December 7, 2017
Issue 211  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

Over the last week the two dominant themes have been the widespread pollution from coal and the industry’s growing demands for even more subsidies. In India, the international cricket match between India and Sri Lanka was interrupted by extreme pollution, in part caused by dirty coal plants. A few days beforehand, India’s environmental tribunal demanded the national pollution regulator submit evidence on what it was doing to enforce new pollution control standards on coal plants. Meanwhile, regulators in Goa have revealed a major coal port was illegally handling over double the volume of coal it was authorised to. For its part, Adani has even more challenges after India’s customs agency is set to challenge a decision blocking the investigation of allegations of tax fraud. In Australia, the Chinese Embassy has dashed Adani’s hopes of obtaining funding from Chinese banks for its beleaguered Carmichael coal project.

As the economic viability of coal plants has been eclipsed by other forms of generation, the industry has increased its efforts to win huge new long-term subsidies. In the US, the coal lobby is pitching for tens of billions of dollars in tax credits to prop up the entire coal fleet. In Europe, the Estonian European Union Presidency is pressing to allow capacity payments for old coal plants.

Bob Burton


As UK leads global coal phase move, at home locals confront mining plans

While the UK Government has championed moves for a global coal phase-out, at home proposals for a new coal mine and the expansion of another are being resisted by residents, writes Mat Hope in DeSmog UK.

In Poland’s coal heartland, residents look to a cleaner future

In Poland’s coal heartland, Upper Silesia, residents prepare for a transition to a cleaner future, writes Claudia Ciobanu in Just Transition.


Chinese banks dump Adani’s Carmichael bid

The Chinese Embassy in Australia has told Australia’s former foreign minister, Bob Carr, that China will not fund Adani’s proposed Carmichael coal project in Queensland. Carr told the media that he had been told by Embassy officials that "the relevant company will discontinue discussions with Adani over possible co-operation.” In November, Adani flagged that it was negotiating to have China Machinery Engineering Corporation build its proposed coal railway. In the days before Carr’s statement three major Chinese banks — China Construction Bank, the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China and the Bank of China — had ruled out providing financial support for the project. The announcements, which follow a three-week campaign by community groups to persuade Chinese banks to avoid the project, may finally cause the project to collapse. (Sydney Morning Herald, ABC News)

Top News

New Delhi smog forces coal rethink: Extreme air pollution in New Delhi caused physical distress among players and forced delays to an India-Sri Lanka cricket match. Images of Sri Lankan players wearing face masks dominated international media coverage of the incident. A hastily convened panel by Prime Minister Nahrendra Modi is reportedly considering a range of policy measures, including the option of shutting down coal plants within a 100 kilometre radius of New Delhi. It is unclear whether the shutdowns would be temporary or permanent. (Guardian, Economic Times)

Indian court calls for evidence of coal plant compliance: The National Green Tribunal, India’s national environmental court, has demanded that the Central Pollution Control Board provide evidence at a December 7 hearing on how many operating coal power plants comply with the new air pollution and water consumption standards. “Show us one plant where compliance has been done,” the tribunal stated. Environmental activist Sunil Dahiya is seeking the enforcement of Ministry of Environment and Forests water use and pollution standards for coal plants which are scheduled to be in effect by December 7. (Business Standard, Economic Times)

Call for criminal investigation over Goa coal port breaches: Goa Against Coal has called for a criminal investigation into Mormugao Port Trust and the Jindal subsidiary, South West Port Limited (SWPL) after the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GCSB) revealed that almost 6 million tonnes more coal was moved through the port than it was authorised to handle in 2016–17. GCSB has issued a show cause notice to SWPL asking why the company’s permit should not be revoked. It also alleges the company provided false data to the agency and disobeyed directions to install air pollution monitoring equipment. (Herald, Times of India)

Taiwanese groups call for dumping of coal plant decision: A coalition of civil society groups has demanded the overturning of the decision by the Director-General of the Taichung Environmental Protection Bureau to impose only an 11 per cent cut in coal consumption at the Taichung Power Plant. On November 13 the bureau refused to extend permits for nine of the 10 units at the 5500 megawatt (MW) plant without further documentation. The Taiwanese Government is under increasing public pressure to cut air pollution. (Taipei Times, Taipei Times)

EU Presidency pushes for coal capacity payments: The Estonian Presidency of the European Union has proposed the European Council approve last-minute changes to abolish the carbon intensity threshold of 550 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour, thereby opening the door for capacity payment subsidies for coal plants. The proposal, which is being opposed by environmental and health groups, will be discussed by EU energy ministers on December 6 and finalised on December 18. (Beyond Coal Europe)

Coal companies behind secretive US anti-wind group: A coalition of anonymous coal companies from Ohio, West Virginia “and the region” are behind the Campaign for American Affordable and Reliable Energy (CAARE), a group that has sought to oppose new wind farm proposals in Ohio. Major coal industry lobby groups and Murray Energy have denied any knowledge of who is behind the group. (Midwest Energy News)


Australia: NSW Government clears way for third proposal for Drayton South mine, but underground.

India: Gujarat opposition accuses state government of buying private power while underutilising publicly owned plants.

New Zealand: Forest and Bird files legal challenge against mine in Mt Te Kuha conservation reserve.

Poland: Prairie Mining submits environment assessment for proposed metallurgical coal mine near Lublin.

Russia: Government pursues expansion of Tigers Realm Coal’s Beringovsky coal port in the Far East.

Thailand: UN human rights agency calls for dropping of charges against anti-coal protesters.

US: Legal challenges filed against Trump Administration move to reduce national monuments for coal and other industries.

US: The Department of Interior is refusing to explain the status of a stalled health study into mountaintop mining.

Companies + Markets

India’s financial regulator orders appeal over Adani tax haven: India’s Commissioner of Customs will appeal against the blocking of an investigation into allegations that Adani defrauded the government of taxes on over US$600 million of plant and equipment. The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence is investigating whether an overseas subsidiary of Adani over-invoiced the cost of imported equipment, thereby transferring funds to a tax-haven and beyond India’s customs agency. The appeal, to be submitted by mid-December 2017, will be heard by the Customs, Excise and Service Tax Appellate Tribunal. (Guardian)

Gupta company pressures Eskom over coal supply contract: Leaked documents reveal that Tegeta Exploration and Resources threatened to cut coal supply to the 2000 MW Hendrina power station in a bid to pressure Eskom to increase the price paid under its coal supply contract. Tegeta is owned by the Gupta family company and associates, with Duduzane Zuma — the son of South African President Jacob Zuma — as a minor shareholder. Tegata gained control of the Optimum mine when Eskom pushed Glencore to sell it by refusing to increase the coal price to make the project profitable. (AmuBhungane)

US coal lobby pitches for up to US$65 billion in tax credits: A coalition of coal and power companies, including American Electric Power and Peabody Energy, are lobbying Congress to adopt a proposed tax credit for coal plants at a cost of up to US$65 billion over a decade. The groups propose the tax credit would apply to all US coal plants not slated for retirement and would be in addition to a Trump Administration move to subsidise 40,000 MW of coal plants regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The proposed subsidies may be considered in a package of other tax measures slated for consideration before the end of the year. (Axios, Bloomberg)

E.ON CEO calls for EU carbon price hike: Johannes Teyssen, the CEO of the head of German utility E.ON, has called for the European Union’s carbon price to be increased to at least €25 to €30 (US$30–35), which would be up to four times higher than the current price. Teyssen, who has long championed coal power, acknowledged he had made “misjudgements” about the viability of renewable energy and its attractiveness to investors. (Clean Energy Wire)

Vale abandons using Sena railway in Mozambique: Vale has signalled it plans to increase exports from 12 million tonnes this year to as much as 18 million tonnes in 2018 through the port of Nacala and end its use of the recently upgraded Moatize to Sena railway. The Sena railway, the original and shorter route for coal exports, has been subject to guerrilla attacks, while Beira port can only cater for 40,000 tonne ships due to its shallow access channel and the constant need for dredging. Vale’s Nacala port can cater for bulk carriers capable of carrying 180,000 tonnes. (Macauhub)


India Energy Transition: mapping subsidies to fossil fuels and clean energy in India, International Institute of Sustainable Development (IISD), the Overseas Development Institute and ICF India, December 2017. (Pdf) (The Executive Summary is available here and a media release here)

This 102-page report estimates that India’s subsidies to coal mining and coal power generation in 2016 amount to US$2.3 billion while subsides to clean energy, while growing rapidly, come to about US$1.4 billion.

Backdoor Subsidies for Coal in the Southwest Power Pool, Sierra Club, December 2017. (Pdf)

This 41-page report finds that 14 coal plants in the Southwest Power Pool in the US cost consumers over US$300 million more in 2015 and 2016 than if power had been supplied by the cheapest available generation from wind farms.

Power Shift: Shifting G20 International Public Finance from Coal to Renewables, NRDC, December 2017. (Pdf) (The supporting Excel file is here)

This 37-page report shows that the potential pipeline of new international coal projects that G20 nations and their multilateral development banks may fund is double the value of future renewables projects.

“The 1.5°C target and coal sector transition: at the limits of societal feasibility”, Climate Policy, December 2017.

This paper looks at the prospects for a rapid transition away from coal power with a particular focus on Australia, South Africa, China and India.