Pages tagged "patriotcoal"

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 Coal is a dangerous and outdated fuel, and in the 21st century we should not be using it to power our homes, schools, hospitals and businesses.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.

Tell Banks to Stop Financing the Destruction of Blair Mountain

[caption id="attachment_20559" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Blair Mountain, West Virginia"][/caption] A Guest Blog by Brandon Nida, Organizer—Blair Mountain Heritage Alliance Many people have not heard of the Battle of Blair Mountain, let alone a place called Adkins Fork in Logan County, West Virginia. But in 1921, the Adkins Fork area was the scene of an intense battle between miners attempting to organize and a private army trying to stop them. It is part of the larger Blair Mountain battlefield that stretches 14-miles along Spruce Fork Ridge, the site of the largest labor battle in US history. Ten thousand miners fought for five days against the private army entrenched on the ridgeline, with both sides having high-powered rifles and machine guns. Three regiments of federal troops sent by President Harding were finally able to halt the conflict. Currently Adkins Fork and the larger Blair Mountain battlefield is threatened by an extremely destructive form of coal mining called mountaintop removal (MTR). This is a process where mountains are blasted and a huge amount of leftover material is pushed into valleys, filling them up and creating a flat moonscape where rolling hills and hardwood forest once were. MTR is a process that in recent years has increasingly been tied to health problems such as rare forms of cancer, respiratory illnesses, and birth defects. At the foot of Blair Mountain is the town of Blair, where I live and work. In the late 1990s, Blair was a community of about 700 people, and currently there are only about 70 residents left. Aggressive buyouts preceded plans to MTR mine around the town and led to the systematic depopulation of the area. The people who remained had to live with constant blasting behind the town, carcinogenic dust rolling off the site, and the contamination of drinking water with heavy metals. But people from Blair were some of the first coalfield residents to speak out against MTR, something that is hard to do in central Appalachia where the coal industry dominates the social and political landscape. Currently we are fending off six different permits that would impact the battlefield and the communities around it. Our biggest struggle is with the Adkins Fork permit, which is situated in the heart of the battlefield and right above the headwaters of the town of Blair. The Adkins Fork permit is currently up for renewal, and we have mounted a major campaign to block this permit. This campaign will be a tough one and will continue over the next few months. The Adkins Fork permit, which is being sought by Arch Coal, is symbolic of the increasing risk that investors and banks are taking by investing in companies (like Arch Coal) that have MTR operations. It is a permit that has multiple deficiencies, and is being contested by a wide range of concerned citizens, including: community members, retired coal miners, archaeologists, labor groups, environmentalists, and others across central Appalachia and the rest of the nation. If Arch Coal is able to proceed with the Adkins Fork permit, they would destroy one of the only areas we know for certain was occupied by the miners during the Battle. Along with this permit, there are currently 17,000 acres permitted or under review for the Spruce Fork watershed. It is comprised of geological strata high in selenium. Selenium is a bio-accumulative compound that is highly detrimental to the nervous system of animals and humans, and is extremely expensive to contain or remove from the ecosystems once it is released. This small compound is one of the reasons Patriot Coal, a major operator of MTR mining in Central Appalachia, was forced to publicly halt all MTR operations just last month. Streams in the Spruce Fork watershed have already been shown to have higher amounts of selenium than regulation allows. [caption id="attachment_20595" align="alignright" width="300" caption="MTR on Blair Mountain"][/caption] In addition to Arch Coal seeking a permit that has a wide coalition of people opposing it and which has high levels of selenium, the risk investors take when putting their money into companies like Arch continues to increase. The West Virginia State Historic Preservation Office refuses to sign off on this permit due to the destruction of major archaeological resources. Valley fills, of which the Adkins Fork permit has three, have been coming under increasing scrutiny by federal regulators. With the stripping of thousands of acres of vegetation and topsoil, the risk of flooding becomes more prevalent.  As more peer-reviewed science shows the link between MTR and severe health problems, companies such as Arch are finding it harder to externalize these risks onto communities such as the town of Blair. For these reasons and more, those who continue to invest in companies like Arch that conduct strip mining operations such as the Adkins Fork permit take on increasing risk. Right now, Arch Coal’s stock is down to around seven dollars per share from a high of around 73 per share in 2008. Arch Coal’s credit rating is Ba3 sub-prime, just one level above where Patriot Coal (NYSE: PCX) was before going bankrupt. The Adkins Fork permit is just one permit by Arch Coal that would impact the town of Blair and the Blair Mountain battlefield. Companies such as Arch are attempting to destroy not just the environment, but whole communities, heritage, and people’s health. Citizen groups and environmental organizations have become more proficient in being able to challenge and block these permits. In fact, one of the only operations to have been halted in mid-operation was in Blair – the Daltex surface mine operated by Arch Coal. In addition, the Spruce No. 1 surface mine, which is the largest MTR mine ever permitted in central Appalachia and which sits on another ridge above Blair, has been the subject of intense litigation for over a decade. For those of you who would like to take part in stopping companies like Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources (ANR) from destroying the Blair Mountain battlefield and other mountains in central Appalachia, there are definite ways you can help and join in our efforts. Even if you live far away, we need you to take a stand and join in our Adkins Fork campaign and the larger efforts to preserve Blair Mountain and stop MTR. The first step is working in solidarity with a group of community members, organizers, retired coal miners, archaeologists, historians, environmentalists, and others who will be taking part in a public conference with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection this Thursday. While we attempt to show the WV DEP why this permit renewal should be denied, we need as many people as possible to circulate and sign our petition directed at the banks and investors who enable companies like Arch Coal to engage in these destructive operations. This is not just about one permit, or one mountain, or one community, but is symbolic of the larger problem of destructive practices such as MTR, and the increasingly reckless investment and financing of these types of operations. Take a stand today, and join our team. Tell banks and investors to stop financing the destruction of our homes and health. Stand with us and stay connected as we move through this national campaign. Only together can we stop destructive extractive processes such as MTR.   Brandon Nida is a native West Virginian who currently lives in Blair, WV. He is an organizer with the Blair Mountain Heritage Alliance, a board member of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and a member of the United Auto Workers. He is currently finishing the doctorate program in Anthropology/Archaeology at UC Berkeley.

Patriot Coal to End Mountaintop Removal Mining

Good news for Appalachia: Patriot Coal recently announced its decision to end mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining. Rainforest Action Network has been talking for many years about why this egregious form of mining needs to be ended immediately. For anyone who might want a reminder about what MTR is, watch this: [youtube XyzwCKoLhDo 550] This is significant news. Patriot is the third largest producer of MTR coal, responsible for almost 8% of the coal mined by this method in 2011. Most encouragingly, along with its commitment to end large scale surface mining in the region, Patriot also acknowledged the impact this destructive form of mining has on local communities and announced its commitment to reduce its environmental footprint. Patriot issued the following statement:
Patriot Coal has concluded that the continuation or expansion of surface mining, particularly large-scale surface mining of the type common in central Appalachia, is not in its long-term interests. Today’s proposed settlement commits Patriot Coal to phase out and permanently exit large scale surface mining and transition our business primarily toward underground mining and related small scale surface mining. Patriot Coal recognizes that our mining operations impact the communities in which we operate in significant ways, and we are committed to maximizing the benefits of this agreement for our stakeholders, including our employees and neighbors. We believe the proposed settlement will result in a reduction of our environmental footprint.
While this may sound like a change of heart, it is worth noting that Patriot was facing some tough economic challenges. The company had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June and was being sued by environmental and citizens’ groups in West Virginia federal court to stop polluting water with selenium, a metal released by large-scale strip mining, and clean up the pollution. Whatever their motivation, this news is a win for the mountains and communities of Appalachia.

Patriot Coal: Another One Bites the Dust

[caption id="attachment_19415" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Patriot Coal's Hobet MTR mine. Credit: Vivian Stockman /"]Patriot Coal's Hobet MTR mine[/caption] Big news this week in the coal industry: Patriot Coal, the third-largest Mountaintop Removal (MTR) coal mining company, is filing for bankruptcy. Bank of America is among the banks providing bankruptcy filing services for Patriot. This is a real opportunity for BofA to use its influence and environmental ambition to work with Patriot and forward-thinking politicians like West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller to close and clean up those MTR mines and transition the Appalachia region into a producer of clean, renewable energy. Email Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan right now and tell him not to bail out Patriot Coal's MTR coal mines. Patriot joins Massey and ICG on the roster of large MTR producers who have fallen into trouble in recent years (Massey and ICG were bought-out by Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal, respectively). Patriot hasn’t received the quantity of negative press that Massey and ICG were awarded, but their operations still left a devastating impact on the communities and ecosystems surrounding their mines: significant selenium pollution. Selenium is a toxic element that causes reproductive failure and deformities in fish and other forms of aquatic life. In 2010, in the most significant judicial decision to date to address selenium pollution from coal mines in Appalachia, a federal judge ordered Patriot Coal to prepare $45 million in secured credit to cover the costs of treating the pollutant at two of its coal mines in West Virginia. In January 2012, attorneys for the Sierra Club and other groups filed a major lawsuit settlement that will require Patriot Coal to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to treat selenium pollution from three of the company’s major MTR mines in West Virginia. The deal required Patriot to build and operate new treatment systems for 43 water discharge outfalls on 10 different permits. The deal also requires Patriot to drop any future plans for mining a major permit — and creating significant selenium pollution — at its Jupiter-Callisto Mine in Boone County, WV. The sad story of Patriot reinforces the bold speech by West Virginia’s Senator Rockefeller last month. He said that West Virginia coal operators must stop shrugging off climate change and pollution-related health problems and "face reality" about the future of coal.

Coal Owns Congress: Follow the Money Trail

[caption id="attachment_8046" align="alignleft" width="501" caption="Arch Paid Out These Politicos:"][/caption] Last week you may have heard about how International Coal Group is conspiring to pour money into three key election races in Kentucky and West Virginia. Now you can track which of our elected representatives have already sold out to the coal industry, thanks to this, a new online database from our friends at Oil Change International. Just enter a politician's name, coal company or a zipcode to follow the money trail from coal companies to Congress. Q: Which politicians are taking money from mountaintop removal (MTR) coal companies? A: Who's not? Arch Coal, recipients of the only new permit to create new MTR mines and valley fills since the EPA's 'tough' new guidance was announced, has made financial contributions to more than 100 different Senators and Representatives. These contributions total more than $800,000 and include a substantial $40,300 check to Representative Shelly Capito (R, WV). Patriot Coal, operators of the Hobet MTR mine complex, contributed almost $20,000 to Nick Rahall (D, WV). Rahall has also received monies from CONSOL and Arch. Massey Energy has donated over $20,000, split between eight different politicians. The biggest Massey check went to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, KY), who also appears to be the politican most indebted to Big Coal and Oil. Since 1999, Mitch has received a whooping $1,147,558 campaign funding from these industries. No surprises that McConnell is leading the attack on the EPA's attempts to tighten regulations around mountaintop removal mining. Visit, enter your Congress members' names and let us know how much dough they've gotten from ol' King Coal in the Comments section below.

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