in the United States in around 600 power plants (dozens of which are already slated for closure), whereas other fuels are spread among an array of sources.
Climate scientists estimate that greenhouse gas levels have already passed the dangerous benchmark of 350 parts per million. However, in order to curb this dire trend, and bring down this number dramatically, Hansen and others say we must eliminate coal use in the United States by 2030.
Is it doable? It certainly looks to be.
cont.It was another tough year for the coal industry. In the last 25 months not one... more
Editor’s Note: Due to the holidays, the Weekly Mulch will appear on Thursday afternoon both this week and next week. We’ll resume regular Friday morning posts in 2011.
by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium Blogger
It’s the naughty children who get coal in their stockings, and it seems like Americans must have been naughty this year. Because across the country, we’re awash with coal, carcinogens, and other toxins. And our government is not doing to much to change that.
After the massive coal ash spill in Tennessee two years ago, the EPA began working on more stringent regulation of the waste, a byproduct of coal mining. But, as Kate Sheppard reports at Mother Jones, the industry has been pressuring the administration to adopts weaker regulations than it could.
“Two years after the largest toxic spill in the nation’s history, there is still no regulation of deadly coal ash dumps—nor is there clear direction from EPA on the timing or content of a final rule,” Lisa Evans, senior administrative counsel for Earthjustice, told Sheppard. “For the communities enduring damage from aging ponds and leaking landfills, time has run out. There is no reason on earth that their health should be compromised by such an easily avoidable harm.”
What’s in the water?
Coal ash is one of those pollutants that clearly poses a problem. It looks dangerous. But not all pollutants are so obviously dangerous. This week, for instance, the Environmental Working Group, an environmental health non-profit group, released a report showing that much of the country’s tap water is contaminated with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium, with levels high enough to pose a risk to human health.
“Exposure in tap water has been linked to cancers of the stomach and gastrointestinal tract in both animals and people,” Rebecca Sutton, a scientist for the Environmental Working Group, wrote at AlterNet. Thirty-one of the 35 cities that the group examined had dangerously high levels of the contaminants in the tap water.
How did this happen? As Sarah Parsons explains at Change.org, “The reason so much chromium-6 winds up in tap water is that industries spew it into waterways, utilities fail to test for the substance, and the EPA doesn’t regulate it in drinking water.”
What the EPA does do, Parsons reports, is limit the total chromium in drinking water, “the combined amount of hexavalent chromium and trivalent chromium.” She explains, “The problem is that trivalent chromium is actually good for you—in fact, it’s necessary for metabolism. Hexavalent chromium, on the other hand, is a noxious carcinogen.”
These prevalent toxins are just two reminders that, for all their successes in recent decades, environmentalists still have much work ahead of them. How should they approach that work? Earth Island Journal’s Jason Mark, considering lessons from the 1980s-era environmental leaders, who focused on moving toward the center and working within the confines of D.C. politics, offers this thought: “The new leaders of 2010 say what we need is less focused group messaging and inside-the-Beltway maneuverings, and more heartfelt spirit and energy directed encouraged at the grassroots. I hope their instincts are right. Because at this point I don’t think we can wait another 25 years to figure this stuff out.”
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.Editor’s Note: Due to the holidays, the Weekly Mulch will appear on Thursday... more
State-owned coal miner Solid Energy’s plans to turn low-grade Southland lignite coal deposits into massive new industries “make no sense” and the coal should “remain in the ground”, says a report on the proposals from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
:http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1012/S00279/solid-energys-lignite-should-remain-in-the-ground-pce.htmState-owned coal miner Solid Energy’s plans to turn low-grade Southland lignite... more
My three stars are given for the following, the idea of a tax is better than a cap and trade proposal but still doesn’t really address the larger issue that exists in a market driven economic model – investment.
Investment was mentioned in one of the comments in passing, so here’s my question what should be done with the incentive to invest in these destructive enterprises? Why is it so profitable for investors to dish out larges sums of capital in enterprises like coal mining?
Because the profit potential is so great? – of course.
So what kind of strategy would work to address this great flaw in a market driven economy?
How could the burden of environmental disruption and in some cases destruction be put directly on the investment bankers, entrepreneurs and the like before any investment was taken?
… any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.My three stars are given for the following, the idea of a tax is better than a cap and... more
By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger
It won’t be long before the world has to confront its diminishing supply of clean water.
“We’ve had the same amount of water on our planet since the beginning of time, ” Susan Leal, co-author of Running Out of Water, told GritTV’s Laura Flanders. “We are on a collision course of a very finite supply and 7.6 billion people.”
What’s worse, private industries—and energy companies in particular—are using waterways as dumping grounds for hazardous substances. With the coal industry, it’s an old story; with the natural gas industry, it’s a practice that can be nipped in the bud.
In many cases, dumping pollutants into water is a government-sanctioned activity, although there are limits to how much contamination can be approved. But companies often overshoot their pollution allowances, and for some businesses, like a nuclear energy plant, even a little bit of contamination can be a problem.
Business as usual
Here’s one troubling scenario. At Grist, Sue Sturgis reports that “a river downstream of a privately-owned nuclear fuel processing plant in East Tennessee is contaminated with enriched uranium.” The concentrations are low, and the water affected is still potable. The issue, however, is that the plant was not supposed to be discharging any of this sort of uranium at all. One researcher explained that the study had “only scratched the surface of what’s out there and found widely dispersed enriched uranium in the environment.” In other words, the contamination could be more widespread than is now known.
Nuclear energy facilities must take particular care to keep the waste products of their work separate from the environment around them. But in some industries, like coal, polluting water supplies is routine practice.
The dirtiest energy
In West Virginia, more than 700 people are suing infamous coal company Massey Energy for defiling their tap water, Charles Corra reports at Change.org. In Mingo County, tap water comes out as “a smooth flow of black and orange liquid.” Country residents are arguing that the contamination is a result of water from coal slurries, a byproduct of mining that contains arsenic and other contaminants, leaking into the water table. Residents believe the slurries also cause health problems like learning disabilities and hormone imbalances, as Corra reports.
Even so-called “clean coal,” which would inject less carbon into the atmosphere, is worrisome when it comes to water. The carbon siphoned from clean coal doesn’t disappear; it’s sequestered under ground. For a new clean coal project in Linden, NJ, Change.org’s Austin Billings reports, that chamber would be 70 miles out to sea. As Billings writes:
The plant would be the first of its kind in the world, so it should come as no surprise that the proposal is a major cause for concern among New Jersey environmentalists, fishermen, and lawmakers. According to Dr. Heather Saffert of Clean Ocean America, “We don’t really have a good understanding of how the CO2 is going to react with other minerals… The PurGen project is based on one company’s models. What if they’re wrong?”
In this case, it wouldn’t only be human communities at risk (“Polluted Jersey Shore,” anyone?), but the ocean’s ecosystem.
Coal communities in West Virginia have been dealing with water pollution for decades. But a another source of energy extraction—hydrofracking for natural gas—has only just begun to threaten water supplies. Care2’s Jennifer Mueller points to a recent “60 Minutes” segment that explores the attendant issues: it’s a must-watch for anyone unfamiliar with what’s at stake.
Fortunately, some of the communities at risk have been working to head off the damage before it hits. In Pittsburgh this week, leaders banned hydrofracking within the city, according to Mari Margil and Ben Price in Yes! Magazine. They write:
As Councilman [Doug] Shields stated after the vote, “This ordinance recognizes and secures expanded civil rights for the people of Pittsburgh, and it prohibits activities which would violate those rights. It protects the authority of the people of Pittsburgh to pass this ordinance by undoing corporate privileges that place the rights of the people of Pittsburgh at the mercy of gas corporations.”
Environmentalists in other municipalities, in state government, and in Congress would do well to follow Pittsburgh’s lead.
Of course, you can’t believe every tale of water contamination you hear. At RhRealityCheck, Kimberly Inez McGuire takes on the persistent myth that estrogen from birth control is making its way in large concentrations into the water supply and leading to mutations in fish.
This simply isn’t true. As McGuire explains, “The estrogen found in birth control pills, patches, and rings (known as EE2) is only one of thousands of synthetic estrogens that may be found in our water, and the contribution of EE2 to the total presence of estrogen in water is relatively small.” Where does the rest of the estrogen come from? Factory farms, industrial chemicals like BPA, and synthetic estrogen used in crop fertilizer. So, yes, the water is contaminated, but, no, your birth control is not to blame.
Greening the US
Stories like these, of environmental pollution by corporations, seem to come up again and again. They’re barely news anymore and so easy to ignore. But it’s more important than ever for environmentalists to fight back against these challenges and push for a green economy that minimizes pollution. The American Prospect’s Monica Potts recently sat down with The Media Consortium to explain the roadblocks to a green economy. If green-minded people want to stop hearing tales like the ones above, these are the obstacles they’ll need to overcome. Watch the video:
This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger It won’t be long before the world... more
The Labor Department took an unprecedented step against a Kentucky coal mine Wednesday, asking that a federal judge shut it down immediately to protect the lives of those who work there.
In filing for a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court, the government cites persistently dangerous conditions in Massey Energy's Freedom Mine No. 1 in Pike County. The action — the toughest enforcement action available to federal regulators — would shut down the mine until safety hazards are addressed and Massey Energy demonstrates it can operate the mine safely.
The Freedom Mine employs about 130 miners and was cited for safety violations more than 700 times this year alone.
The move is viewed by mine safety experts as one response to the deadly explosion in April at Massey's Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia. Twenty-nine mine workers died in that tragedy, which has triggered civil and criminal investigations.
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130596700The Labor Department took an unprecedented step against a Kentucky coal mine... more
Spike TV orders up a full season of Coal about coal miners in West Virginia the day after the Chilean coal miners were rescued best movies ever reports.Spike TV orders up a full season of Coal about coal miners in West Virginia the day... more
"A West Virginia man wins a small victory, but not the war, against a mining company in the Coal River Valley.
Few homeowners in Appalachia dare to stand up to coal companies. But Bo Webb did, and achieved the unthinkable: He forced a company to move blasting on a mountaintop-removal strip mining site away from his hollow."
I admire this man. This is an inspiring story and am only hoping more and more people will join this fight!
Join the Organic Movement:
http://current.com/groups/organicgreen/"A West Virginia man wins a small victory, but not the war, against a mining... more
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Over one hundred protesters from the Appalachian coalfields were arrested in front of the White House today, defiantly calling on the Obama administration to abolish mountaintop removal mining. As part of the Appalachia Rising events, the coalfield residents took part in a multi-day series of events to bring the escalating human rights, environmental and health care crisis to the nation’s capitol.
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth leaders Teri Blanton and Mickey McCoy, the first arrested in today’s nonviolent act of civil disobedience, were joined by allies from around the country, including NASA climatologist James Hansen. Meanwhile, protesters led by the legendary Rev. Billy Talen staged a nearby sit-in at the office of the PNC bank, which remains one of the last major financiers of coal companies engaged in this extreme form of strip-mining in Appalachia.
In a stark reminder of the national connection to the coalfields, the Obama administration officials looked on from their White House offices, as their electricity came from a coal-fired plant generated partly with coal stripmined from Appalachia.
As a litmus test of the administration’s commitment to science and the rule of law, Appalachian residents are calling on the EPA to halt any new permit on the upcoming decision over the massive Spruce mountaintop removal mine.
Mountaintop removal coal only provides, in fact, less than 10 percent of all coal production.
Fed up with the regulatory crisis and circumventions by outside coal companies, coalfield residents have been rising up against reckless strip-mining practices against the country, from Alaska to Alabama to Arizona.
In southern Illinois, scores of black crosses were found at coal mines, strip mines, coal-fired plants, coal ash piles, and at the Southern Illinois University Coal Research Center.
Citing Illinois as the birthplace of the coal industry, and “ground zero in the Obama administration’s plan to dangerously experiment with carbon capture and storage technologies for coal-fired plants,” a new Black Cross Alliance campaign announced plans to construct symbolic black crosses at coal mining and coal-burning landmarks in the state and across the nation to serve as a public warning: It is no longer acceptable for the Obama administration–and state and regional government officials—to be complicit in maintaining deadly coal mining and coal-burning communities as shameful national sacrifice areas in 2010.
Invoking William Jennings Bryan’s “Cross of Gold” speech, the Black Cross Alliance called on the Obama administration and the state of Illinois to halt billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for multinational coal corporations, and bring an end to the scandalous coal wars in Illinois by re-investing in a sustainable clean energy policy for the future for the coalfield regions.
The Black Cross Alliance declared: You shall not crucify us any longer upon a cross of coal.
“While the rest of the nation–and world–launches into the exploding new global market of clean energy development and green jobs,” the Black Cross Alliance asked, “why have the coalfield regions in the country been left out of the renewnable energy movement and slated for a new generation of increased coal production?”
For more updates on Appalachia Rising, see: www.appalachiarising.org
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