CoalWire 24, 13th February 2014

Spill, after spill, after coal-related spill in the US

“When it comes to rivers and clean, safe water, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Hundreds of thousands of people have learned that the hard way over recent weeks, after a dangerous coal chemical spilled into the Elk River in West Virginia’s capitol city, and then toxic coal ash from a retired Duke Energy power plant spilled into North Carolina’s Dan River — and now there’s yet another coal slurry spill in West Virginia,” writes the Mary-Ann Hitt, the Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.

Suggested tweet: 3 #coal spills in a month pollute #US waterways: @maryannehitt enough is enough http://huff.to/1fY9rGb

Coal India Abandons Share Offer Amongst Growing Investor Scepticism

“Three years can be an eternity for a coal company. In October 2010, Coal India, then the world’s largest coal miner, was seen as one of the most valuable equity investments in the emerging economies. With its 1.2 billion strong population and a healthy growing economy, India seemed primed to devour plenty of cheap coal. Coal India with a virtual monopoly over coal supply was set to feed this hunger and provide enormous profit for shareholders. But 2013 was Big Coal’s annus horribilis and even Coal India wasn’t spared,” writes Ashish Fernandes from Greenpeace India and Justin Guay from the Sierra Club.

Suggested tweet: #Coal #India abandons share offering amidst growing investor scepticism http://huff.to/1fZMcvE

campaigns

Coal train pollution covered up by NSW environmental regulator

Over 3000 pages of documents obtained under Freedom of Information legislation reveal that the New South Wales (NSW) Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) concealed that uncovered coal wagons resulted in increased air pollution. In early 2013 the Office of Environment and Heritage noted that there was a “very strong relationship between train passage and a spike in air particles.” Subsequently, both the Minister for the Environment, Robyn Parker, and the Chair of the NSW EPA, Barry Buffier, denied that there was any significant increase in dust levels caused by coal trains. The Hunter Community Environment Centre has called for a parliamentary inquiry into the cover-up. (Hunter Community Environment Centre, Sydney Morning Herald)

Challenge to Eskom bid for massive pollution increase

South African civil society groups have lodged a submission opposing a bid by the government-owned utility Eskom to be granted “rolling” postponements of air pollution standards for all of its 14 coal-fired power stations. Under current legislation, Eskom’s power stations are required to meet existing coal-power station plant standards by 1 April 2015 and stricter new plant standards by 1 April 2020. All of Eskom’s plants are in areas declared as air pollution priority areas with 12 in a high-priority zone. If granted, Eskom would cause “much higher air pollution emissions for decades to come” causing “thousands” of South Africans to “die prematurely,” says Rico Euripidou, Environmental Health Campaigner at groundWork. (EarthLife Africa)

Pakistan High Court open to overturning coal plant approval

The High Court of Pakistan has directed the government to provide reasons within two weeks as to why the court should not block a coal-fired plant which has been proposed to be built near the township of Cox’s Bazar. The proposed power station was challenged by Cox’s Bazar resident, Altaf Hossain, who argued that the plant does not have the necessary environmental clearance under the Environment Conservation Act 1995. Hossain’s lawyer told the court that the Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh is hoping to finalise a US$4.3 billion loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency in March. (New Age)

top news

Supreme Court directs completion of ‘Coalgate’ investigation within three months: The Supreme Court of India has directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to file charges in six cases over irregularities in allocating coal resources. The court also authorised the CBI to proceed with investigations involving public sector agencies even though nine states have refused to co-operate with inquiries. The court also directed that all investigations be completed by April 30. (Times of India)


US officials helped companies with coal bids: The Interior Department’s independent Inspector General, Mary Kendall, has found that Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials inappropriately shared information with coal companies. “Some BLM state and field offices have conferred with the mining company during the sales process to expedite the completion of a coal lease sale. In our view, this is a form of negotiation currently prohibited by law and regulation,” Kendall wrote. (Reuters)


Outrage over coal company gifts to Scottish councillors: Public outrage has followed revelations that East Ayreshire councillors accepted gifts of trips, accommodation and whisky from coal companies. The companies later collapsed leaving a US$215 million shortfall in the funds needed for rehabilitation. A report by former Scottish Government chief planner, Jim Mackinnon, into the conduct of the council found that “not all gifts/hospitality received by members from the coal operators resulted in them abstaining from decisions on opencast coal developments.” (Daily Record,Mackinnon report)

Parliamentary committee calls for inquiry into revolving door: The Indian parliament’s Standing Committee on Coal and Steel has called for an inquiry into Coal Ministry and other public sector agency staff being appointed to private companies immediately after being involved with coal mine approvals. The committee also endorsed the need for a post-retirement ‘cooling off’ period to be extended from one year to at least two years.(MoneyControl)


Bangladesh government backs away from open-cut coal: The Minister for Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Nasrul Hamid, has announced that any new coal power stations will be based on imported coal as the government wanted to exclude farmlands from open-cut coal mining. “We have moved away from the decision to extract coal through open-pit mining method,” he said. The Bangladesh Power Development Board aims to generate 20,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity from coal by 2030. (Daily Star)


Power plant re-opening sparks protest:Dozens of fisherman, residents and kelp farmers blockaded Endesa Chile’s Bocamina I coal plant for two hours after the environmental regulator lifted a suspension order. The order was lifted after the company promised to meet environmental conditions. “I don’t think that the underlying issues were resolved in just a few weeks … Fish continue to be sucked [into the plant’s cooling system],” said Luis Villablanca, the head of the local fishermen’s union. (The Santiago Times, Reuters)

“In a significant shift for business-friendly Chile, social groups are successfully suing massive projects over threats to glaciers, health, indigenous rights and biodiversity. Projects that use coal, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel, have fared particularly poorly,”

reported Reuters.

news

Australia: Bushfire burns into Victorian brown coal mine.


Australia: Four years after coal ship grounding, little recovery of damaged coral reef.


Pakistan:  Government provides sovereign guarantee for Thar lignite project.

South Africa: Eskom starts burn tests of coal from Waterberg Coal Company.


US: Candidate for governor returns coal executive’s donation after chemical spill controversy.


US: Federal officals refuse to state Elk River water ‘safe’ for use after chemical spill.

“The tone [at the Coaltrans USA conference last week] was as bearish as we have seen at any conference since 2009 … In particular, views on seaborne met [metallurgical coal] were especially cautious, with widespread expectations that already weak benchmark [price] is likely to weaken further,”

wrote Daniel Scott, an analyst with the financial services firm the Cowen Group, in a note to clients.

companies + markets

Coal-rich Shaanxi province plans to cut coal consumption: Shaanxi province has announced that it will cut its coal consumption to no more than 138 million tonnes of coal by 2017. With 5000 MW of coal plants currently under construction and over 40000 MW more proposed, the coal cap would mean significant cutbacks in coal power plans in the province. The announcement suggests that major coal producing regions may follow wealthier eastern provinces in restricting the role of coal. (Greenpeace)


Chinese coal stocks tumble: The valuation of the three largest Chinese coal companies– China Shenhua Energy Company, China Coal Energy Company and Yanzhou Coal Mining Company – have fallen to record lows and coal prices fall. China’s coal industry is “dead” according to Laban Yu, a Hong Kong analyst with the Jefferies Group. “There are 10,000 producers in China. A lot of them are taking on debt. It gets harder and harder to service debts when coal prices keep falling.”(Bloomberg)

Indonesia pledges to cap coal production:An Indonesian government official said regulations are being drafted to allow coal production to be capped at 397 million tonnes in 2014, down from 421 million tonnes in 2013. “We have been lax in applying the sanctions in the past years. We’re going to be stricter, otherwise prices will be volatile,” said Edi Prasodjo , the Coal Business Director at the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry.(Jakarta Post)


Botswana aims to finalise Namibia coal railway: The Botswana Chamber of Mines hopes to finalise an agreement with Namibia later this month for the development of a 1,500-kilometer long railway to allow coal from Botswana’s central Karoo basin to be exported through the port of Walvis Bay. “It’s not clear as yet when this financing will come from but we would like this project to proceed as soon as possible,” said Charles Siwawa, the Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber of Mines. (Bloomberg)

“If you dig a mine you destroy all this area. For 10 years [the lifespan of the mine] you have money. But even if you rehabilitate it, that ground will never grow anything again. It is dead,”

said a farmer, speaking on condition of anonymity, of the polluting Brakfontein Colliery east of Johannesburg.

resources

“Fact Sheet: Eskom’s application for postponement of air pollution standards”,groundWork, Centre for Environmental Rights and Earthlife Africa Jhb, February 2014.This 2-page factsheet gives a brief overview of the impacts on air quality, health and legal rights of Eksom’s bid to defer compliance with standards set under the Air Quality Act.

The submission and appendices by Centre for Environmental Rights sets out the detail of Eskom’s bid to be allowed to substantially increase pollution emitted from its coal plants.