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Coal Industry Continues its Shady Practices

Cover of "Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behi...

Cover of "Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future"

Posted by Bruce Nilles at 11:53 am
November 4, 2010
comments1 COMMENT

My colleague said it well yesterday in his response to Tuesday’s election results – we will not cede our future to polluters, who again poured tens of millions of dollars into various campaigns.

No surprise here, the coal industry is part of those polluters throwing money around to support candidates who will keep the loopholes and handouts in place and help them block any action on global warming. According to an election spending report from the Center for American Progress:

American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) has spent more than $16.3 million in 2010, including $3,005,540 on a national ad and buys in Washington, D.C., Montana, and Texas over the last three months. The group has budgeted $20 million for online campaigns. This Big Coal front group is infamous for its forged letters to members of Congress opposing clean energy and climate legislation that resulted in a congressional investigation.

But the shady politics don’t stop there. If you ever wanted evidence that the coal industry is corrupting our politics, look no further than the state of Kansas and the decision Tuesday by Governor Mark Parkinson to fire his chief environmental official Rod Bremby.

In 2007, under then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Bremby had the courage to reject the massive proposed Sunflower coal plant because of its impacts on global warming. Global warming, Bremby argued, threatened the health and welfare of all Kansans.

After the state legislature enacted new legislation that attempted to eliminate Bremby’s authority to reject the permit and Sebelius was called to Washington to serve as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, Governor Parkinson struck a deal with Sunflower Corporation to fast-track the coal plant permit.

However, Bremby remained firm that he was not rushing the permitting and he had an obligation to ensure a fair and open public process and fulfill his legal duties to review the permit’s legality before it could be issued.

But on Tuesday, with everyone consumed with election coverage, Governor Parkinson fired Bremby. This was a crass political move to ensure the permit is issued before the Governor leaves office in January 2011.

And another example of coal’s corruption comes from Indiana, where Duke Energy is under investigation because “(a) top attorney in the Indiana Utilities Regulatory Commission took a job with Duke, which he appears to have negotiated at the same time he was overseeing decisions about Duke’s new power plant.”

The Duke plant is already under construction (and $1.3 billion over-budget) and will continue construction during this ethics investigation.

Meanwhile in Kentucky, coal isn’t just proving itself unethical again, it’s proving itself dangerous. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) announced yesterday it is asking a federal judge to shut down a Massey Energy coal mine in protect workers there. This the first time the MSHA has ever used this power.

In filing for a preliminary injunction in U.S. District Court, the government cites persistently dangerous conditions in Massey Energy’s Freedom Mine No. 1 in Pike County….The Freedom Mine employs about 130 miners and was cited for safety violations more than 700 times this year alone.

Coal is dirty and dangerous, and our politics and our health are at risk as long as the coal industry maintains its lock on our energy sector.

That is why our work is so very important. We are not giving up and we are not done.

Bruce directs Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, which works to reduce America’s over reliance on coal, slash coal’s contribution to global warming, end destructive mining, and secure investments in clean energy.

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