Archive for December 2012
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.
Today’s final public hearing on the proposed coal export terminal in Bellingham, WA promises to be a major happening, with thousands of red-shirted opponents primed to speak out against it.
Here’s the skinny from the Waterkeepers Alliance:
A growing coalition of Northwest residents are traveling hundreds of miles to make sure agencies understand their strong opposition to dangerous coal transport through their communities. The outcry from citizen groups across the Northwest is in response to a proposed expansion of exported coal from Powder River Wyoming to industries in China, India and the Far East. As part of its plan, the coal industry threatens to send 60 new mile-long coal trains through many rail communities in Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington to five proposed export terminals, where the dirty carbon-based fuel will be loaded onto ships destined for Asia.
On Thursday, December 13th, in Seattle, thousands are anticipated to attend the final public hearing to weigh in on a plan to build the largest of five proposed Northwest coal terminals near Bellingham, Washington. The proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, would be constructed in a wetland area adjacent to a critically important aquatic reserve, and would receive and export 48-54 million tons of coal per year.
Waterkeepers from around the Northwest are opposing the transport of coal and the construction of the terminals. In Seattle, Waterkeeper Alliance National Director Pete Nichols will join local Waterkeeper programs to attend the hearing and to represent the dozens of other Waterkeepers across the U.S. and Asia that oppose coal exports.
WHAT’S AT STAKE: Whether or not the Environmental Impact Statement produced for approval of the terminal reflects the true impact of coal mining, transportation and burning, and whether or not global climate change is considered for the most dramatic proposed expansion in fossil fuel exports in years.
WHO: Chris Wilke, Puget Soundkeeper; Matt Krogh, North Sound Baykeeper; Bart
Mihailovich, Spokane Riverkeeper and Pete Nichols, National Director with the Waterkeeper Alliance will join thousands at the Seattle hearing and hundreds at the pre-hearing rally.
WHAT: A rally and press conference followed by a public “scoping” hearing for the Federal Environmental Impact Statement.
WHEN: Thursday, December 13th
2pm – Rally and Press Conference (Freeway Park)
4pm – Public Hearing (Washington Convention Center)
WHERE: The hearing is at Washington Convention Center, Downtown Seattle, 800 Convention Place, Ballroom 6F. The rally and press conference will be at Freeway Park, which is adjacent to the Convention Center.
At the final hearing, attendees will renew calls on the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct an area-wide assessment of the proposed projects and to include a thorough evaluation of the dangers of snarled traffic, emergency response delays, threats to health and safety from toxic diesel and dangerous coal dust emissions, the risks of coal train derailments and marine spills, mercury emissions deposited in the Western U.S. from increased coal burning in Asia, climate impacts of additional coal development and costs to local businesses surrounding the rail line, and those reliant upon it to maintain a thriving business.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Say you’re watching Ed or Rachel for your daily dose of progressive news on MSNBC; they go to a commercial break and this 30-second ad pops up:
Just in time for the regulatory review and so-called scoping coal export proposal season here in the Northwest! It prompted me to take a look at the website that flashes briefly during the ad – the Alliance for Northwest Jobs & Exports.
One minor detail that gets brushed aside is that this is about selling cheap and dirty coal to international – mostly Asian – markets and hauling tens of millions of tons of it through heavily populated regions in the Pacific Northwest to new and/or upgraded export shipping terminals. Even the alliance’s name shuns the four-letter word. Jobs! Exports! Who can oppose that? Read the rest of this entry »