This week a double tragedy has struck the coal mining industry.
On Monday night in West Virginia, a coal outburst at a Patriot-operated mine killed two miners. And on Tuesday an explosion and fire at a coal mine in Western Turkey killed at least 245, with hundreds more still missing.
Our hearts and minds are with the miners and their families.
These disasters underscore the horrific cost of “cheap” and dirty energy. Miners’ deaths such as these are preventable. We call on coal companies to immediately improve labor conditions, and on the governments of Turkey and the United States to strengthen their regulatory oversight of the coal industry.
At the same time, here at Rainforest Action Network, we are reflecting on the less noticed human cost of coal. Every year, more than one million people die of the air pollution that comes from burning coal. 150,000 more die from the extreme weather events aggravated by climate change–and coal is the single biggest driver of global warming.
All of this points to an obvious conclusion. We must not continue to make these sacrifices in order to produce energy from such a dirty and unsustainable source. Coal is a dangerous and outdated fuel, and in the 21st century we should not be using it to power our homes, schools, hospitals and businesses. It is past time for us to shift our energy production to clean, safe renewable power.
Why Going to Jail for Climate Justice Is More Than a Responsibility: A Closer Look at Our Movement’s Tactics
Six of us went to jail that day to draw attention to a local injustice. We have put the company on notice and after packing the lobby of City Hall for a hearing on the issue the next day, it is clear that we won’t back down. But what is next for our movement? Will we continue to push our tactics and speak LOUDER until we are heard? Or will we allow ourselves to be silenced by the corporate pollution of our politics and the fear of going to jail for speaking the truth? This post is intentionally left open ended for greater discussion. What are the tactics that will allow us to win? We can’t raise billions of dollars to influence Capitol Hill, so how do we level the playing field? I think our movement needs to take a close look in the mirror and consider how we respond to a political process mired in inequitable access and influence. So I ask, in the face of all these challenges, how will YOU be most effective?
- April 5, 2010 – An explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia claimed the lives of 29 miners.
- April 20, 2010 – BP’s Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig exploded and sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, claiming the lives of 11 workers and leading to an oil spill of over 200 million gallons.
- May 8, 2010 – Two explosions at the Raspadskaya coal mine in Siberia claimed the lives of 91 miners.
- June 17, 2010 – An explosion at a coal mine in Amaga, Colombia claimed the lives of 73 workers.
- July 20, 2010 - China experienced its biggest oil spill ever – some 400,000 gallons – after pipelines exploded in Dalian Province.
- July 26, 2010 – An Enbridge Pipeline burst, spilling 19,500 barrels of oil into the Kalamazoo River — a record for the Midwest. The river remains closed.
- August 10, 2010 – Five people lost their lives and another 50 were injured when a natural gas pipeline owned by PG&E exploded in San Bruno, CA, a suburb of San Francisco.
- October 16, 2010 – At least 20 miners were killed by an explosion in a coal mine in Yuzhou, China.
- November 21, 2010 – Some 87 workers were killed in the year’s worst coal-mining accident in China.
- December 2, 2010 – A Chevron pipeline in Salt Lake City, UT burst, spilling 500 barrels of oil. Chevron actually had not one but TWO oil spills in Salt Lake City in 2010. Not only that, but the company had THREE oil spills in the space of one week in December 2010.
- February 9, 2011 – A natural gas explosion in Mont Belvieu, TX claimed the life of one worker and led to a fire that burned for nearly an entire day.
- February 10, 2011 – A natural gas explosion in Allentown, PA killed five people and destroyed eight homes.
- March 11, 2011 – An earthquake-triggered tsunami hit the coast of Japan, dangerously destabilizing several of the country’s nuclear reactors. To date, workers are still trying to prevent total meltdowns of the reactor cores. But it wasn’t just nuclear energy that posed a problem in the aftermath of the earthquake: A fire at an oil refinery was sparked by the quake and raged for days, some times with 100-foot flames leaping into the air.
“The profits were headed out of the country, but the health problems and pollution would have been here to stay. This idea of turning Washington into a way station for coal - which will pollute our atmosphere with tons of carbon dioxide and toxics - is a losing idea for our health and our economy.”Score 2: Approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, which would pump crude oil from the Alberta tar sands to Texas refineries through a 1660 mile pipeline, has been delayed. Thanks to some serious political pressure from environmentalists in the U.S. and Canada, the Obama administration yesterday ordered additional environmental reviews of the $7 billion pipeline before making a final decision. As Kate Colarulli, Sierra Club Dirty Fuels Campaign Director, explained:
"We are very pleased that the State Department is taking a closer look at Keystone XL. Now we need to make sure they do a thorough job. If any foreign oil project requires close scrutiny by our government, it’s this one. This project would carry toxic, dangerous tar sands oil right through America’s heartland, putting our drinking water and farming at risk.”Score 3. Early yesterday, the world learned of oil transport giant Enbridge’s strategy for handling inevitable oil spills along its proposed pipeline through pristine British Columbian wilderness: mop it up with human hair. The fake initiative, dubbed MyHairCares, was promoted in a Video News Release and ran in a number of major news outlets, but was pulled after a denial by Enbridge. Shannon McPhail, a former Canadian oil worker and Canadian spokesperson for People Enbridge Ruined in Michigan (PERM), the group responsible for MyHairCares (wink wink), said:
“This was a funny way to dramatize the fact that neither Enbridge nor any other oil company can prevent spills, and that they basically have no cleanup plan.”Just last summer, an Enbridge pipeline spilled more than 800,000 gallons of oil into Michigan's Kalamazoo River. Enbridge’s northern gateway pipeline proposes to ship oil from the Alberta tar sands to an export terminal in Kitimat, British Columbia. I must admit, it does feel good to score against dirty energy companies sometimes!
To: Bank of America, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, PNC and Wells Fargo: We regret to inform you that this bank is being put on Notice. Effective immediately you must begin to cease all financing of coal-fired power-plants and related infrastructure. The Rainforest Action Network, our supporters and allies, being inhabitants of this planet, do hereby give you notice to cease and desist all coal financing. Furthermore, you are hereby required to protect public health, economic security and the climate. First and foremost by limiting your exposure to coal financing and, thereby, limiting our exposure to air, water and climate pollution.
Furthermore, you must cease and desist financial relations with the nation’s leading coal companies until they end their addiction to coal, including but not limited to: AES Corporation; Alcoa Inc; Allegheny Energy; ALLETE Inc; Alliant Energy; Ambre Energy; Ameren Corporation; American Electric Power (AEP); Arch Coal; Atlantic Power Corporation; Berkshire Hathaway; Black Hills; Corporation; CMS Energy; Constellation Energy Group; Dominion Resources; DTE Energy Company; Duke Energy Coporation; Dynegy Inc; Edison International; Empire District Electric Co; Entergy Power; Generation Corp; FirstEnergy Generation Corp;Great Plains Energy; MDU Resources Group; MGE Energy; NiSource Inc; NRG Energy Inc; NVEnergy; Peabody Energy; PNM Resources; PPL Corporation; Progress Energy; RRI Energy; SCANA Corporation; Southern Company; SSA Marine; TECO Energy; Transalta Corporation; UGI Corporation; Unisource Energy Development Company; Waste Management Inc; Westar Energy Inc; Westmoreland Coal Company; and Xcel Energy Inc.We hereby demand that you adopt firm policies to include the following criteria:
- No financing for companies pursuing new coal-fired power plants and life-extending retrofits of existing coal-fired power plants.
- No financing, for companies engaged in mountaintop removal coal mining.
- No financing for companies pursuing coal export infrastructure.
- Shift the balance of your energy financing to support power generation that is less threatening to our health and environment.
Consider this your first warning. You are on notice to shift the focus of your energy portfolio to support clean, renewable power generation in the United States. Rainforest Action Network will be monitoring you. You have three months. After which, we are prepared to apply public pressure to evict your coal portfolio and move clean energy into its place. You can tell the country’s biggest banks to stop funding dirty coal and start investing in clean energy alternatives!
"We predict that Chevron’s bad faith will be on full display yet again," said Pablo Fajardo, the lead lawyer for the Amazonian communities. "Chevron complained that it did not have an opportunity to produce its own damages assessment. But when given the opportunity, company lawyers accuse the judge of bias against Chevron and launch attacks on the justice system." Fajardo said the Amazonian communities would submit their own damages assessment prepared by a team of scientific and medical experts to the court today."The new damages report submission, comes a day after another major dilemma for Chevron’s defense in Ecuador. On Wednesday a Federal Judge ordered Diego Borja, a spy video operative and former Chevron employee, to appear for a deposition in San Francisco next week. The deposition is in regards to Borja’s involvement with Chevron in a potentially illegal entrapment scheme. Borja became a lightning rod of controversy in the lawsuit after partnering with a former drug runner and secretly videotaping themselves having conversations with the judge presiding over the trial. The videotape as been a key piece of evidence for the defendants and human rights activists claiming the Chevron continues to attempt to undermine the rule of law in Ecuador with "dirty tricks".
U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward Chen says "that Mr. Borja was not an innocent third party who just happened to learn of the alleged bribery scheme but rather was a long-time associate of Chevron whom Chevron would pay for any favorable testimony."Chevron has denied any association with Borja, however an investigation uncovered that Chevron had arranged for his relocation from Ecuador to a $6000 a month Northern California townhouse, and is currently providing him legal counsel. Diego Borja’s deposition is scheduled for October 1st, pending any objections from Chevron.