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Thu, 2013-06-06 08:00Sharon Kelly
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The Epic Rise and Fall of Don Blankenship, former Massey Energy CEO

Three years ago, 29 miners died at the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch mine. It was the worst mining disaster in decades, caused by a methane-fueled blast that was so strong it killed miners more than a mile away and left steel rail lines tangled.

Appalachia has seen its share of these sorts of accidents over the years and normally companies get fined, but mine operators almost never face criminal charges. This time was different.

For the past two years, the U.S. Attorney in West Virginia, R. Booth Goodwin II, has been systematically working his way up Massey’s hierarchy, arguing that beyond the managers who supervised that mine, there was a broader conspiracy led by still unnamed “directors, officers, and agents.” Goodwin has based his prosecutions on conspiracy charges rather than on violations of specific health and safety regulations, which means he can reach further up into the corporate structure. So far, he has convicted four employees including the Upper Big Branch mine superintendent who admitted he disabled a methane monitor and falsified mine records.

But in February, the case took a surprising turn. In pleading guilty to conspiracy charges, Dave Hughart, former President of a Massey subsidiary who is cooperating with the government, said that the person who had alerted him to impending mine inspections was Massey’s CEO, Don Blankenship – an accusation that sent a gasp through the entire coal industry.

Sun, 2013-04-28 12:45Guest
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Coal Exports: An Update On Pacific Northwest Coal Fights

This is a guest post by Josephine Ferorelli, originally published at Occupy.com.

There is not enough room in the national headlines for all the battles between fossil fuel expansion projects and climate activists occurring right now. But the Keystone XL proposal’s public comment period ends on April 22nd, so we can shift our focus to coal exportation for a moment. Domestic coal use is one of the few figures that has been steadily dropping, with coal-fired power plants closing in many states, and utilities shifting toward other sources (mainly natural gas) for power generation.

So coal companies are scrambling with proposals to extract coal in Montana and Wyoming, ship it by train to ports in British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon, then freight it to Asian markets. For a good overview of domestic coal use vs. export written last year, read Ben Jervey’s analysis at DeSmog Blog.

It is frustrating (and terrifying) to devote so much of our effort to preventing fossil fuel expansion rather than actually reducing emissions, but springtime brings some good news from the northwest coast. Of the five port proposals for increased coal export capacity in the US this year, one has lost its investors and failed. The other four are facing serious public and legal opposition, and are destabilized by the shifting sands of corporate prospects; Ambre Energy in particular is dogged by rumors of insolvency. No permits have been issued yet.

Tue, 2013-04-09 20:52Connor Gibson
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Koch & Exxon-funded Willie Soon Challenged by Students at Climate Denial Event

Crossposted from PolluterWatch.

Rarely do we meet those who have made careers selling us lies. Consider the oddball doctors who took tobacco money to deny a link between cigarette smoking and cancer, or the handful of scientists who take oil and coal money to discredit global warming science, or the people who have done both.

Last week, students in Wisconsin and Michigan stepped up to such an opportunity when CFACT Campus, the student arm of a well-known cabal of fossil fuel apologists, hosted climate change denier Willie Soon at several campus events around the country.

Mon, 2013-03-18 11:00Sharon Kelly
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Obama's Energy Strategy -- Too Little, Too Late?

A year ago, President Obama set forth his vision of America’s energy policy. “We need an energy strategy for the future,” he said in a message still prominently displayed on the White House website, “an all-of-the-above strategy for the 21st century that develops every source of American-made energy.”

During the presidential debates, he hammered repeatedly an “all of the above” theme, though he also surprised many by making a strong statement about the urgency of confronting climate change during his second term.

This week, President Obama once more talked about his “all the above” strategy as he announced that he was setting aside $2 billion for research and development on alternative transportation fuels.

Things are looking up for renewable energy, right? Not so fast.

Obama's choice for new directors of the three agencies with the most relevance to climate change – the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior — do not sew confidence that real change is coming.

Fri, 2013-03-08 05:00Ben Jervey
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Don Blankenship, Dark Lord of Coal Country, Implicated in Upper Big Branch Mine Explosion Deaths

Just under three years ago, an explosion in the Upper Big Branch coal mine in Montcoal, West Virginia stole the lives of 29 miners. Many were quick to condemn Massey Energy – the coal giant that operated the mine – for their long record of lax safety oversight, and to bemoan the preventability of the disaster.

Blame was directed straight to the top of the company, to then-CEO Don Blankenship, “the dark lord of coal country” himself, who had grown a vile reputation in the field for systematically putting production and profit over worker safety.

Late last week, in a surprise twist during a routine plea hearing in a federal court, all that blame was seemingly justified as Blankenship was directly implicated in conspiring to skirt safety regulations. A former Massey Energy official called our his boss, Blankenship himself, for conspiring and plotting to hide safety violations from federal safety inspectors.

Tue, 2013-01-22 17:54Carol Linnitt
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Approaching the Point of No Return: The World's Dirtiest Megaprojects We Must Avoid

Canada's tar sands are one of 14 energy megaprojects that are “in direct conflict with a livable climate.”

According to a new report released today by Greenpeace, the fossil fuel industry has plans for 14 new coal, oil and gas projects that will dangerously increase global warming emissions at a time when massive widespread reductions are necessary to avoid catastrophic climate change. In conjunction these projects make it very likely global temperature rise will increase beyond the 2 degrees Celsius threshold established by the international community to levels as high as 4 or even 6 degrees.

Tue, 2013-01-15 11:09Steve Horn
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ALEC to Attack North Carolina Renewable Energy Initiatives

Renewable energy is under attack in the Tar Heel State. That's the word from Greenpeace USA's Connor Gibson today in a report that implicates King Coal powerhouse, Duke Energy and the fossil fuel industry at-large. 

The vehicle Duke Energy is utilizing for this attack is one whose profile has grown in infamy in recent years: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

ALEC is described as a “corporate bill mill” by its critics. It's earned such a description because it passes “model bills” written by corporate lobbyists and to boot, the lobbyists typically do so behind closed doors at ALEC's annual meetings. 

Thu, 2012-12-27 06:00Laurel Whitney
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How Electric Providers Use Sleazy Scams To Sell Energy

Imagine this:

You're working from home on a Friday, winding down from the week, furiously reading the latest climate news until you commute from the living room to your bed to begin your normal 3:00 brainstorming session (aka a nap). Suddenly, the door rings. Who could be stopping by on a Friday afternoon?

Groggy from your midday siesta, you drag yourself to the front door wearing your pink fluffy robe (because seriously, if you're working from home and taking a nap, you're not wearing pants), only to open it to two smiling men in business suits.

“Ma'am, there's something wrong with your energy bill, you're being charged too much. May we see it?”

In your somewhat drunken stupor, you're baffled as to how that could be, but oblige. Somehow, 20 minutes later, you're signing a contract just to get these weirdos out of your doorway and back to your nap.

All of a sudden, the realization sets in- you've been scammed by energy brokers.

Sun, 2012-11-25 06:00Laurel Whitney
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ACCCE PR Rhetoric On Low-Income Households Does Not Compute

The ACCCE PR robots suffered a bit of malfunction recently when attempting to spit out the coal industry's usual talking points. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst released a report last week which discovered that low-income households, and often minorities that encompass the low-income bracket, are disproportionately affected by coal pollution.

The report looked at the distribution of people who live within 3 miles of coal-generating power plants. Residents living within this range are the most likely to suffer negative health effects associated with sulfate and nitric oxide pollution.

Unsurprisingly, most of the people living in this zone are low-income or people of color. So how did the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity PR bots respond?

JOBS!! ENERGY COSTS!!

Mon, 2012-11-19 17:43Steve Horn
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Revealed: NERA Economic Consulting is Third Party Contractor for DOE LNG Export Study

Reuters has revealed the identity of the mysterious third party contractor tasked to publish the economic impact study on LNG (liquefied natural gas) exports on behalf of the Department of Energy (DOE). Its name: NERA Economic Consulting.

NERA” is shorthand for National Economic Research Associates, an economic consulting firm SourceWatch identifies as the entity that published a June 2011 report on behalf of coal industry front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE). ACCCE's report concluded, “clean-air rules proposed by the Obama administration would cost utilities $17.8 billion annually and raise electricity rates 11.5 percent on average in 2016.”

That report went so far to say that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations of the coal-generated electrcity sector would amount to some 1.5 million lost jobs over the next four years.

NERA was founded by Irwin Stelzer, senior fellow and director of the right-wing Hudson Institute’s Center for Economic Policy. In Oct. 2004, The Guardian described Stelzer as the “right-hand man of Rupert Murdoch,” the CEO of News Corp., which owns Fox News. 

According to NERA's website, the late Alfred E. Kahn, the “father of deregulation,” advised NERA's 1961 foundation

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