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Posts Tagged ‘Sierra Club

Coal’s downward spiral in 2012

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It was a big year for Big Coal — in the sense of big losses and setbacks for the coal industry’s agenda, which made it a very good year indeed.

When thousands of people show up at the Seattle Convention Center for a technical “scoping” hearing to comment on and protest plans to export coal through Pacific Northwest terminals to Asian markets – Big Coal’s master export plan is in doubt. One coal plant each week was retired during 2012, which perhaps helps to explain why there is such zest on the part of the industry to ship the stuff overseas.

The Sierra Club‘s nationwide campaign—Beyond Coal—to phase out coal burning in the United States won victories from coast to coast, including the coal plant retirements and record investments in wind and solar. The coal industry experienced numerous setbacks in 2012 as its market share fell and stock prices tanked.

“With an overarching goal to move America off coal and slash carbon pollution, an unprecedented coalition including Sierra Club and more than a hundred local, regional and national organizations has helped to secure the largest drop in U.S. coal burning ever,” the club said in its year-ean review.

The campaign, which received major backing with a four-year $50 million commitment from Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2011, now includes legal and grassroots fights that target every stage of the coal lifecycle in more than 40 states. It has grown to become one of the largest and broadest grassroots environmental campaigns in the nation’s history, according to the club.

The following Sierra Club info-graphic tells the campaign tale of the tape:

Many investors lost big on coal, with numerous bankruptcies of coal mining companies and coal-burning utilities including Midwest Generation in Illinois, Patriot in West Virginia, and Dynegy in Texas. After declaring bankruptcy, Patriot – Appalachia’s third largest coal company – reached an agreement with the Sierra Club and its allies to end the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining and retire much of its large scale surface mining equipment. Coal’s poor economics were underscored news that the Great River Energy Spiritwood coal plant in North Dakota has sat idle since it was completed at a cost of $440 million earlier this year.

NRG Texas Energy announced this month that it will not proceed with plans to build the Limestone 3 coal unit in Jewett, Texas, 120 miles south of Dallas. NRG filed the initial applications to build the plant in 2006, when a handful of other Texas utilities were filing similar proposals to build more than a dozen new coal boilers in Texas. As of December 2012, the majority of these proposals have been cancelled, due to the changing economics of coal plants, the growth of wind energy in the state, and because of legal challenges and grassroots opposition.

Coal is on the run and battling on many fronts – 2012 may turn out to be a watershed year in its downward spiral, especially if 2013 sees the fall of Big Coal’s PNW export plans. That will be a great new year indeed.

Written by William DiBenedetto

December 28, 2012 at 2:07 am

Where the jobs are

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So the election is over and we can breathe a sigh of relief. There’s general agreement that jobs are a priority for the coming months and the Sierra Club Magazine has helpfully illustrated where those jobs might come from. The short article and infographic debunks the fossil fuel industry’s well-heeled insistence about the huge loss of jobs that will occur in a switch to a clean energy economy. It’s just not so, according to the club, and its sees big opportunities in the concentrating solar and solar photovoltaic sectors.

Peter and Maria Hoey did the graphic and the text is by Paul Rauber.

Image: From Sierra’s Grapple page.

Written by William DiBenedetto

November 12, 2012 at 2:00 am

Getting the Coal Train Blues

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“People get ready there’s a train a’coming…” Sixteen mile-and-a-half long coal trains a day through West Seattle, my town, to be exact. Or how about 62 coal trains rolling through Spokane every day?

That’s nothing to sing about, unless it’s one of those “low-down dirty blues” songs. A small gathering met at Fauntleroy Church’s Fellowship Hall on Wednesday (Sept. 26) to hear about Big Coal’s noxious plans to ship coal from the Powder River Basin to the Pacific Northwest for export to markets in Asia. On hand were representatives from the Sierra Club, Climate Solutions and Earth Ministry to get out the word about those plans and to talk about the activities to derail the export schemes.

“Coal exports are a dirty business,” said Robin Everett, an associate regional representative for the Sierra Club and its Beyond Coal campaign. “It’s dirty every step of the way.”

I’ve written about these plans before on this and other sites, but now it’s getting personal, and it’s that way for anyone who happens to live in the vicinity of BN Railway’s tracks in the PNW. By the way, that’s millions of people who will be exposed to the harmful impacts of moving coal through the region in terms of health, safety, economic disruption, gridlock traffic congestion at rail crossings and infrastructure pressures. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

September 27, 2012 at 9:14 am

Coal export plans a dirty business for the PNW

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Hey kids! Here’s an idea: Let’s inundate the global market with our cheap dirty coal! We won’t be burning and polluting the atmosphere here in the U.S., merely transporting the coal on 1.5-mile long trains through densely populated areas of the Pacific Northwest, where it will be exported to foreign markets. We’ll boost our exports, help our balance of trade and create jobs!

That’s the gist of the coal industry’s argument for proposals to export tens of millions of tons of coal through the Pacific Northwest to China and other Asian nations.

But major organizations including the Sierra Club, the Sierra Student Coalition, Climate Solutions and Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility are gearing up to derail the coal train idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

December 2, 2011 at 2:00 am

No Doublespeak in Nukespeak

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In The Stand, one of Stephen King’s early (and imo best) novels a nuclear power plant becomes a central part of the action, and indeed is instrumental in keeping the world from descending into barbarism.

It sort of makes the point that, as The Police say, “When the world is running down/You make the best of what’s still around.” There is something to be said for the role of nuclear power as part of the modern-day, post-carbon-based fuel energy mix.

But a revised and updated version of the Sierra’s Club‘s classic Nukespeak throws some needed clear thinking about the inherent dangers of nuclear energy and concludes, as the first edition did, that it’s not really worth the risk.

Nearly 30 years ago, in the wake of the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the first edition of Nukespeak from Sierra Club Books was published and immediately framed public debate on the immense risks of nuclear technology.

The extensively revised and updated edition promises to continue that debate, especially in the aftermath of the March earthquake and tsunami that struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.

According to the Club, the original 1982 edition broke through the “linguistic filter of the nuclear mindset,” by documenting how nuclear developers confused their hopes—remember the dream of energy too cheap to meter?—with reality, covered up damaging information, harassed and dismissed scientists who disagreed with official policy, and generated false or misleading statistics to bolster their assertions about the benefits and safety of nuclear power. Read the rest of this entry »

Bloomberg Antes Big Bucks to Dethrone King Coal

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The Sierra Club and its Beyond Coal Campaign received a huge boost last week when New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Bloomberg Philanthropies committed $50 million to the campaign.

Sure $50 million—to be paid over four years—is a very big deal. Beyond the dollars the partnership between Bloomberg and the club takes the fight to end the coal era to a new well-staffed and nationwide level. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

July 27, 2011 at 2:00 am

Exim Bank and Sasan Power: Is the fix on for dirty energy?

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The Sierra Club is getting after the U.S. Export-Import Bank for subsidizing fossil fuel projects around the world at the expense of clean energy projects as part of its huge portfolio of loans and loan guarantee programs. Ex-Im Bank’s activity comes despite pledges from the Obama Administration to phase out financial support for polluting projects.

A recent flashpoint for the club’s ire occurred last month when the Ex-Im Bank’s board of directors, in a reversal of a previous decision, approved a “preliminary review”  of Reliance Power’s export financing application for India’s Sasan “ultra-megawatt” coal-fired plant project. The move, while not a final approval of the application, essentially paves the way for that to happen.

On June 24th, the board had voted not to proceed with further review of the application for the Sasan project based on environmental concerns. After an intense lobbying campaign Reliance Power entered into a memorandum of understanding with Ex-Im “indicating Reliance’s intent to develop a new 250 megawatt renewable energy facility, which when built will rank among the largest renewable energy projects in India,” Ex-Im asserted.

With that somewhat vague assurance, it looks like the fix is on for the proposed $600 million Ex-Im loan guarantee for the Sasan Power Ltd. coal-fired plant. Sasan, by the way, is a fully-owned subsidiary of Reliance Power.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

August 18, 2010 at 2:00 am

Sick Streams: Environmentalists Massing against Massey

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The Sierra Club and other environmental groups last month took their anti-coal campaign against Massey Energy to another level, filing a lawsuit against five Massey coal subsidiaries for thousands of Clean Water Act permit violations.

Sierra Club, the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, Coal River Mountain Watch and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy went after Massey – America’s fourth largest coal company – and its subsidiaries in the lawsuit filed in West Virginia’s Southern District Court in Charleston for allegedly violating permit limits by dumping toxic aluminum into waterways from as many as 16 mines covered under seven Clean Water Act permits in the state.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

May 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Big Coal’s Dirty Money

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This is adpated from a recent post I wrote for Triple Pundit.

coal_fired_power_plantThe Sierra Club has long had it right: There’s no such thing as ‘clean coal’ and all of the blather and money spent on this nebulous and mostly illusory technology is time and well, energy, ill-spent to appease powerful coal interests.

A recent blog post from Mark Kresowik, Corporate Responsibility Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, calls out JPMorgan Chase, and particularly the investment bank’s CEO Jamie Dimon. Dimon talks a good game, expressing support for strong action on global warming and JPMorgan Chase’s commitment to clean-energy investments. “We try hard to be great corporate citizens,” Dimon says. “We need good policy on energy and the environment.”

But Sierra Club research has “pulled back the curtain and uncovered that his rhetoric doesn’t match his company’s action,” Kresowik says. JPMorgan Chase “is pouring billions of dollars into dirty coal plant projects – projects that would dramatically increase global warming pollution and ensure runaway global warming.” Read the rest of this entry »

Written by William DiBenedetto

August 14, 2009 at 6:59 am

Earth Day for the rest of us

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While corporations increasingly glom-on to Earth Day as a public relations and marketing tool to demonstrate just how green and sustainable they are – whether they really are or not – the Sierra Club is taking the jamboree back to its more populist and individual roots, with Seven Ways to Heaven on Earth Day 2009.

Don’t forget, April 22 is the 39th edition of Earth Day and as the club says, “If you let this one come and go without doing some good work to celebrate the day, well, you just might not get into heaven.”

It continues:  “We confirmed with the eco angels (green wings, pesticide-free cotton gowns, and fair-trade halos) that the following seven activities will confirm your seat at that big sustainable feast in the sky.” So click the link above, read, enjoy, laugh, cry and get ready to “Get out and DO something!”

And remember: Every day is Earth Day.

Written by William DiBenedetto

April 13, 2009 at 8:35 am

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