Coal: investment - and resistancePublished by MAC on 2016-06-20
Source: Statements, Guardian, Jakarta Post
A global round-up
The following is a compendium of articles on coal from different countries and regions, as well as updates around the financing of coal.
As noted in our previous coal updates (see: Is coal now a zombie industry?), the global industry is struggling under lower prices and various actions being taken against the black stuff for its massive contribution to causing adverse climate change.
See also: Michael T Klare
How Asia is changing course on coal
by Joanna Mills
Greenpeace Energy desk
8 June 2016
The president of the World Bank said earlier this year:
“If Asia implements its coal-based plans right now, I think we are finished. That would spell disaster for us and our planet.”
Perhaps some countries in the region heard Jim Yong Kim’s warning — there are signs that major Asian economies are changing their minds on coal.
China’s retreat has been well documented. Even though it continues to build coal-fired power stations at a ludicrous rate, many are standing idle or running at low capacity. There’s also massive over-capacity in the energy sector.
The government has responded by:-
- Placing a three-year moratorium on new coal mines
- Ordering 13 provincial governments to stop approving new coal-fired power plants, and 15 others to stop building those already approved
- Telling 28 of China’s 31 mainland provinces that all approvals for new coal plants should be suspended, thereby halting 90% of plants currently seeking approval
- China is the key player because it accounts for half of global coal use. The government’s actions have been largely driven by popular protest over the country’s extreme air pollution.
But it’s not just pollution; Beijing is setting out a range of ‘red lines’ — ecological limits on everything from energy and water consumption to land use for industry.
Now it seems some of its neighbours are reviewing their own coal plans.
South Korea announced last week that it was considering closing some old coal-fired plants in response to deteriorating air pollution, not long after dropping two from its power development plan.
South Koreans have largely blamed China for the pollution, but Greenpeace research shows that most the smog in the country was home grown, much of it coming from the coal plants around Seoul.
The proposed closures come on top of a commitment made as part of the Paris Agreement to abandon plans for four coal-fired plants — though 20 new ones are still in the pipeline.
The new government in the Philippines has signalled it doesn’t want to see more coal-fired power plants “because they are especially bad for communities where power plants are built”.
This decision came on the heels of a vote by Cebu City Council to reject a proposed coal-fired power plant, the health impacts of which had been highlighted in a report earlier in the year.
“We are supposed to gradually move toward more renewable energy,” said economy minister Ernesto Pernia in a warning to big coal companies San Miguel Corp and Manila Electric Co.
The Philippines has suffered more than most from the impacts of extreme weather caused by climate change; Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 6,000 people in November 2013.
The ink was barely dry on the Paris Agreement when Vietnam announced that it was updating its national power plan to drop further coal-fired power plant projects, in favour of gas, wind and solar.
Vietnam had the biggest coal expansion plans of any country in the region — up to 70 new coal power plants.
When the revised plan came out two months later, only some of those promises had been delivered.
The government dropped 23GW of coal plants (equivalent to Australia’s coal-generating capacity), but is pressing ahead with another 45GW, to be built by 2030.
It was Vietnam’s coal plans which prompted the World Bank’s ‘we are doomed’ remarks.
The coal industry is really pinning its hopes on growth in India.
Roughly 300 million people in India are living without power, and the government has set itself the target of providing 24-hour electricity for all by 2022.
Coal power plants are the main source of electricity and that means a massive expansion could be on the cards.
But the government says there is such under-utilisation of existing power plants that it won’t need any new ones for the next three years.
And it’s not just under-utilisation which is holding back India’s coal-fired power plants.
A severe drought and drastic water shortage has forced some to close, and the government has now told power plants to use sewage water instead — a change that would require huge investment, even if the power plants were located close enough to a sewage plant.
The costs compared to renewables would be prohibitive.
You may note the conspicuous absence of Japan and Indonesia in this roundup.
Those countries are very much swimming in the other direction and against the tide, ploughing ahead with coal projects in spite of the deadly pollution they will produce.
But that doesn’t fundamentally change what’s happening at a macro level.
Asia, a continent whose coal plans could make or break the global fight to limit climate change, is going off coal.
China’s about-face has prompted a rethink across the region — maybe just in time.
The largest increase in global CO2 emissions from energy use in 2015 came from India
13 June 2016
The 2016 edition of BP’s authoritative Statistical Review of World Energy offers some startling revelations. According to the report, India’s share in global coal consumption exceeded 10% in 2015, for the first time ever, while its oil consumption too set an all-time record. India also registered the largest increase in carbon emissions from energy use.
- India’s primary energy consumption rose by 5.2% in 2015, taking its share of global primary energy consumption to 5.3%.
- India’s share in global coal consumption exceeded 10% in 2015, for the first time ever.
- India had its largest increase in oil consumption in 2015, increasing by 310 kb/d.
- Increasing consumption of coal (+4.8%), oil (+8.1%), renewables in power (+13.7%), and nuclear (+9.5%), outweighed declines in hydro (-4.9%) and gas (-0.1%).
- Coal remained the dominant fuel, accounting for 58% of India’s primary energy consumption.
- Oil consumption in 2015 increased by 310 kb/d, reaching a record high.
- India’s gas consumption continued to decline in 2015, falling by 0.1%.
- India’s share in global coal consumption exceeded 10% in 2015, the highest share ever. This was despite growth in coal consumption of 4.8% in 2015 (+19 mtoe), nearly half of the 2014 growth rate.
- Renewables in power rose by 13.7% in 2015, its second largest increment ever after 2012. India is now the sixth largest renewable power generator in the world.
- Energy intensity (the amount of energy required per unit of GDP) declined by 2% in 2015, faster than the 10-year average of -1.4%.
- Primary energy production grew by 3.2% (+12.5 mtoe) in 2015, marginally higher than its 10-year average. Domestic production was sufficient to meet 58% of domestic consumption.
- Growth in production of coal (+4.7%), renewables in power (+13.7%), and nuclear (+9.5%), outweighed declines in oil (-1.1%), hydro (-4.9%), and gas (-3.8%).
- India’s oil production continued to decline in 2015 with its second biggest decline in the last five years (-11 kb/d).
- Gas production continued to decline in 2015, falling by 3.8%, its fifth continuous year of decline, and now 20 bcm below the 2010 peak of 49.3 bcm.
- Within renewables, the largest growth in India has come from wind (+11.6%), followed by solar (+50.9%), and biomass (+9.2%).
India’s crude oil imports rose by 136 kb/d to 3.9 mb/d in 2015.
- Natural gas imports rose by 1.5 bcm to 21.7 bcm.
- The largest increase in global CO2 emissions from energy use in 2015 came from India (5.3%)*.
Note: * The carbon emissions above reflect only those through consumption of oil, gas and coal for combustion related activities, and are based on ‘Default CO2 Emissions Factors for Combustion’ listed by the IPCC in its Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventories (2006). This does not allow for any carbon that is sequestered, for other sources of carbon emissions, or for emissions of other greenhouse gases. BP data is therefore not comparable to official national emissions data.
India & Bangladesh
India cancels four major new coal plants in move to end imports
By Tim Buckley
10 June 2016
The Indian Energy Ministry has this week announced plans to cancel four proposed coal-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 16 gigawatts (GW).
The plans previously called for four ultra mega power plants (UMPP) across Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Odisha, but these are now to be cancelled due to lack of interest from the host states.
This is yet another major policy shift underscoring how seriously India is working to transform, modernize and diversify its electricity sector away from coal.
For eight years, these four proposed plants remained in the planning, preparation and land acquisition stage. However, community resistance to compulsory land acquisition and forced resettlement combined with electricity power surpluses to push the government to issue a cancellation order.
Moreover, two of the UMPPs (8GW) were planned for coastal locations, aimed to run on imported coal. As such, the announcement is in line with Indian Energy Minister Piyush Goyal target of eliminating thermal coal imports into India.
His motivation in eliminating thermal imports is to drive delivered cost of electricity down, reduce the current account burden, improve energy security and the straight out lack of need in light of increased domestic production.
April 2016 coal imports fell 15% year on year.
To operate, these four UMPPs would have required upwards of a total of 46 million tonnes per annum of coal (approx. 12Mtpa per plant), half of which was to have been imported.
For 2016/17, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) has set the highest ever capacity addition target for the clean power sector, that being up to 16,660 megawatts (MW). Of this, the solar installs target is set at 12GW, wind at 4GW, biomass power at 400MW, small scale hydro-electricity at 250MW and waste-to-power at 10MW.
India is increasingly looking to source its incremental electricity needs from the combined expansions of renewable energy, as well dampening demand growth by accelerating energy and grid efficiency programs. With the utilization rates of the average coal fired power plant at six year lows of 58% in 2015/16 (down from 75% in 2010), another government goal is to better utilize the existing thermal capacity.
At this stage Indian Energy Minister Piyush Goyal is still persevering with plans for three new UMPP that, if awarded, would add a combined 12GW of new coal fired power generation capacity across Cheyyur in Tamil Nadu, Behabahal in Odisha & Banka in Bihar by 2020.
While the awarding of these projects has already also been repeatedly delayed, these three UMPPs would facilitate the proposed closure of old coal-fired power plants that are now beyond their use by date.
In May 2016, S.D. Dubey, chairman of the Central Electricity Authority, announced the plans to close up to 37GW of antiquated, heavily polluting subcritical coal plants, stating: “Our first concern is emissions … We also want plants to be more efficient in use of resources.” This 37GW is equal to 20% of India’s current coal fired power fleet, or 12% of the total system capacity of 303GW.
In April 2016 the Power Ministry announced it had scaled back its projected thermal power capacity growth forecast by 50GW, reducing the target from 289GW to 239GW by 2022.India currently has a thermal power capacity of 211GW.As a result, the Power Ministry said in June 2016 it would not need any new thermal capacity for the next three years beyond what was already under construction.
This week, S&P Global Platts forecast that India’s reliance on coal fired power generation would drop from an estimated 69% share in 2020 to just 60% by 2030,relative to a peak of 75% in 2015. IEEFA expects this to be achieved as early as 2025.
The government message is clear, consistent and compelling. In his address to the U.S. Congress this week, Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi clearly articulated that in the focus on driving Indian economic growth at 7.6% pa, this must “be achieved with a light carbon foot print, with greater emphasis on renewables.”In his meeting with President Obama, Prime Minister Modi also confirmed India will ratify the Paris Climate Agreement this year.
Tim Buckley is Director of Energy Finance Studies at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA).
NGT issues notice to coal, power utilities for flouting its order on clean coal norm
16 May 2016
National Green Tribunal (NGT) has issued notices to Coal India Limited and its subsidiaries, regulating agencies and power utility for flouting its order on clean coal norm and has directed to respond to a prayer as to why consent to operate of coal and power utilities violating the mandatory provisions be not revoked.
NGT, Western Zone (Pune) bench consisting of Dr Justice Jawad Rahim (Judicial Member) and Dr Ajay Deshpande (Expert Member) while hearing an execution application filed by Mahadula based social activist Ratnadeep Rangari seeking tough action against power and coal utilities for violation and regulator for inaction, directed the respondent authorities to respond by July 13.
The NGT has issued notice to State of Maharashtra and its Energy and Environment Departments, Union Coal and Power Ministries, Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Mahagenco, CPCB, MPCB, Coal India Limited and Western Coalfields Limited.
The application has charged the respondents with gross and wilful disobedience of NGT order dated October 15, 2015 in which power and coal utilities were directed to scrupulously adhere to clean coal norm and follow MoEF notification dated January 2, 2014 and August 25, 2015 notifications making it mandatory to supply and use coal with less than 34 per cent ash content. The October 15 order passed by NGT made it mandatory for power and coal utilities to adopt clean coal technology and beneficiation process to reduce pollution level and fly-ash generated by inferior quality of coal as per MoEF notification dated January 2, 2014 and latest notification dated August 26, 2015.
The NGT had also directed Pollution Control Board to include in its consent to operate a condition laid down by MoEF which banned coal companies and power companies from using coal having more than 34% ash content as it poses danger to environment and public health within one month. The NGT had also directed coal and power companies to install automatic real-time online monitoring system to weed out inferior quality coal, directed SPCBs to take monthly samples for the coal ash content and ensure the compliance of notification. The NGT had laid down strict time-lines to be followed by the coal supplying companies and power generating companies to comply with the order.
According to Adv Arpit Ratan while appearing for the applicant stated that the orders were followed only in breach by the coal and power companies while citing information collected under RTI which reveals that inferior quality of coal was being used ignoring NGT order.
According to RTI, Khaparkheda thermal power plant run by Mahagenco received domestic raw coal from coal mines of WCL, MCL, SECL, SCCL from April 2015 to March 2016 had much above stipulated 34% ash content. In April 2015 (42.58%), May (43.95%), June (44.41%), July (42.40%), August (41.15%), September (43.70%), October (45.95%). Even after NGT order, inferior coal was used and as per RTI information the plant used coal with ash content 46.22% in November while in December it was 41.14%, in January 38.12%, February 41.41% and in March 2016 it was 38.06%.
In case of Koradi thermal power plant run by Mahagenco as per RTI information, average ash content for the months of April 2015 (42.19%), May 2015 (42.33%), June (40.88%), July (39.26%), August (38.34%), September (38.04%), October (41.50%). After the NGT order, in November 2015 the ash content was 41.40% while in December it was 37.91%, January (36.47%), February (39.52%) while in March 2016 it was 42.72%.
The applicant also cited detailed information under RTI about ill-effects of pollution due to coal mining and power generation in and around Khaparkheda and stated that more than 6,500 patients are suffering due to serious diseases like Tuberculosis, skin and Upper respiratory tract infection (URI) due to pollution caused by coal mines and power plant.
The applicant also charged the regulator MoEF, CPCB and MPCB with mere paper action and lax regulation in enforcing the directives which are pragmatic and pro-active step to protect rich flora and fauna, else land will become infertile due to fly-ash dump generated by these thermal power plants and polluting coal mines.
The applicant Rangari sought execution of proceedings under section 25 of the NGT Act against coal and power utilities and regulators and sought action against them for wilful disobedience. Besides, the applicant has urged NGT to direct MPCB and MoEF to revoke consents of the thermal power plants and coal mines violating NGT order.
NTPC shareholders urged to push for Rampal coal plant to be dropped
BankTrack press release
13 June 2016
BankTrack is appealing to over 50 shareholders in India’s National Thermal Power Corporation to withdraw from the Rampal coal power plant, which threatens Bangladesh’s UNESCO World Heritage Sundarbans forest.
Nijmegen - BankTrack this week sent letters to all major shareholders of the Indian National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) appealing to them to use their influence to urge the company to withdraw from the highly destructive Rampal coal power plant in Bangladesh. The plant threatens the world’s largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans.
NTPC, which is majority-owned by the Indian state, is building the plant together with the Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), forming a joint venture called the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company (BIFPCL).
The 1,320 megawatt Rampal coal power plant is situated just 14 kilometers away from the world-renowned Sundarbans forest, a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site that is not only home to unique animal species such as the Bengal tiger and the Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphin, but which also provides livelihoods to hundreds of thousands of people living in and around the wetland area. The coal plant would also emit more than 7.9 million tons of CO2 annually for 25 years, taking a heavy toll on the climate.
The plant is already under construction and instances of human right violations as well as corruption have been observed. In addition, building a power plant this close to an ecologically sensitive area would be illegal if the plant were to be built in India.
All these issues have stirred ongoing local and national opposition to the project, with growing international support. The appeal to NTPC shareholders comes in addition to a global coalition of 131 civil society groups and over 60,000 individuals calling on the Export-Import Bank of India to abandon its financing plans for the construction of the Rampal coal power plant.
Catalina von Hildebrand, Climate and Energy Campaigner at BankTrack, commented: “This project makes a mockery of NTPCs sustainability ambitions and commitments as it will bring huge biodiversity loss and harm to the unique biosphere of the Sundarbans. But there is still time to put a stop to it. It is in the interest of the shareholders of NTPC to persuade NTCP that a project as destructive as Rampal should have no place in the power portfolio of NTPC.”
For further inquiries and interview requests, please contact:
Catalina von Hildebrand, catalina[at]banktrack.org, +31 654 942 649
Perils of coal based power generation
Farid A Malik
15 May 2016
It is widely believed that the obsolete coal based Chinese plants are being shifted to Pakistan. Due to global warming, combustion of carbon based dirty fuels is being discouraged worldwide. Western financial institutions have stopped funding of coal combustion projects after the Kyoto Protocol. Due to severe environmental degradation even China has decided to reduce its reliance on coal based cheap power, only India remains defiant as it seriously lacks resources for the transformation to clean fuel.
Unfortunately Pakistan is being trapped into the perils of coal based power generation mainly because of narrow self interests and ignorance of the decision makers. In the 21st century burning of coal should be declared a crime as it challenges the very existence of living species. In an international conference on clean energy in Istanbul in 2014 it was reported that if global warming continues at a rate greater than 2.0 Co annually half of the existing living species would perish by the end of the century. That is why in the recently concluded Paris Conference on climate change it was resolved to limit global warming to below 1.5oC. The Interior Minister is in New York to sign the Paris protocol with 175 other countries while the government of his party is creating coal combustion based plants in the country.
Despite the fact that Pakistan has world’s second largest coal deposits (16.1 %) it is being imported and then transported up-country for power generation. Almost all existing coal based plants are either located at mouth of mine in case of indigenous fuels and at the port for imported source. The plant being built in Sahiwal with Chinese technology and financing will be unique. Imported coal will first arrive at the port, a jetty will unload it, and then it will be transported through Railway bogies to the site. While the logistic framework is not in place the plant is being erected at an accelerated pace right in the middle of rich agricultural land. Only the Engro plant at Thar is based on indigenous coal for which a mining company has been formed in joint venture with the Sindh Government (Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company). Financial closure was expected in June 2012 as claimed by the company but it did not take place till April 2016. Finally, it was made a part of CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) with both financial and technical collaboration from China. Digging for coal has finally started which will then be followed by two 650 MW coal fired power plants.
Late starters have an advantage as they can learn from the mistakes of others. The concept of ‘Leap Frogging’ is also applied. While the world is moving away from the burning of coal, Pakistan is blindly moving in this direction. Combustion of coal is the most undesirable option of power generation in the 21st century. It is like going back in time at least by a century as most of these plants were established around the middle of last millennium.
As a nation we have run out of fuel. The Sui-gas fields were discovered in 1953 which fuelled the nation for over half a century. It was the world’s largest (12 TCF) deposit at that time. The resource has been grossly mismanaged especially during the regime of Pervez Musharraf as it was spread too thin. Use of CNG as an auto fuel proved to be the last nail in the coffin. Instead of opting for hydropower by building the Kalabagh Dam, oil fired power plants were also converted to natural gas resulting in acute gas shortages and load shedding. The present government then decided to import Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from Qatar instead of relying on its own resources.
With about 200 billion tons of coal, it is our energy future but with appropriate use of technology which is environment friendly. Above ground gasification of coal is an established process being used worldwide. Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) is still not commercially viable and suitable only for deep un-mineable deposits. Thar is a shallow, watery deposit for which UCG is not appropriate. London based UCG Association has already declared the un-suitability of this approach for Thar. Mining should start without delay to extract this black gold. Pakistan was once an energy surplus nation now it has been rendered deficient mainly because of mismanagement and lack of direction.
Energy security is important for a nation. Reliance must be on indigenous resources. While hydropower is suitable for a country with rivers, fuel is also needed to turn the wheels of the nation. Coal based Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) can provide the much needed energy and also substitute the imported Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Low grade lignite coal similar to the Thar deposit can be mined and then gasified through a process called Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC). Recently a 540 MW plant has been commissioned in Kemper County, Mississippi in USA based on local lignite coal. In addition to power generation anhydrous Ammonia is also produced which can be used in the manufacture of urea fertilizer.
In the nineties the government opted for oil based power generation which proved deadly for the nation. The circular debt continues to spiral from this misadventure. The present administration is working towards another debacle of obsolete coal based power generation which must be checked before it is too late as it has the potential of blackening our face and choking our lungs. Pakistan needs clean energy from its indigenous resources.
Why coal is a bad bet for Indonesia's future
Arif Fiyanto, Climate and energy coordinator at Greenpeace Southeast Asia
26 May 2016
Jakarta - This month, across the world, people are standing up for a future without fossil fuels. The Break Free movement envisages a world powered not with the dirty energies of coal and oil, but with renewables – solar, the wind, geothermal and tidal energy.
Countries around the world, from the US to China, are turning their back on coal and investing instead in renewable energy.
China’s National Energy Administration has told all but three provinces to suspend approvals for coal-fired power plants – affecting 90 percent of new capacity. There is a fundamental shift happening in the Chinese economy, which means that not only will China’s need for coal imports continue to fall, it might even become a coal exporter – in direct competition with Indonesia.
India too, once a huge market for Indonesian coal, is cutting coal imports, down by 34 percent in 2015 compared to the previous year. With the Chinese and Indian markets shrinking, who will be left to buy Indonesia’s coal?
Coal exports usually subsidized domestic coal prices. Now those exports are disappearing. Most mining companies are cutting their output, and after years of soaring profits, they are now asking the government for handouts.
Meanwhile, the renewable energy market is booming. Renewables supplied 90 percent of the world’s new energy capacity last year, and can compete on cost with coal in most markets. That’s why state electricity company PLN is switching 8 GW of its capacity to renewables.
The cost of developing renewable energy in Indonesia over the next ten years is Rp 260 trillion ( US$19.1 billion ). It sounds excessive. But it’s only one-tenth of what has been spent on subsidies for fossil fuel-based energy over the last ten years. So a renewable energy future is within Indonesia’s reach.
But instead of targeting this goal, there are plans to build more and more coal-fired power plants. Some of the same countries that are saying “no” to coal at home are investing in coal-plants in Indonesia, even selling us their old, unwanted technology.
And no wonder the Chinese and Japanese are queuing up to sign deals for building coal power in Indonesia. They get a 30-year power purchase agreement from PLN, backed by the Indonesian government. Indonesian taxpayers are being locked-in to pay for dirty energy for decades to come.
It’s a double hit for the Indonesian people, who will also have to carry the cost of paying back loans from multilateral development banks for these coal-fired plants. According to preliminary research by the Bank Information Center ( BIC ) and Greenpeace, between 2007 and 2015, USD 1.4 billion was approved in loans for energy projects, nearly all of which had gone to fossil fuels.
These loans are supposed to help countries move to a low-carbon development path to better protect the environment.
But that’s not happening in Indonesia. The money is instead supporting carbon-heavy infrastructure, which will be with us for decades, regardless of the wishes of local people as we have seen in the development of the Batang coal power plant. It is just one of many power plants being supported by international development loans and guarantees, backed by global multilateral development banks, like the World Bank and the ADB, and financiers like JBIC. The bank’s president, Jim Yong Kim, said this month that if all coal plants in the south and southeast Asia go ahead, “we are finished […] it would spell disaster for us and our planet”.
The World Bank needs to listen to its president’s warning. Bank lending for development must prioritize low-carbon development over fossil fuels. All multilateral banks must cut incentives and guarantees for carbon-intensive projects in Indonesia.
It is time for us to divest in coal. There is another energy future which beckons – one that is cheaper, healthier and better for all Indonesians. We must break free from coal.
Arif Fiyanto is climate and energy coordinator at Greenpeace Southeast Asia
Indonesia: The climate test for Crédit Agricole and Société Générale
Friends of the Earth France press release
19 May 2016
Paris - Will Société Générale and Crédit Agricole finance the proposed expansion of the Tanjung Jati B coal power plant in Indonesia or will they withdraw from the project as BNP Paribas has already done? A paper published this week by Friends of the Earth France and Greenpeace Indonesia reveals that French banks are not applying the same rigour to the climate commitments which they adopted for the COP21 in Paris last year. The credibility of Société Générale and Crédit Agricole is on the line at their respective general meetings this week.
Five months have passed since the adoption of the Paris Agreement yet Crédit Agricole and Société Générale have still not cleaned up their portfolios. The two banks remain engaged in the construction of the expansion of the Tanjung Jati B coal power plant in Indonesia (the TJB2 project), while BNP Paribas has withdrawn from the project.  This is the finding of a paper published this week by Friends of the Earth France and Greenpeace: ‘Indonesia: The climate test for Crédit Agricole and Société Générale.’ 
Lucie Pinson, Private finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth France, said:
"We are witnessing incredible hypocrisy from the banks. On the one hand Crédit Agricole and Société Générale are committed to implementing the Paris Agreement and to aligning their activities with the 2°C trajectory. On the other, they reckon that they can just keep on financing new coal plants. It may not have a particularly impressive climate policy, but at least BNP Paribas has realised that nothing justifies project finance for Tanjung Jati B in Indonesia." 
According to Bondan Andriyanu from Greenpeace Indonesia:
"Indonesia is not trying to build an ultra-supercritical power plant to replace power plants with high emissions. The country's new energy plan calls for 100 new coal plants by 2019. This plan would not only more than double the country's emissions over 25 years, but it would cause the premature deaths of 28,300 people a year. Nothing has been cancelled since COP21, as if the government had never even promised at Paris to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 29% by 2030."
Hindun Mulaika of Greenpeace Indonesia commented:
"Crédit Agricole and Société Générale can not justify their support for coal on behalf of the development of southern countries such as Indonesia. The TJB2 project flies in the face of the needs and the best interests of the people. Roughly 5000 people mobilised in Jakarta last week to claim our right to a safe future and to demand the end of coal. Indonesia has huge potential in renewable energy and developing this to meet the needs of the population would cost a tenth of what’s been spent on fossil fuel subsidies over the past 10 years." 
It’s not too late for Crédit Agricole and Société Générale. If both banks are committed to their customer Sumitomo, the funding is not yet concluded, and there is still time to follow the example of BNP Paribas and to withdraw from the project.
Attending both banks’ general assemblies on Wednesday and Thursday this week, Friends of the Earth France will also publicly ask the banks to stop all funding for coal projects and to stop providing finance for companies which continue to develop this climate-killing sector.
Notes for editors:
1. An article published in Project Finance International in January 2016 states that "two French banks – Crédit Agricole and Société Générale – have joined the group behind the banks financing the expansion of the coal plant Tanjung Jati B (TJB2) following the withdrawal of BNP Paribas."
2. The paper (in French) is available at the bottom of this page.
3. Crédit Agricole committed in September 2015 to stop funding coal power projects in high-income countries in line with World Bank guidelines and Société Générale announced two months later the end of its support for such projects in OECD high income countries. According to the Global Coal Plant Tracker database, 6.5% and 4.1% of coal power projects planned since 2010 are located in these countries.
4. The mobilisations took place as part of the BreakFree protests, a wave of citizen actions fighting against the extraction of fossil fuels, starting with coal. In March this year Indonesia’s Minister of Energy and mineral resources pointed out the country’s renewable energy potential, see this page.
For more information contact:
Pierre Sagot, Head of communications, Friends of the Earth France ; Tel: +33 (0)686415343 ; email: communication[at]amisdelaterre.org
Lucie Pinson, Private finance campaigner, Friends of the Earth France ; Tel: +33 (0)6 79 54 37 15 ; email: lucie.pinson[at]amisdelaterre.org
Abandoned Coal Mine Pits in East Kalimantan Continue to Claim Lives
JATAM East Kalimantan Press Release
12 May 2016
Samarinda — Last week two people died as a result of accidents in abandoned coal mine pits in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, taking the death toll this year to four. The latest fatalities include a five year old child and a 22 year old man. These deaths bring the toll from drownings or poisoning in abandoned mine pits in East Kalimantan to 24 people over the past five years, the vast majority of them children.
East Kalimantan is the largest coal mining province in Indonesia with over 50% of national production in 2014. Over the past few years, hundreds of coal mining pits across East Kalimantan have been abandoned by their owners and left unrehabilitated, leaving gaping holes in the ground with toxic water at the bottom. Very often the pits lack warning signs or safety announcements restricting access to the sites.
“There is a tragedy unfolding before our eyes in East Kalimantan. Hundreds of abandoned mine pits are becoming death traps for unsuspecting children and young adults, with 24 people killed so far,” said Merah Johansyah from mining advocacy group JATAM East Kalimantan. “Yet mining companies are literally getting away with murder, able to avoid their legal obligation to rehabilitate mine sites within 30 days of ceasing operations.
“The Provincial and national governments must take immediate steps to avoid any further causualties by (1) making sure all abandoned mine pits are fenced off to prohibit access to the site and (2) by forcing all companies to rehabilitate their abandoned mine pits within 30 days,” said Mr. Johansyah.
Last week’s victims include 5 year old Muhammad Arham, who spent 25 days in hospital after suffering from burns in an abandoned mine pit belonging to PT Insani Bara Perkasa. 70% of Muhammad’s body was burnt as a result of falling into a pile of burning coal. Before dying, the boy underwent six surgeries in an effort to save his life, including amputations of his left arm, a finger and three toes.
The other victim was Kusmayadi (22), a resident of Sambera Baru, Marangkayu Sub-district, who drowned after swimming in the lake at the bottom of a coal mine pit belonging to CV Panca Bara. Satellite images reveal that CV Panca Bara Sejahtera has eight abandoned and unrehabilitated mining pits in the area. JATAM East Kalimantan suspects that there are acts of violation and negligence committed by CV. Panca Bara Sejahtera, the Provincial Government, and the Municipal Government of Samarinda.
Firstly, contrary to law, it is suspected that there were no warning signs and safety posts placed as an effort to restrict access to residents. Secondly, it is suspected that there were violations against reclamation and post-mining regulations which state that a company has 30 days to reclaim affected land subsequent to a cessation in mining activity. Finally, the mine pit is located closer to settlements and a main road than legally permitted.
Despite all of these violations, the company received a Clean and Clear certificate from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in 2015, indicating that there were no illegalities in the license.
JATAM East Kalimantan coordinator, Merah Johansyah, said “it is clear that there are multiple illegalities in the mining operation of CV Panca Bara Sejahtera. We demand that the Indonesian government nullify the company’s Clean and Clear certificate, as well as its business and environmental licenses.”
For further information, please contact:
Merah Johansyah: 0813 4788 2228
Sale of interest in IndoMet Coal
7 June 2016
BHP Billiton has entered into an agreement to sell its 75 per cent interest in IndoMet Coal to its equity partner PT Alam Tri Abadi (Adaro).
IndoMet Coal comprises seven Coal Contracts of Work which are located in Central and Eastern Kalimantan, Indonesia. The Haju mine, which is located within the Lahai Coal Contract of Work, has a production capacity of one million tonnes of coal per annum and has been in production since 2015.
James Palmer, IndoMet Coal Asset President said: “After a detailed review of IndoMet Coal, we concluded that although the Project could support a larger scale development, BHP Billiton has a range of other growth options in the portfolio that are more attractive for future investment.”
Completion of the sale is conditional upon the fulfilment of customary regulatory approvals. During the approval period BHP Billiton and Adaro will work together to facilitate a smooth transfer of ownership.
For more information, please read our news release.
New BankTrack Human Rights Impact Briefing: Drummond and paramilitary violence in Colombia
BankTrack press release
25 May 2016
Nijmegen - BankTrack today publishes the second in its series of Human Rights Impact Briefings, focusing on the coal company Drummond and the seven banks which have financed it since 2010. The briefing finds that, despite allegations of their client’s involvement in serious human rights violations, only two of these seven banks were able to disclose any action taken in response.
The series of briefings intends to shed light on the extent to which banks are living up to their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, by examining specific human rights impacts linked to their finance. The series pushes for banks to account publicly for how they manage these impacts by publishing and comparing their responses .
Drummond produces the majority of its coal in the Cesar mining region of Colombia, an area in which paramilitary violence has had profound impacts for the local population. Conservative estimates suggest paramilitaries drove over 55,000 farmers from their land and killed at least 3,100 people in the period from 1996 to 2006, with the intention of defending the interests and properties of the local economic elite against guerrilla activities.
The Dutch peace movement PAX has investigated reports of links between this violence and mining companies operating in the area, including Drummond. Legal testimonies examined by PAX indicate that Drummond and other mining companies supported the paramilitaries in several ways, including requesting their establishment and financing them – allegations Drummond strongly denies. However the company has to date resisted any involvement in supporting the victims of violence in their efforts to secure remedy for the gross human rights violations they have suffered.
BankTrack presented the seven banks that had provided loans to Drummond since 2010 with details of these allegations. Under the UN Guiding Principles, businesses have a responsibility to perform human rights due diligence to prevent or mitigate human rights impacts linked to their services, and to report on how they address these impacts, particularly when concerns are raised on behalf of those affected.
Only two banks – Citigroup and BNP Paribas – responded with details of how they had sought to address these impacts. In a welcome move, BNP Paribas responded that it has suspended finance with Drummond for environmental and human rights reasons. Citigroup reported that it has engaged with Drummond on issues including security and human rights, but its response indicates it is satisfied that human rights are well-managed at the company.
Bank of America, BBVA, HSBC, Mizuho Financial and Wells Fargo did not disclose any response to the issues identified, and showed no evidence that they are meeting the requirements of the UN Guiding Principles in this case. With the exception of BBVA, the banks stated that as a general policy they do not, or cannot, comment on their links to specific companies they finance.
Ryan Brightwell, BankTrack's Human Rights Campaign Coordinator, commented, “In saying they will not comment on specific clients, Bank of America, HSBC, Mizuho Financial and Wells Fargo are in effect saying they cannot meet their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles. Yet other banks, often in the same legal jurisdictions, have shown that it is possible.
“Regardless of whether they are prepared to account for their actions publicly, we ask all banks who have financed Drummond to engage with the company, and make any further finance contingent on tangible steps to support a reconciliation process for the victims of violence surrounding their mines.”
How banks responded
- Response outlining some action taken in response to the issues raised: BNP Paribas; Citigroup
- Confirmation of link with Drummond, but no comment on the specific issues raised: BBVA
No confirmation of link with Drummond, and no comment on the specific issues raised: Bank of America; HSBC; Mizuho Financial; Wells Fargo
The report can be downloaded - http://www.banktrack.org/show/news/new_banktrack_human_rights_impact_briefing_drummond_and_paramilitary_violence_in_colombia
 The first briefing, on labour standards violations in IOI Corporation’s Malaysian plantations, is available here.
For further inquiries and interview requests, please contact:
Ryan Brightwell, ryan[at]banktrack.org, +31 634 643 116
As Drought Grips South Africa, A Conflict Over Water and Coal
Facing one of the worst droughts in memory, South Africa’s leaders have doubled down on their support of the water-intensive coal industry. But clean energy advocates say the smartest move would be to back the country’s burgeoning wind and solar power sectors.
by Keith Schneider
16 May 2016
Until a ferocious drought withered crops, turned rivers to trickles, and dried up municipal drinking water supplies, one of Limpopo province’s distinctions was the ample sun and good soil that made it South Africa’s premier producer of fruits and vegetables.
Another distinction was that the province’s farmers made an informal agreement to share scarce water with coal companies developing the Waterberg Coalfield that lies beneath dry central Limpopo.
The drought, the most extreme in South Africa since the start of the 20th century, shattered the fragile equilibrium between the agricultural and coal sectors. Pitched street clashes between farmers and police, who back the coal interests, have broken out south of Musina, where Coal Africa proposes to build a $406 million mine in an area where some of the country’s most productive vegetable farms operate. The mine would consume 1 million gallons of water a day, according to company disclosures. Both the mine and neighboring irrigated farms are dependent on the Nzhelele River, which has dwindled to a shallow stream.
Higher temperatures and diminished rainfall, which many scientists attribute to climate change are wreaking havoc in two of South Africa’s largest economic sectors — agriculture and energy. Yet in the face of this growing crisis, South Africa’s leaders continue to display unyielding allegiance to the nation’s water-guzzling coal sector, whose 50-plus billion tons of coal reserves fuel 90 percent of the country’s electrical generating capacity and provide a third of its liquid fuels. Coal also generates hundreds of millions of metric tons of climate-changing carbon emissions annually that aggravate South Africa’s warming and drying.
President Jacob Zuma’s promotion of the coal sector, though, fails to recognize an emerging solution — the renewable energy initiatives that began during the previous administration of Thabo Mbeki. Today, 13 wind power plants and 31 solar generating stations are operating in South Africa and $6 billion has been invested in renewable energy installations. These projects, which do not pollute the air and use scant amounts of water, represent 75 percent of the new electrical capacity generated by South Africa this century, according to the most recent report by the South Africa Department of Energy.
Roughly 45 sizable wind and solar projects are in various stages of construction, financing, and permitting. Indeed, the country appears well on its way to reaching the national target of 6,000 new megawatts of renewable generating capacity by 2020 and 18,000 new megawatts by 2030.
During the nine-year administration of President Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela as the nation’s second black president, South Africa seemed to be preparing for an economy that discouraged carbon emissions and resource waste, and encouraged conservation. Even as Mbeki criticized global environmental summits as Western efforts to impede development in poor nations, he nevertheless encouraged elevating ecological principles to prominence in South Africa’s economic development strategy. In 2008, the year Mbeki left office, South Africa adopted a national framework for sustainable development, which called for lowering carbon emissions and water consumption.
Although the South African private sector has been steadily expanding wind and solar power, President Zuma has shown no such enthusiasm for renewable energy. The president’s last two years in office have generated fierce criticism and public protests because of his government’s faltering response to dwindling supplies of water for drinking and irrigation. Critics also have attacked his proposals for new water-consuming coal, uranium, and nuclear projects.
Activists argue that neither the coal-based energy strategy nor nuclear power are suitable for the ecological conditions and market opportunities of this century. They cite the example of the Karoo Desert south of Johannesburg, where South Africa’s uranium reserves lie. The Karoo is one of the driest landscapes on the planet, yet the first big mine proposed there would consume 1 million gallons of water a day.
“Energy is the biggest threat to South Africa’s environment — it’s a threat to our water and our economy,” said Bobby Peek, founder and director of groundWork, one of the country’s premier environmental organizations. The group is working with community organizations to stop the Colenso coal-fired plant in KwaZulu-Natal, which would siphon off millions of gallons daily from the headwaters of the Tugela River. “There’s a drought happening,” said Peek. “It’s serious. But it’s as if our government is stuck deep in the sand and doesn’t want to see what’s going on.”
Just this week, the Zuma administration announced a new program to collaborate with Iranian financiers to address water scarcity by building desalination plants in coastal cities. Critics noted that the announcement ignored the reality of the plants’ many billions of dollars in costs, or that South Africa’s credit rating is near junk status.
Some officials are acknowledging South Africa’s growing water problems.
“There are significant difficulties from this drought,” said Dhesigen Naidoo, the chief executive of the National Water Commission, a research and science agency in Pretoria. “The drought cannot be managed the way previous droughts have been managed. In previous droughts we hadn’t factored in climate change. We are convinced that this drought is not part of a normal drought cycle that we’ve had in the past. This one is quite different. So we regard this as a drought in the climate change scenario, and our planning is working around that.”
Limpopo, about the size of Louisiana, borders Zimbabwe in South Africa’s north. In the town of Lephalale, farmers and other rural residents are locked in battles to protect water supplies from new power plants, as well as from plans to expand mining in the Waterberg Coalfield.
Eskom, South Africa’s state-owned electric utility, is building one of the new coal-burning plants, the 4,800-megawatt Medupi coal-fired power station, on a stretch of dry land west of Lephalale. When its six generating units are fully operational, perhaps by the early 2020s, the plant will consume 6.9 billion gallons of water annually.
South Africa anticipated the need for a torrent of processing water for the Medupi plant by spending $1 billion to build pumping stations, water supply and storage infrastructure, and 130 miles of pipeline to tap the distant Crocodile and Mokolo rivers. But the ongoing drought is producing fresh evidence that the two rivers may not have sufficient water in the 2020s and beyond to sustain agriculture, a fast-growing population, existing industries, and a gigantic power plant now estimated to cost $16 billion to complete.
The president’s devotion to coal has prompted intensifying civic resistance, which is showing some results. The administration’s environmental approval of the proposed 1,200-megawatt Thabametsi coal-fired station, to be built near Medupi, has been suspended following a formal appeal by groundWork and Earthlife, another prominent South African environmental organization.
In April, following an appeal by Vhembe Mineral Resources Stakeholders Forum — a group of Limpopo farmers and residents — the South Africa Water Tribunal reversed a January ruling by the Department of Water Affairs and suspended COAL South Africa's water use license to develop the Makhado mine. The ruling halted indefinitely the development of the mine.
Such defiance is not persuasive to South Africa’s president, nor to those in his administration charged with reviewing and approving Limpopo’s new mine and power plant projects. Last August, Zuma traveled to Limpopo to attend the commercial opening of the 794-megawatt Unit 6 at Medupi, the first new coal-fired generator to start in South Africa this century.
He praised the big new plant and emphasized the need to meet the country’s demand for electricity. “The energy shortage is a serious obstacle to growth,” said Zuma. “In this regard, the opening of Unit 6 is a significant achievement for the country.”
Zuma has never attended the opening of a wind or solar installation. Three months after his appearance at Medupi, Zuma delivered an address at the G20 gathering of heads of state in Turkey. In his speech, Zuma could not remember how much money is being invested to develop the first 6,000 megawatts of renewable energy in South Africa, which is 1,200 more megawatts of generating capacity than Medupi. Zuma told the G20 leaders it was $14 million. The accurate amount is $13.4 billion, or $3 billion less than the current estimated cost of completing Medupi.
Opponents of huge Alabama landfill fight company's $30m defamation suit
Matthew Teague, southern correspondent
2 June 2016
Residents in tiny Uniontown, Alabama, are locked in a legal battle against a company that has dumped millions of tons of coal ash there and then filed suit for defamation against those protesting against the act.
The residents formed a group, Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice, to fight the placement of a landfill filled with the coal ash in their town that they say threatens their health and constitutes a racial injustice. Uniontown is 91% black, and is among the poorest communities in the nation: half the residents live below the poverty line.
The company that owns the landfill, Georgia-based Green Group Holdings, has slapped four of the residents with a $30m lawsuit for defamation, objecting to the way they describe life on the edge of the 1,200-acre Arrowhead landfill.
On Thursday morning the American Civil Liberties Union – whose co-founder was a Uniontown native – filed a motion in federal court to dismiss the suit, saying it goes against “the very core of the first amendment”.
“The residents are making statements of opinion, statements of emotion and passion which can’t be penalized consistent with the first amendment,” said ACLU senior attorney Lee Rowland. “Green Group is using lawsuits to silence their critics.”
Thirty million dollars, she said, is “an unbelievably terrifying number” in a town where the median per capita income is about $8,000 per year. “It’s our goal to ensure that they are not intimidated.”
Green Group’s suit alleges that the Black Belt Citizens group used its website and Facebook page “in a false and malicious manner” and that the group’s leaders, Esther Calhoun and Benjamin Eaton, made “knowingly false” statements about the site.
Green Group revealed its motives, Rowland said, when the company’s lawyers approached the four plaintiffs before they sued them, offering to cut a deal: Green Group wanted access to their electronic devices, access to the group’s future social media postings, and extensive details about Black Belt Citizens’ membership, advocacy and communications with other environmental groups. The company also wanted apologies from each potential defendant and required them to withdraw as complainants in a federal civil rights complaint filed with the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It’s an outrage. I’m an attorney and I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The company wants to force the residents not only to agree with them, but to become a mouthpiece for them,” Rowland said.
Officials at Green Group did not immediately return calls from the Guardian, but a statement on the company’s website references the project: “We take pride in our operation of the Arrowhead Landfill which, despite being the most inspected landfill in Alabama, has had zero notices of violation since opening in 2007,” according to Ernest Kaufmann, Green Group’s CEO.
The conflict started in 2009, when the previous site holding the coal ash, in Kingston, Tennessee, suffered a catastrophic dam collapse, contaminating surrounding rivers, lakes and land with arsenic and lead.
The Environmental Protection Agency said the disaster posed “imminent and substantial endangerment to the public health”.
Train cars carried the coal sludge – four million tons of it – south to Uniontown in Alabama.
The town’s historic graveyard sits adjacent to the landfill, and some residents claim that since the coal ash expansion they can’t find some of the older graves.
“They have been out in my ancestors’ cemetery,” said Esther Calhoun. The graveyard holds the remains of slaves, and was used as recently as 1996.
Calhoun is a defendant in Green Group’s suit, but she said the company may have miscalculated by bringing such a huge lawsuit against such poor people.
“It kind of scares me less than people who have something to lose,” she said. “I can’t even count that high. How can I come up with that kind of money?”
She gave a rueful laugh. “It’s painfully funny,” she said.
When the wind blows, she said, foul smells waft up from the coal ash. “My friend lived across the street from the landfill, and I couldn’t even get to go visit her for the smell,” she said. “She didn’t have air conditioning, so she sat out on her porch. She died recently. It used to be that living in the country you could sit on the front porch, hang your clothes out to dry, barbecue. All that has changed since the landfill.”
Another of the defendants, Benjamin Eaton, told AL.com, “We are tired of being taken advantage of in this community. The living around here can’t rest because of the toxic material from the coal ash leaking into creeks and contaminating the environment, and the deceased can’t rest because of desecration of their resting place.”
Now that the ACLU has filed for a dismissal of the suit there will be another month or so of back-and-forth responses with Green Group. Then the federal judge will decide whether to rule on the written motions or hear arguments in court.
Rowland, the ACLU attorney, said she is prepared to go to court. “We have impassioned witness testimony,” she said. “We are ready to go.”
Judge says waste leak from coal plant ponds is ‘alarming’
By Matthew Brown
16 June 2016
BILLINGS, Mont. — A state judge expressed alarm at the estimated 200 million gallons of contaminated water seeping annually from leaky ash-storage ponds at a Montana power plant serving customers across the Pacific Northwest — a problem that’s persisted years after the company and state officials reached an agreement to address it.
A 2012 deal between Montana environmental regulators and the Pennsylvania-based manager of Colstrip Steam Electric Station was intended to clean up decades of contamination of surrounding water tables.
The agreement, known as an administrative order on consent, came after the plant’s six owners paid $25 million in a separate settlement to Colstrip residents whose water was fouled by the plant’s ash ponds.
District Judge Robert Deschamps said he found it “alarming” that 380 gallons of wastewater continues to seep from the ponds every minute. That’s equivalent to nearly 200 million gallons a year.
Claims by plant manager Talen Energy that the seepage was being effectively controlled “is clearly a disputed fact,” Deschamps wrote in a Wednesday ruling.
“What is a reasonable amount of time in which the (state) should act versus conduct further study, given there has already been 30 years of seepage and the (administrative order) itself was seven years in the making?” Deschamps wrote.
The judge rejected arguments from Montana Department of Environmental Quality officials that they were appropriately handling the matter. That means environmentalists can proceed with a lawsuit challenging the 2012 agreement, which set few deadlines for action and could entail years of further study.
Talen spokesman Todd Martin said in an email that the company was abiding by the agreement to investigate and remediate the ash-pond leaks. He said the agreement “established a formal and comprehensive process” to remediate the seepage.
Opponents warned that Colstrip could close long before Talen cleans up the problem.
“This is our last chance to right the ship before the companies leave town,” said attorney Jenny Harbine. “We have literally rooms full of monitoring data documenting an ongoing and increasing groundwater problem. We don’t need more documentation of the problem. We need a solution,” she said.
Harbine is with the environmental law firm Earthjustice representing plaintiffs National Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club and Montana Environmental Information Center.
Montana DEQ spokeswoman Kristi Ponozzo said the ongoing study of the contamination is necessary to figure out what kind of risk is posed by the contaminated water. The agency could not say whether the seeping was getting worse, and there is no timeline for when a fix to the problem will be put into place, Ponozzo said.
Talen is seeking to get out of the plant within two years. Meanwhile, Colstrip co-owners Puget Sound Energy, Portland General Electric and PacifiCorp are considering shutting down at least two of the plant’s four electricity-generating units in coming years, part of a transition away from coal-fired electricity by utilities.
In 1976, the Montana Board of Natural Resources and Conservation approved an expansion of Colstrip on the condition that the wastewater ponds be sealed. The board said at the time that the plant would not threaten ground and surface water supplies.
The plant’s prior operator, Montana Power, kept such problems hidden for years before notifying the community. By then, water tainted with boron had caused stomach ailments, although no serious illnesses were reported.
Talen’s predecessor, PPL Montana, upgraded the material used to line the coal ash ponds and installed two plants that dry out coal ash waste from the power generator, reducing the amount of water involved. The company acknowledged there would always be some leakage.
Alpha Natural reorganization plan not viable: U.S. government
By Tracy Rucinski
20 June 2016
CHICAGO - The U.S. Department of Justice has opposed a plan by coal producer Alpha Natural Resources to sell valuable assets to its creditors, which it said puts significant mine cleanups at risk, according to a court filing on Monday.
The sales are part of Alpha Natural's plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection, which it filed last August in the midst of plummeting coal demand. Environmental groups have said the plan would leave the reorganized group with insufficient funds to tackle cleanups.
Federal law requires coal companies to restore land they have mined, but a string of bankruptcy filings by major U.S. coal companies has raised concern among environmental agencies and the government that future mine cleanups may be at risk.
"The plan as proposed is not feasible or viable in terms of providing for the completion of environmental reclamation and long-term water treatment" at the company's mining sites as required by federal law, the U.S. government said in its filing opposing Alpha's plan in U.S. Bankruptcy court in Richmond, Virginia.
Alpha Natural declined to comment.
The government does not plan to approve the transfer of any federal lease or contract unless cleanups are assured, the Department of Justice said, adding that the transfer of such leases without government consent is prohibited.
It said that the Environmental Protection Agency and other government departments and agencies supported its stance.
Earlier this month, West Virginia's environmental regulator said Alpha had agreed to cover hundreds of millions of dollars of mine cleanups in that state.
(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Andrew Hay)
Arch Coal backs out of Longview export terminal
Bankrupt coal giant walks away from a $60 million investment in coal exports.
27 May 2016
And another one bites the dust…
Starting six years ago, Washington and Oregon found themselves besieged by a flotilla of massive, well-financed companies hell-bent on building coal export terminals to feed Asia’s allegedly insatiable appetite for coal. But the coal industry’s vision of a robust export market turned out to be a mirage: starting in early 2011, international coal prices peaked and then collapsed for five consecutive years. One by one, as the Asian coal bubble deflated, the export projects folded, the smart money fled… and the few remaining hangers-on sank into insolvency, many of them weighed down by their massive, ill-timed bets on coal exports.
But yesterday marked the end of that era: Arch Coal, the second largest coal company in America and last big name remaining in the coal export game, gave up the ghost. The company handed over its 38% share in the proposed Millennium Bulk Logistics Terminal in Longview, Washington, to the project’s last remaining supporter, Lighthouse Resources—a company that used to be called Ambre Energy North America until a financial collapse forced Ambre to cede its assets to its investors.
Arch itself declared bankruptcy in January, so it had to post details of its abandonment of Millennium on the company’s bankruptcy docket. (Here’s a pdf link to the original document.) Astonishingly, Arch got no money at all in return for “selling” its interest in the coal terminal. All Arch got out of the deal was a guarantee that Lighthouse would absolve it from all liability for the project, plus an option to use 10% of the port’s future capacity—if the port is ever completed, that is. Heck, Arch didn’t even get a price break on the port space, just an agreement that it would pay the same rate as other customers. And it’s likely that the option is worthless anyway: rival coal company Cloud Peak Energy has a similar option, but the company’s annual report shows that its auditors forced Cloud Peak to count that option as having zero economic value.
In a spin-soaked press release, Lighthouse portrayed Arch’s rush for the exits in the most positive light possible. Lighthouse expressed delight and confidence in taking full ownership of the project: Arch’s exit was simply “a logical next step in Arch’s involvement in Millennium!” The doublespeak would make Orwell blush.
Peeling back the layers of spin, though, it’s clear that this is a humbling defeat for everyone involved in Millennium. Arch Coal’s regulatory filings show that Arch had spent $57.5 million on Millennium by the end of 2015—a $25 million initial investment in 2011, followed by further cash advances totaling $32.5 million over 5 years. A previous bankruptcy filing showed that Arch paid $2 million to Millennium just in the 90 days leading up to the company’s bankruptcy; and its most recent filing admitted that weekly payments were ongoing. Given the dismal outlook for coal exports, the bankrupt company simply couldn’t bear the ongoing cost of keeping the project alive.
So in the end, Arch’s managers ponied up about $60 million to play in the Northwest coal export game and walked away with nothing but a worthless option, a handshake, and a promise that they wouldn’t be sued for their trouble.
Arch’s exit leaves precisely one player left in the coal export game in Washington and Oregon: Lighthouse Resources, which now stands as the only backer of Millennium and which also hopes to resuscitate its nearly-defunct Morrow-Pacific project in Oregon. Lighthouse owns a pair of struggling coal mines, one in Wyoming and the other in Montana, and its entire business model hinges on exporting coal into seaborne markets that are now badly oversupplied with cheap coal.
Lighthouse, in turn, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Resource Capital Funds (RCF), an international private equity firm registered in the Cayman Islands. As we detailed a few years ago, RCF basically consists of fly-by-night vulture capitalists that swoop into risky minerals projects all over the world, making big promises to nearby communities—and then swoop out as soon as they can find a bigger sucker. But although they’ve tried for years to find new investors to take Lighthouse off their hands, so far the biggest sucker at Millennium has been RCF itself, which has had to keep trickling money into Lighthouse just to keep the firm from going under.
There’s no telling whether RCF will want to keep Lighthouse alive or if it will soon pull the plug. Either way, the lessons of Arch’s exit from Millennium are clear: coal exports are now a sucker’s game, and the only investors who are still involved in the Millennium coal export terminal are the ones who can’t walk away.
Army Corps rejects permit for coal terminal at Cherry Point
By Samantha Wohlfeil
9 May 2016
The proposed coal terminal for Cherry Point is likely dead after the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a needed permit Monday, May 9.
The Corps ruled the project would impact the treaty-protected fishing rights of Lummi Nation based on the fact that the proposed trestle and associated wharf would take up 122 acres over water.
“The Corps may not permit a project that abrogates treaty rights,” said Col. John Buck, commander of the Corps’ Seattle District.
Lummi members cheered the announcement as it was made Monday morning in Lummi Indian Business Council chambers.
“With that, I want to acknowledge the hard work and leadership taken on behalf of all tribal leaders here,” Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew told those gathered. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it without you. Today is a good day. Today definitely is a good day.”
The decision was a major blow to SSA Marine, which has 51 percent ownership of the estimated $700 million project. Last month it had suspended work on an environmental review while it awaited the decision.
This is an inconceivable decision. Looking at the set of facts in the administrative summary it’s quite obvious this is a political decision and not fact based. Bob Watters, president of company proposing Gateway Pacific Terminal
The project has been heatedly debated in Whatcom County for years, with backers citing the needed living-wage jobs and opponents decrying the increased train traffic and pollution it would bring.
Those backing the project have a few options to possibly revive it. SSA Marine can change the project so it doesn’t significantly impact treaty rights, reach an agreement with Lummi Nation so the tribe withdraws its objection or sue in federal court.
It was not immediately clear what action SSA Marine or its subsidiary Pacific International Terminals would take in light of the Corps’ decision Monday.
“PIT is considering all action alternatives,” the company said in a news release.
“This is an inconceivable decision. Looking at the set of facts in the administrative summary it’s quite obvious this is a political decision and not fact based,” Bob Watters, PIT president, said in the release. “We are very disappointed that the GPT project has become a political target rather than being addressed on the facts. The terminal promises to deliver substantial benefits through economic development, the creation of family wage jobs, and the generation of significant taxes.”
Lummi council member Jay Julius said what kept popping into his head was that the tribe never lost faith.
“We never ever doubted ... We always had faith we would win,” Julius said to the group gathered in council chambers Monday morning. “One of the greatest things that I witnessed personally from this is the recognition from the outside, outside of the boundaries of this reservation, and those who don’t know us as a people. ... It has provided an opportunity for those outside to learn what the treaty is.”
Members in the audience included environmentalists and local elected officials.
“Everything we knew for thousands of years was given up in the treaty, and we were placed here,” Julius said, “but we secured some rights in that treaty. I’m thankful the colonel honored the treaty.”
Coal companies were hoping exports to Asia would shore up their industry, which has been battered by competition from cheap natural gas and more stringent restrictions on pollution. Two coal companies — Arch Coal and Peabody Energy — announced in April major layoffs of workers at mines in Wyoming.
Fishing rights debate
The Corps’ decision followed a request by Lummi Nation in January 2015 to protect the tribe’s treaty fishing rights.
“The Lummi have harvested at this location since time immemorial and plan to continue into the future,” Ballew said in the Jan. 5 request. “The proposed project will impact this significant treaty harvesting location and will significantly limit the ability of tribal members to exercise their treaty rights.”
Lummi fishing territory extends from the Fraser River to Seattle, with the exception of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Hood Canal.
This is a historic victory for treaty rights and the constitution. It is a historic victory for the Lummi Nation and our entire region. Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew
The tribe’s request came just weeks after the Department of Ecology released a vessel traffic study showing 76 percent more disruption to tribal fishing once the proposed terminal was in full operation.
SSA Marine claimed the tribe failed to prove its harvest would be much affected.
The 76 percent increase in disruption from vessel traffic was misleading because it amounted to a change from 0.11 percent disruption to 0.19 percent, SSA Marine officials pointed out.
In Monday’s news release, Watters cited aerial observations by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife done during fish openings from 2002 to 2014, which “sighted only 4 fishing boats within one half mile of the proposed pier location and only 11 fishing boats” a half mile to a mile out from the proposed pier.
“On average that’s only 1.15 boats per year,” Watters said. “In addition, the Glosten Vessel Traffic study concluded that vessel traffic associated with the terminal would have a less than 1 percent impact on tribal fishing.”
Although the Corps examined all information submitted about the project, Buck said, increased vessel traffic and concerns about the impact of spills weren’t part of this denial.
Supporters of the terminal claimed the Corps had catered to “special interests” and said the decision would have a “chilling impact” on families who were counting on jobs created on site.
“It’s truly disturbing that the Army Corps took the unprecedented step today to deny the permit for the Gateway Pacific Terminal project even before releasing the draft Environmental Impact Statement,” Kathryn Stenger, spokesperson for the Alliance for NW Jobs & Exports, said in an email. “To deny this permit without any involvement from the community or without releasing any of the findings from its years long review is deeply troubling and sends a dangerous signal that the Army Corps values special interests over the rule of law. This ruling could have a chilling impact on thousands of families in northwest Washington who were counting on this project to provide good-paying jobs.”
Lummi victory statement
While one option to revive the project is for SSA to get an agreement with the Lummis, it’s unlikely Lummi leaders will change their stance on the project, based on years of opposition. Ballew issued a written statement after Monday’s announcement:
“This is a historic victory for treaty rights and the constitution. It is a historic victory for the Lummi Nation and our entire region. We are pleased to see that the Corps has honored the treaty and the constitution by providing a decision that recognizes the terminal’s impacts to our fishing rights. This decision is a win for the treaty and protects our sacred site. Our ancient ones at Xwe'chieXen, Cherry Point, will rest protected.
“Because of this decision, the water we rely on to feed our families, for our ceremonies and for commercial purposes remains protected. But this is more than a victory for our people; it’s a victory for treaty rights.
“Treaty rights shape our region and nation. As tribes across the United States face pressures from development and resource extraction, we’ll continue to see tribes lead the fight to defend their treaty rights, and protect and manage their lands and waters for future generations.
“The impact of a coal terminal on our treaty fishing rights would be severe, irreparable and impossible to mitigate.
“Today’s victory is monumental and the Corps followed a fair process defined by law to make the right decision. The Corps has honored the treaty between Lummi and the United States.
We will always fight to protect Xwe'chieXen.”
Banks, governments, and global protests
New report finds banks betting on climate change
Seventh annual bank finance Report Card reveals major banks poured hundreds of billions into extreme fossil fuels
Joint press statement
14 June 2016
A report released today by Rainforest Action Network (RAN), BankTrack, Sierra Club and Oil Change International provides the first look at bank financing for fossil fuels since the Paris Climate Agreement, showing that the world’s biggest banks are driving climate change by pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into extreme fossil fuels.
The seventh edition of an annual report, 'Shorting the Climate: Fossil Fuel Finance Report Card 2016' embarks on new territory to evaluate the bank policies and exposure of 25 U.S., European, and Canadian banks in extreme fossil fuels – the most carbon intensive, financially risky, and environmentally destructive sub-sectors. This includes coal mining, coal power, extreme oil (tar sands, Arctic oil, ultra-deep drilling) and North American liquefied natural gas export.
The report card, which also graded banks on their human rights policies, shows that banks performed poorly in all sectors. Levels of exposure were high across the board on the order of tens or hundreds of billions of finance for extreme fuel companies, demonstrating that banks are locking the world onto a path of major climate instability. Grades on policies were also poor, with an overall D average for the Report Card, showing that a vast majority of banks have no significant policies in place to stop funding extreme fossil fuels.
“In finance terms, ‘short-selling’ or ‘shorting’ is when an investor profits if a company or asset declines in value. It means betting on failure. After the Paris Agreement, financing extreme fossil fuels amounts to shorting the climate. These bets are also at the expense of some of the most vulnerable communities living in fossil fuel ‘sacrifice zones’ around the world. We need banks to move now to help pivot the economy away from extreme fossil fuels for the sake of the planet and its people,” said Jason Opeña Disterhoft, Senior Campaigner with Rainforest Action Network.
Yann Louvel, BankTrack's Climate and Energy Coordinator, said, “Many banks announced a move away from coal in the run up to COP21 and after, but most of these focused only on coal mining. Our assessment clearly shows that they still have a long way to go to concretely exit this industry, and even more for the other extreme fossil fuel sectors. None of these banks can claim to support the Paris Agreement, to be aligned with a 2° scenario or to be fighting climate change – as we too often read in their sustainability reports – if they continue to finance these destructive sectors.”
At a time when the world’s nations have agreed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, leading financial institutions have continued business as usual investment in fossil fuels in direct contradiction of global consensus. In just the past three years, these banks have sunk $42 billion for companies active in coal mining; $154 billion for the 20 largest coal-fired power producers; $306 billion for companies that drill extreme oil; and $282 billion for companies building liquefied natural gas export infrastructure. If governments follow through on the Paris Agreement and limit carbon emissions, these investments could likely result in stranded assets and significant losses.
The report card does reflect bank movement on coal mining, where ten of the biggest U.S. and European banks committed to reduce funding for the coal mining sector in the last year. Based on their ability to quickly switch their stance on coal over the last year alone, banks are capable of making the critical choice to cut out extreme fossil fuel investments. Not only can they do it, it is a critical step to follow through on promises made in Paris to stabilise the climate.
To download the full report, with 2016 bank grades, go to: www.ran.org/shortingtheclimate
For more information, contact:
Yann Louvel, BankTrack: +33 688 907 868, yann[at]banktrack.org
Virali Modi-Parekh, Rainforest Action Network: +1 510 747 8476, virali[at]ran.org
Mounting risks of impairments globally in coal investments
27 May 2016
A Rising Likelihood of Stranded Assets in Japan, China, and Around the World
Changes sweeping the electricity sectors in Japan and China suggest a hugely uncertain future for coal-fired power and a rapidly increasing risk of stranded assets.
New research shows growing over-capacity in these markets, likely complications from regulation and rising competition from lower-cost renewable power. Coupled with massive recent write-downs in coal-generation assets in Europe and with plans in the U.S. to close more than 102 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants by 2020, the findings serve as a global warning: Coal power expansion is dicey.
The very concept of stranded assets—investments whose value falls unexpectedly or that are written off altogether as a result of new economic circumstances, whether from government policy or technology change—is on potentially vivid display here.
Over-capacity is highly evident in China and looming in Japan, and coal-fired generation in both countries is imperilled in two ways:
* First, by competition from renewables and nuclear power, both of which have either much lower marginal operating costs (or no marginal operating costs at all), and both of which generally have priority grid access.
* Second, by regulatory risks that arise from the fact that coal-fired energy is the biggest source of water pollution, air pollution and carbon emissions—risks that favor increases in capital market flows to renewables.
In Japan, where the country’s 2014 “Basic Energy Plan” would add new coal capacity equivalent to three times the amount due to retire over the next 10 years, coal-use growth is driving its own over-capacity, according to report published this month by Oxford University’s Smith School (“Stranded Assets and Thermal Coal in Japan”).
Additional drivers for the likelihood of stranded assets include five years of negative electricity demand growth; the falling cost of renewables (supporting a massive recent expansion in solar power in which the Japan is adding 9-10 gigawatts annually); and the post-Fukushima restart of some of the country’s mothballed 43-gigawatt nuclear fleet. Rooftop solar raises the risks of a “utility death spiral,” too, according to the report, in which a ramp-up could reduce the customer base of utilities.
The report notes also that regulatory risk is growing. The Japanese government’s projections for coal-fired power in 2030 (at 26 percent of total generation) are about double what the International Energy Agency estimates is acceptable under global initiatives to limit climate change (“IEA 450S”, in chart below).
Mounting risks of impairments globally in coal investments - 2030 projections of Japan's electricity mix
The report puts potential impairment losses at $76 billion, in a scenario of stranding of coal assets over the next five years. And should electricity demand continue to decline at 2.5 annually as seen over the past five years, risk will grow materially faster than the market is currently anticipating.
A telling excerpt from the report:
"Stranded coal assets would affect utility returns for investors; impair the ability of utilities to service outstanding debt obligations; and create stranded assets that have to be absorbed by taxpayers and ratepayers.”
SEPARATELY, A CREDIT SUISSE REPORT, “BEGINNING OF A MULTI-YEAR DOWN-CYCLE,” PAINTS AN EQUALLY STARK PICTURE OF COAL-POWER UTILITIES IN CHINA.
China, under market reforms launched last year, is in the process of liberalizing wholesale power prices. Because of a glut in coal-fired power, that means lower tariffs and returns. Producers must also compete now in an emerging price war with renewables. Credit Suisse analysts see falling coal-power utilization, reduced tariffs and a possible halving of leading coal utility net return on equity over the next three years.
China’s coal power glut is nothing short of astonishing—even as coal plant electricity sales and utilization fell last year, the country added 70 gigawatts of new coal capacity.
The Credit Suisse report focuses on four coal-fired independent power producers (IPPs) whose profits declined by 11-22 percent in the first quarter of this year, a trend that “should mark the start of a multi-year earnings down-cycle with mounting oversupply and pricing pressure.”
Industry consolidation could see these four IPPs write down smaller coal units, leading to losses equivalent to 6 to 14 percent of total book value, or 22 billion renminbi ($3.3 billion), the Credit Suisse analysts estimate.
Mounting risks of impairments globally in coal investments -IPPs-net profit and average ROE heading into multi-year downcycle
Mounting risks of impairments globally in coal investments - Asset impairment on pre-mature shutdown
Meanwhile, China is tilting the balance further in favor of renewables with must-run targets, for example, to boost the use of existing wind and solar assets. And the country may add a new twist on the “utility death spiral” concept, by forcing utilities to generate a certain minimum of their thermal output from renewables.
The drivers of change outlined in the Credit Suisse research are similar to those seen in Japan, and the shifts seen in both countries reveal the wider trend.
They reflect what is already happening in Europe, where lower wholesale power prices in response to rising renewable power capacity have led to costly write-downs of gas and coal-fired power plant assets. New data compiled by analysts at Jefferies investment bank showed this week that 12 of Europe’s biggest electric utilities cut the value of their assets — many of them power stations — by a collective 30 billion euros in 2015. That brings the total value of write-downs in the sector to 104 billion euros since the beginning of 2010.
Progressive utilities are looking to avoid repeating such mistakes. A case in point is First Philippines Holdings Corp., which produces 23 percent of Philippines electricity, and whose chairman announced this week “unequivocally and for the record that FPH and its subsidiaries will not build, develop or invest in any coal-fired power plant.”
That news follows a similar policy move earlier this year in Vietnam, and adds to the growing acknowledgement globally that stranded-asset risk is real.
Coal: BNP Paribas misses its shot, the match begins!
Friends of the Earth France press release
26 May 2016
Paris - When asked today at its General Assembly about its support for coal, French bank BNP Paribas was content to simply recall the commitments it adopted for last year’s United Nations climate summit (COP21), and leave it at that. According to Friends of the Earth France, however, the policies adopted by the bank contain a number of loopholes which still allow the bank to finance companies in the coal sector, a situation wholly inconsistent with BNP Paribas’s stated priority to "act against climate change." In light of this denial of the climate emergency, Friends of the Earth France has announced a new wave of mobilisation against BNP Paribas and Engie, the French power company and another major climate polluter.
At today’s General Assembly Friends of the Earth France called on BNP Paribas to commit to no longer finance the development of the coal sector. However the sponsor of the French Tennis Open at Roland Garros and the world’s fourth largest coal financier was content to recall its commitments made at the COP21 last year. This stance amounted to an unacceptable denial of reality for Friends of the Earth France which denounced the double standards of a bank that continues to finance coal despite committing to do everything to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and to align its financing with the 2°C scenario .
Lucie Pinson, Private Finance campaigner at Friends of the Earth France, said:
"Coal is incompatible with the climate emergency. How many reports demonstrating this simple fact will it take for BNP Paribas to end its financing of new coal plants or of businesses that have no strategy to align their activities with the 1.5°C scenario? The COP21 may be past but we will not allow the objectives of the Paris Agreement to be forgotten. There is a match under way today, featuring the climate against profits and we are ready to mobilize as BNP Paribas has not sufficiently revised its financing policies to respond to the climate emergency."
In a note published today, Friends of the Earth France revealed six flaws in BNP Paribas’s coal policies . Despite the bank’s 2015 review of its climate commitments climate, they cover only a small part of the coal sector:
1. BNP Paribas can continue to finance new coal plant projects in 93% of the global market.
2. BNP Paribas is reducing support for coal mining companies and power producers, yet is ignoring other key players in the industry – including transporters, traders and suppliers.
3. BNP Paribas continues to deem it unneccesary to end financial support for EDF, Engie and any other business which produces less than 30% of its electricity from coal.
4. BNP Paribas is requiring some of its customers to diversify out of coal without specifying the requirement that such an exit from coal should align with the 1.5°C scenario.
5. Not a single mention is made of exiting coal itself; BNP Paribas is therefore assisting with the resale of coal assets instead of demanding their closure.
6. No demands are made of the world's biggest coal producers such as Glencore, Anglo American and BHP Billiton.
In line with mass civil disobedience actions organised to prevent policymakers and companies acting with impunity, Friends of the Earth France has announced a new mobilisation programme on the occasion of the French Tennis Open being staged in Paris and sponsored by BNP Paribas.
On June 4 a ‘Climate versus profits’ tennis match will be held between climate polluters and civil society .
Notes for editors:
1. BNP Paribas press release for COP21 ; The Paris Pledge for Action signed by BNP Paribas.
2. See the Friends of the Earth note ‘Climate: the six flaws in BNP Paribas’s coal policy’ at the bottom of this page (only in French). See also the BNP Paribas Coal Bank Biefing published today with BankTrack.
3. See this page (only in French).
For more information contact:
Lucie Pinson, Private Finance campaigner, Friends of the Earth France, +33 679 543 715, lucie.pinson[at]amisdelaterre.org
Greens urge halt to G7 nations' funding for overseas coal
24 May 2016
Environmental groups urged Group of Seven (G7) nations led by Japan and Germany to stop financing coal projects abroad, which they said amounted to $42 billion since 2007.
Japan provided more than half of the total, with $22 billion between 2007 and 2015, a study released on Tuesday by groups including the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), WWF and Oil Change International said.
Many rich nations have sharply restricted financing of coal-fired power plants at home in recent years in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But the report said Tokyo was considering a further $10 billion in coming years in projects including Mozambique and Myanmar.
The report said the $42 billion from G7 countries was for coal projects in developing nations in the form of "direct finance, guarantees, technical assistance, and aid for coal power, coal mining, and related projects."
The study, released before a G7 summit in Japan this week, said Germany was second behind Japan on $9 billion, ahead of the United States ($5 billion), France ($2.5 billion), Italy ($2 billion), Britain ($1 billion) and Canada (below $1 billion).
South Africa, India and the Philippines were the main recipients of finance.
Almost 200 nations agreed at a summit in Paris in December to shift the world economy towards cleaner energies from fossil fuels in coming decades. Governments are meeting in Bonn this week to start planning detailed rules.
Last November, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) agreed to restrict subsidies used to export technology for coal-fired power plants. From now on, funds will only go to the most efficient plants.
$42 billion "is probably an under-estimate," NRDC's Jake Schmidt told a news conference in Bonn, adding it was an "inconsistent use of scarce public dollars" to invest in coal rather than cleaner energies such as wind or solar power.
(Reporting by Alister Doyle; Editing by Alexander Smith)
'Break Free' fossil fuel protests deemed 'largest ever' global disobedience
Coalition of environmental groups call for oil, coal and gas to be kept in the ground during mass protests around the world over the past two weeks
16 May 2016
Thousands of people have taken part in what organizers have called the largest ever global civil disobedience against fossil fuels, with dozens of activists arrested during protests that shut down coalmines, rail infrastructure and a port.
The protests, held over the past two weeks in countries including the US, UK, Australia, South Africa and Indonesia, saw activists call for oil, coal and gas to be kept in the ground. A coalition of environment groups, which called the actions “Break Free”, are pushing for a complete shift away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.
“This is the hottest year we’ve ever measured, and so it is remarkably comforting to see people rising up at every point of the compass to insist on change,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of climate group 350.org.
More than 50 protesters were arrested in Washington state for trespassing after large groups camped out on railroad tracks that transport oil to the Shell and Tesoro refineries. The action managed to shut down the rail line over the weekend.
A further 1,300 marched in Washington DC to call on Barack Obama to end offshore drilling for oil and gas, while dozens were arrested near Chicago after 1,000 people protested against the planned expansion of a BP refinery there. A further five people were arrested in Albany, New York, after another action to stop trains from transporting fossil fuels.
The actions follow a wave of protests around the world, including the efforts of a group of kayakers to shut down the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle, Australia. Hundreds of activists invaded the UK’s largest opencast coalmine, located in south Wales, while Europe’s largest opencast mine, in Germany, was also swamped by protesters and forced to shut down.
Further anti-fossil fuel activity has taken place in Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa and Canada. Some of the largest protests took place in the Philippines and Indonesia, with an estimated 10,000 people marching to oppose a new coal-fired power plant in the Philippine city of Batangas.
Many of the protests expressed alarm that last year’s Paris climate deal, which committed nations to keeping global temperatures below a 2C increase on pre-industrial times, contained no explicit commitment to phase out fossil fuels. Instead, nations are left to devise their own ways to cut emissions and meet their pledge to avoid dangerous climate change.
“Every new tonne of coal that is dug up is one too many,” said Hannah Eichberger, of German group Ende Gelände (Here And No Further). “We are hitting the emergency brakes now. We won’t leave climate action to governments and corporations any longer. We are taking matters into our own hands now.”
The protests have taken place amid new evidence of the rapid transformation of the world’s climate due to human activity. April 2016 was the warmest April on record, according to Nasa, beating the previous record by a huge margin.
Global temperature records have now been broken for seven months in a row, with last year the warmest on record, beating a mark only set in 2014. Aided by a hefty El Niño event, the heat has helped cause drought in Africa, corals to perish and the Arctic to experience a record low in ice extent.
The world is careening to an atmosphere not previously experienced by humans. Last week, carbon dioxide levels, as charted by a measuring station in Australia, pushed beyond 400 parts per million for the first time.
Scientists have expressed surprise that the 400ppm milestone has been reached so soon, warning that a large amount of warming has already been locked in, regardless of future emissions cuts. This, in turn, will lead to sea level rise, food insecurity and extreme weather events.
Last year, global renewable energy capacity grew by 8.3%, with solar and wind technology now outpacing new coal facilities. Grid data from the UK showed that the amount of electricity generated from coal fell to zero several times last week.
However, the US Energy Information Administration has warned that fossil fuels are on course to still make up 75% of energy production in 2040. The US government agency said that CO2 emissions are projected to increase by a third by 2040, from 2012 levels, largely driven by non-OECD countries, such as China and India.
“The global climate justice movement is rising fast,” said Naomi Klein, the author and climate activist.
“But so are the oceans. So are global temperatures. This is a race against time. Our movement is stronger than ever, but to beat the odds, we have to grow stronger.”