RAN’s own Mike Brune sent a letter to JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon late last week asking that Chase show some leadership and stop their financing of the coal industry, mountaintop removal coal mining, and to demand that their client, Massey Energy, stop the destruction of Coal River Mountain immediately.
October 29, 2009
Via Facsimile and Express Mail
Mr. Jamie Dimon
Chairman and CEO
JPMorgan Chase & Co.
270 Park Ave.
New York, NY 10017
Re: Massey Energy and Coal River Mountain
Dear Mr. Dimon:
We need your leadership. JPMorgan Chase, through its financing of Massey Energy and other mountaintop removal companies, is in the crux of one of the most intense environmental and moral issues of our times. Even as I write this letter to you, a Massey subsidiary is detonating explosives as part of a massive mountaintop removal mining operation on Coal River Mountain in West Virginia. I’m writing to urge your company to intervene.
Coal River Mountain is at the epicenter of the struggle over the future of Appalachia, and graphically illustrates our national choice between clean renewable energy or short-term exploitation of fossil fuels. The ridgelines of Coal River Mountain have been evaluated as having Class 7 wind potential – the highest ranking possible – and local citizens’ groups have developed an alternative development plan focused on wind power, which would provide long-term jobs, energy supplies, and tax revenue. This long-term vision of clean, sustainable energy is completely incompatible with the short-term obliteration of MTR coal.
As a RAN representative presented to you at your most recent AGM, Massey Energy has a long history of violating the law and shows contempt for public concerns about the environmental and social impacts of its operations. Massey’s environmental track record – including being fined for more than 4,000 violations of the Clean Water Act- is part of the public record. We are therefore very concerned about the rigor of JPMorgan Chase’s environmental due diligence.
However, given that your company has chosen to engage in financial relations with Massey, I thought you should know what they are doing with your support. I urge you to take strong action so that your company’s reputation is not tarnished by the rogue practices of a coal company that routinely flouts the law. It is bad enough that they are blasting on top of ridgelines that have been proposed for a wind farm, ruining that potential. But things could get even worse.
In operating its Bee Tree permit on Coal River Mountain in West Virginia, Massey is blasting on the containing ridge of the Brushy Fork coal sludge impoundment dam, which is the largest coal sludge impoundment in the country, and which holds approximately eight billion gallons of hazardous coal mining waste sludge. Many are concerned that the blasting could destabilize this dam, potentially unleashing a massive rupture of coal sludge that would choke Coal River Valley and threaten the lives of approximately 1000 people.
I urge you to view the crisis situation on Coal River Mountain as a wake-up call to take more progressive action in addressing your bank’s association with mountaintop removal coal mining. Here’s what you can do.
First, please place a call to your client, Massey Energy, and request that they cease their blasting operations on Coal River Mountain. Second, please demonstrate strong environmental values with an announcement that JPMorgan Chase will cease its financial involvement in the practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. Finally, in this era of climate change, climate policy negotiations, and national and international dialogue on the issue that will define the future of our planet, please develop a more thoughtful and aggressive climate policy that restricts financing of coal-fired power plants.
RAN and our allies have also been urging the Administration to take action. However, you do not need to wait for Washington to recognize that it is not a viable business model to blow the tops off mountains — simultaneously destroying streams, rivers, drinking water, forests, biodiversity, clean energy opportunities, public health, and mountain communities –all for a product that is destroying our climate.
Furthermore, the government is starting to take action – action that also merits a timely response by your bank. You should know that just last week, the US Environmental Protection Agency shut down the operations of the Spruce Mine, the largest mountaintop removal coal mine in Appalachia, out of concern that yet another JPMorgan Chase client was violating the Clean Water Act. Arch Coal, the operator of the mine, has been receiving financial support and services from JPMorgan Chase for the past five years (most recently in March 2009). They were called out by name in the Economist last week, which stated: “….the underling question is why America allows this practice at all. Arch Coal should have had the foresight to see that such an environmentally-destructive practice risks drastic intervention from regulators, and to factor that calculation into their investments.” That Economist story also took note of the unfolding situation in Coal River Mountain.
Mr. Dimon, the time has come for immediate action. Please show leadership on these issues, and reverse your bank’s role in the drama. Instead of facilitating the companies that are causing such widespread destruction, please place a call that might help to save this one very important mountain before it is too late.
Our children’s future is at stake, and the time for bold, decisive action is now.