CoalWire 35, 1st May 2014

Indian coal activist wins Goldman Prize

With a small Internet café as his headquarters, Ramesh Agrawal organized villagers to demand their right to information about industrial development projects and succeeded in shutting down one of the largest proposed coal mines in Chhattisgarh. Shortly after the coal mine was defeated, gunmen allegedly hired by Jindal Steel and Power broke into Agrawal’s shop and shot him in the leg. Agrawal survived the attack but faces a long road to recovery. Nevertheless, he continues his advocacy. This month he received the Goldman Award, the “Green Nobel,” in recognition of his work.

Secrecy and favors boost Turkish coal plant

Despite opposition, the US$5.5 billion SOCAR refinery in Aliaga continues to move ahead. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation have each withdrawn US$150 million, but SOCAR continues to receive backing from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and from the Export-Import Banks of the U.S., Korea, Italy, Canada, and Span.  Supporters passed a special law to override competing geothermal interests, and an environmental review process conveniently ignored the refinery’s 1350-megawatt (MW) captive coal plant. The combination of secrecy and special favors “show the magnitude of the problems that the mixture of business interests, coal and neglect of local health concerns may cause in Turkey,” writes Bankwatch Network’s Ioana Ciuta following a fact-finding trip to Turkey.

campaigns

Victorian government to conduct health study in Morwell

Bowing to pressure from Voices of the Valley and other groups, including a petition signed by 25,000 people, the government of Victoria agreed to conduct an in-depth study into respiratory problems, heart conditions and possible developments of cancer in the Morwell community caused by the Hazelwood Mine fire. The study aims to fill a knowledge gap on the medium-term health effects of coal fires. (Latrobe Valley Express, CommunityRun)

Thai fishermen block construction of coal pier

Villagers of Laem Hin in southern Thailand brought more than 50 boats to block the construction site of a coal pier by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand, successfully stalling construction. More than 300 households in the area earn a living from the fishery and say they would be adversely affected by the coal pier. (NNT)

Suggested Tweet:  Fishermen in Thailand block new #coal pier http://bit.ly/1m3Oi0F

top news

US Supreme Court upholds air pollution rule: In a 6-2 vote, the Supreme Court upheld an Obama Administration rule designed to curb emissions from coal plants in 28 states, saying the rule was within the government’s authority under the Clean Air Act. The regulation targets air pollution that crosses state lines; the Environmental Protection Agency estimates it will prevent up to 34,000 premature deaths annually while saving US$280 billion in health and environmental costs. (New York Times, EarthJustice) China slashes spending on power plants:China added 39 per cent less coal and gas power capacity in the first quarter than it did a year ago, according to the U.S. National Energy Administration. Non-fossil projects, including nuclear, hydro, and solar, received 75 per cent of power investments in 2013.(Reuters) 

Java turns to gas turbines: As landowner opposition and lack of investment continues to hold back two major coal plants on Java—the 2,000 MW Batang project and the 1,000 MW Cirebon project—national utility PT PLN says it will accelerate the construction of gas-fired power stations. (Reuters)

Australian corruption inquiry investigates coal baron’s donations:  An anti-corruption inquiry has been told that a company associated with former coal baron Nathan Tinkler paid over US$61,000 to a lobbying firm that is alleged to have operated a slush fund for the New South Wales branch of the governing Liberal Party. At the time a Tinkler-related company was proposing to build a new coal export terminal in Newcastle.
(ABC News, Newcastle Herald)NRDC, BlackRock and FTSE launch carbon-free equity index: The new investment tool provides a global benchmark that excludes companies linked to exploration, ownership, or extraction of fossil fuel reserves. Creating such benchmark is a crucial step in facilitating fossil-free investing by foundations, universities, pension funds, and other institutions. (Switchboard)

“It is time once and for all to say NO to coal exports from the Pacific Northwest,”

said Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, announcing his opposition to the proposed Ambre terminal.

news

Egypt: Government setting environmental standards for the industrial use of coal as an energy source.Japan: Government will aid Eastern Europe in construction of “next-generation” coal plants.

Philippines: Coal Asia Holdings secures government endorsement for its mining operations in Davao Oriental.

US: Symptoms of residents consistent with exposure to industrial chemical MCHM from West Virginia leak.US: Federal judge rules that Alpha discharged selenium from coal-slurry impoundment.

“When even the president is anti-coal, it’s like you’re fighting City Hall. But the truth will prevail. I see coal making a comeback. The best thing for coal will be when we [the U.S.] start exporting natural gas,”

said Andrew Redinger, managing director at KeyBanc Capital Markets

companies + markets

Duke Energy says cleaning up coal ash would cost US$10 billion: Duke Energy told North Carolina lawmakers that relocating all of the company’s coal ash away storage near rivers and lakes would take decades and cost up to US$10 billion. Environmentalists havebeen asking for new legislation requiring Duke to move its coal ash to lined landfills in safer locations following the February 2ndDan River spill. (Richmond Times Dispatch)Shenhua Energy profit falls: China’s largest coal producer posted a decline in first quarter profit of 9.9 per cent from a year earlier due to rising operating costs and depressed coal prices. (China Daily)

Indonesian output defies economic gravity: Despite falling prices and government efforts to restrict production, the Indonesian Coal Mining Association expects output to rise to 425 million tonnes in 2014 from 421 million tonnes in 2013, surpassing the government’s 400-million-tonne-per-annum cap. To better control exports, the Energy and Mineral Resources Ministry is considering restricting the number of terminals. (Bloomberg)

Mechel idles U.S. mining operations:Russia’s Mechel has halted mining at its U.S. company, Mechel Bluestone, due to weak prices for metallurgical coal. Mechel has been seeking to sell Bluestone in order to reduce its US$9 billion debt. Share prices have fallen more than 90 per cent since their 2011 peak.(Reuters)Russia’s Elga metallurgical mine moves ahead: Russian miner Mechel has signed a contract with Austria’s Binder company to provide engineering services on the first stage of Siberia’s US$2-$4 billion Elga Coal Complex, one of the world’s largest deposits of coking coal. China Exim Bank may also provide financing. (Moscow Times, Reuters)

US’s Energy Future Holdings to file for bankruptcy: Energy Future Holdings is expected to file for bankruptcy as it struggles to pay debt of more than US$40 billion due to low electricity prices. The Texas company owns 14 power plants. The filing would be one of the biggest Chapter 11 bankruptcies in history. (Reuters)

“The Newcastle benchmark [for thermal coal] is currently US$74 a tonne. That price is well below what developers would need to make a return on capital. We think you need a long-term price of US$110 to be viable,”

said Daniel Morgan, global commodity analyst at UBS, on the financial challenges facing companies proposing to build a new coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland, Australia.

resources

The Carbon Undergound: The World’s Top 200 Companies, Ranked by the Carbon Content of their Fossil Fuel Reserves,
Fossil Free Indexes.An update to the top 200 list first published in 2011 by the Carbon Tracker Initiative. Concludes that the carbon content of the reserves reported by the top 200 companies exceeds their portion of the carbon budget by 400 per cent.

A Review of China’s Climate Policies and Actions in 2013, Climate and Finance Policy Centre, April 2014.

An overview of China’s climate and energy policy system, including air pollution, coal control measures, and carbon pricing. ArguesChina needs to better coordinate its international and domestic climate strategies with its practical work, and put forward its own proposals for a new climate agreement in 2015.

take action

Société Générale

350.org has continued its petition drive calling on the French bank Société Générale to withdraw from its advisory service role for the Alpha Coal project in the Galilee Basin in Queensland. If built, the Alph coal mine would emit 1.8 billion tonnes of CO2 over a 30-year lifespan. You can sign here.

Tell Barclays to stop financing mountaintop coal removal

British banking giant Barclays spent US$550 million financing mountaintop coal removal in 2013, making it the year’s top financial supporter. Rainforest Action Network is calling on the company to stop the practice. You can sign here.