Pages tagged "dirtyenergy"


The True Cost of Coal

(Photo: Emrah Gurel, AP) 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 Coal is a dangerous and outdated fuel, and in the 21st century we should not be using it to power our homes, schools, hospitals and businesses.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.


Texas Oil Spill Hits Home for Tar Sands Activists

East Texas Oil spillDoes the Tar Sands Blockade (TSB) have a crystal ball we didn’t know about? Yesterday in Tyler County, TX, a pipeline operated by Sunoco Logistics sprung a leak and spilled 20,000 gallons (or 550 barrels) of oil into local East Texas waterways. Deep East Texas is known for its creeks and lakes, freshwater eco-systems and aquifers that provide water to the eastern part of the state, including mega-cities Dallas and Houston. But oil companies treat these forests and waterways as collateral damage. Quality control requires that oil companies use “leak detection systems.” Those systems reported nothing until local residents began to report that oil was in the water. (Ummm... so, how do you not detect a 20,000 gallons oil leak?) Sunoco’s spill is merely a prologue for leaks and spills that might come once the southern leg of the Keystone XL Pipeline is completed. The site of the spill is not far from a Tar Sands Blockade (TSB) action in Diboll, TX in January.  It’s only a few hour away from TSB’s tree blockade that prevented construction of TransCanada’s Keystone XL Pipeline for 85 days. The Keystone XL itself will cross major waterways such as the Neches, Red, Angelina and Sabine rivers as well as the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which provides drinking water for more than ten million Texans. The pipeline route will run near the Big Thicket National Wildlife Preserve in southeast Texas. Big Thicket is one of the most biologically diverse areas in the country and is full of bogs, lagoons, plants, trees and a variety of wildlife including the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. In a sense, local Texas landowners and environmentalists that began blockading the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline foretold this story. TSB continues to tell a story trying to stop environmental disasters like this with grassroots organizing and spectacular direct actions as their message delivery devices. The courts and cops, owned by companies like TransCanada, throw everything at them to stop the campaign and now local communities and eco-systems are paying the price. Last month, a Tar Sands Blockader locked himself inside an oil and gas industry conference in Houston and decried the lackluster construction and maintenance of these pipelines. While local pipelines continue to poison communities and eco-systems, TransCanada continues to move forward with its massive Keystone XL Pipeline. This only begs the question "when will the next Texas oil spill happen?"

Why Going to Jail for Climate Justice Is More Than a Responsibility: A Closer Look at Our Movement’s Tactics

This is a guest post by Peter Hoy of Chicago, IL. It originally appeared on WeArePowershift.org.
Si al pueblo, no al carbon.Washington, D.C., for better or worse, always feels like a losing battle. I am educated enough to know that our politics are polluted by corporate money. I have lobbied enough to know that even congressional allies will say the political climate “isn’t right” for climate legislation. I have even been arrested enough to know that 100 people committing civil disobedience in front of the White House isn’t enough to move leaders on a moral issue. So what gives? Though I am often discouraged by my time in D.C., I still made the trek to Power Shift 2011, if only to meet with other youth equally confused about the direction of our movement. It is clear to me, at least on the national political stage, that we are not winning. The EPA is under attack, climate legislation is off the agenda until 2013, and mountaintop removal mining is still legal in the U.S. court of law. So we have a lot to reflect on as a movement. I went to Power Shift not with any definitive strategies or answers, but with many questions about what’s next for young people willing to dedicate their lives to confronting the climate crisis.  The main question that guided me throughout the weekend was this: In the face of all these challenges, how can I be most effective? I spent some time in the Clean Economy Track, where I have a personal connection with Grand Aspirations, a youth-led organization that is building the clean economy from the ground up. I am one of three Chicago Program Leaders for the Summer of Solutions, a Grand Aspirations leadership-training program running in 15 cities this summer. Solution-based work like this is a major component of my answer to the question of how to be most effective. We need to draw the line in the sand as a movement and say “no” to the polluters, but we also need to offer our society the “yeses” that build the clean and just future we are demanding. The Summer of Solutions is just one of several summer programs that are offering those “yeses.” Still, there is a need to say “no.” If the Summer of Solutions and other programs like it were to end U.S. consumption of fossil fuels today, we would still have the problem of dirty energy exports, which are growing in volume from U.S. extractors. But the fact of the matter is we continue to burn coal, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel fuels in power plants and vehicles all around this country and in alarming quantities. And everywhere these fuels burn, there are communities absorbing the negative effects of toxic pollution. So, before our solution-based organizing gets to the point of displacing these dirty energy sources, there is a need for communities and solidarity organizers to stand up to the pollution wrought by the fossil fuel industry. If we don’t say “no” now, we accept the exploitation of people and whole communities in exchange for convenience and profit. Is this a world we would be proud to leave our grandchildren? Not satisfied solely by solution-based work, I returned to Chicago to take action against two of the oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the United States. On April 20th, as a part of Rising Tide North America’s Day of Action Against Extraction, I joined five other Chicagoans in unfurling a banner on top of a coal pile at the Crawford Generation Station in the Little Village neighborhood of Chicago. We carried a message penned by the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, which read “Close Chicago’s Toxic Coal Plants.” A rally attended by local residents and allies took place on the street side of the fence where another banner reading “Si al pueblo, No al carbon” was prominently displayed (the English translation is “Yes to the people, no to coal”).

Activst getting arrested at coal plant in Chicago

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?

A Bad Year for Dirty Energy

April 5th is the one-year anniversary of the disaster at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine, in which 29 coal miners lost their lives needlessly thanks to Massey’s disregard for worker safety in its reckless pursuit of profits. It was also something of a kickoff for what would turn out to be a really bad year for dirty energy — a year in which seemingly everything that could go wrong did go wrong, laying bare for all to see the inherent danger and unsustainability of continuing to rely on fossil fuels as sources of energy. Just fifteen days after the explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine on April 5th, for instance, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded and sank to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, taking with it the lives of 11 men working on the drilling platform. The wellhead blowout led to a three-month long ordeal in which crude oil gushed uncontrollably into the Gulf, exposing once again the relaxed attitude towards worker and environmental safety held by purveyors of dirty energy. Now, a year later, we’re facing the specter of nuclear meltdown in Japan, a frightening capstone to what should serve as a year’s-worth of alarming wake up calls. But these of course were only the highest profile disasters that resulted from our reliance on dirty energy. The Atlantic recently compiled a long list of dirty energy disasters from the past year that should lay to rest once and for all the debate over our society’s energy future. Dirty energy disasters Here is a brief, by no means comprehensive list of the dirty energy disasters we witnessed last year alone. This draws from The Atlantic’s list some, with additions by me and other RAN staffers.
  • April 5, 2010 – An explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia claimed the lives of 29 miners.
  • April 20, 2010BP’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.
It couldn't be more obvious that now more than ever we need to redouble our efforts to ensure that our children are not held captive to these dirty energy sources of the 19th century. A bad year for dirty energy is actually really bad news for us all.

Score: Three to Zip in Bad Day for Dirty Energy

Ambre Energy: Dirty, Dangerous and Obsolete Amidst a horrific week of news about Japan, there was some truly good news yesterday in the fight to keep dirty coal and oil out of our air, water and atmosphere. Ambre Energy was foiled in its effort to open a coal export terminal on the coast of the Pacific Northwest; TransCanada was delayed in spreading crude tar sands oil to the U.S. via the controversial Keystone XL pipeline; and oil giant Enbridge was dealt a deeply funny hoax by our friends the Yes Men. It is critical to remember, especially during such a dark week, that our movement is making major strides in the effort to build a clean energy future. Score 1: Ambre Energy Ltd said yesterday that it will surrender a permit to build a coal export terminal in Washington state after enormous opposition from those concerned about environmental and public health impacts. The proposed Longview export terminal would have shipped coal mined in Montana and Wyoming to Asia through the Columbia River in Washington. The cancellation of the Longview coal export terminal is critical in sending the message to the coal industry that we don’t want coal burned here and we don’t want it burned anywhere. As Ross Macfarlane, Senior Advisor for Climate Solutions put it:
“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!

What Does Japan's Nuclear Meltdown Mean for our Energy Future?

Energy Shouldn't Cost LivesJapan's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant disaster have dominated headlines around the world since news broke last Friday. Thousands of people have died in Japan over the past few days, and many more are at risk of radiation sickness from the ongoing nuclear power plant meltdown. My heart aches for all of the families in Japan who are suffering this week. Of the hundreds of news reports covering these one-after-another disasters, one Bloomberg article caught my eye with a very interesting question: how will Japan's nuclear meltdown impact the future of energy? As the nuclear meltdown in Japan continues, the conversation about the impact this disaster will have on our energy choices is an interesting one. There seem to be two competing answers: expand the use of coal as a clear alternative to nuclear power, or push for clean energy, like wind and solar, that does not explode, spill or meltdown. Which would you choose? Apparently, two of the biggest coal mining companies in the world, Siberian Coal Energy Co. and OAO Mechel, have responded to Japan's energy crisis with a plan to increase coal shipments to Japan by 3 million to 4 million metric tons a year. The stock market also seems to point to coal as a good alternative to nuclear, at least at this moment in the news cycle. The Wall Street Journal reported that coal companies including Peabody Energy, Consol Energy, Alpha Natural Resources, Cloud Peak Energy and International Coal Group are trading higher since the nuclear plant explosions. However, the New York Times is reporting that solar and wind stocks are surging amidst nuclear fears as well. The demand for renewable energy is picking up. With Bloomberg reporting that: "Equipment makers for solar and wind energy climbed as much as 27 percent, rallying for a second day on speculation that clean energy will benefit in the aftermath of Japan’s nuclear-reactor accident." It is disgusting to think that any company, dirty energy or clean, would "benefit" from this disaster. However, it is also horrifying to imagine that as a global community we would not heed the warnings that disasters like the BP oil spill and this week's nuclear meltdown are sounding. As country's like Germany and Switzerland suspend plans for nuclear plants and fear over this unstable fuel justifiably surges around the globe, we have two paths for our energy future: to stay the course, pumping our countries full of coal, oil and nuclear energy, or transition to renewable sources of energy like solar and wind. In my estimation, replacing nuclear energy with energy from burning coal is a foolish path. Coal has a long and shameful history of devastating accidents, including the TVA coal ash spill in December 2008, which dumped 2.6 million cubic yards of fly ash across hundreds of acres just outside Knoxville, Tennessee, and Massey Energy's Upper Big Branch mine explosion in April of 2010, which killed 29 miners. These are just two recent examples from the United States. It would take a much longer blog post to cite all the recent accidents at coal plants and mines around the world. The debate around the future of nuclear energy will surely rage for many months. It is critical that those of us who have been watching the disaster in Japan unfold not let pundits, politicians and journalists decide to replace one dangerous power source for another.  Energy shouldn't cost lives.

Offical Notice: Cease Financing Coal

Chase Official NoticeTo: 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, yoOfficial Notice Citiu 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; NV Energy; 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. Bank of America on noticeWe 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.
Official Notice Wells FargoConsider 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! [set_id=72157626268061958]

Our Local Dirty Power Plant Is Shutting Down

[caption id="attachment_10649" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Credit: Liz Hafalia / The Chronicle"]Potrero Power Plant in San Francisco[/caption] Here in San Francisco we just got some holiday cheer: After decades of  battling, the last remaining fossil fuel power plant in our city is going to shut down. Mayor Gavin Newsom today announced that Potrero Power Plant, operated by GenOn Energy, will close on January 1, and be fully decommissioned by February 28. The 40-year old natural gas plant is situated in the South East of the city, where neighborhood residents have long suffered from higher rates of pollution-related illnesses, such as asthma and respiratory disease. So here's to cleaner air in the new year, and to shutting down many more dirty power plants in 2011!

Murray Energy Coal Pollutes Southern Ohio's Waterways

Thanks to Mary Ellen for alerting me to this story in Southern Ohio. A coal slurry spill from Murray Energy's American Century Mine is threatening Belmont County Creek. This is the fourth coal slurry spill into the creek in recent years - and yet Murray Energy wants to put another impoundment right on the creek. Murray is the largest privately owned coal company in the US, and the second largest producer of longwall coal. You can read the full story about the spill here in the Columbus Dispatch.

Double Trouble: Chevron's Ecuador Gameplan Slowly Unravels

Crossposted from Daily Kos In the last two days Chevron has been hit with two developments that will surely produce lasting doubts to the legality and authenticity of Chevron’s actions in what is being called the world’s largest environmental lawsuit. Chevron has been involved in the $27.3 billion for the last 17 years. The breathtaking figure represents the expensive pollution counting for over 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste and 15 million gallons of crude oil left in the Amazon rainforest. Chevron has vehemently denied responsibility, claiming high cancer rates and polluted drinking water is due to "poor sanitation." However Chevron cannot, and as of yesterday now refuses to, backup any such claim. Yesterday Chevron was provided with the opportunity to submit to the court its own damages assessment. (Presumably to argue any discrepancies they found in the original damages assessment compiled by the court appointed expert.) Chevron in turn rejected the opportunity. A peculiar move considering Chevron has spent the last two years attacking the submission of independent damages assessment. The original assessment contained over 105 expert reports and more than 64,000 samples, many of which came from Chevron’s own team. This latest maneuver by Chevron has many in the legal and human rights world scratching their heads. However for those close to the lawsuit this latest development is seen as another indicator that Chevron is solely interested delaying the trial rather than letting the courts rule on the extent of their liability.
"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.

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