According to a statement released shortly afterward by Peabody, "The site is in fact a hoax, making inaccurate claims about Peabody and coal."
Sadly, Peabody's reputation doesn't reflect a willingness to own up to its ongoing peddling of coal, which causes death and illness from extraction to combustion. However, they are known for being Newsweek's most environmentally destructive company, their massive Black Mesa strip mining operation and persistent global warming science denial through mouthpieces like Fred Palmer and fronts like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.
Peabody's statement continues [emphasis added], "Peabody is proud to help hundreds of millions of people live longer and better through coal-fueled electricity," except of course for at least 13,000 people in the U.S. coal prematurely kills each year from air pollution alone, let alone the impacts of strip mining, rail transport, mercury contamination, and other phases of coal's life cycle. Check out the conclusions of Dr. Paul Epstein, director of Harvard Medical School's Center for Health and the Global Environment, for the True Cost of Coal.
While Peabody's statement pledges to be a "global leader" in scrubbing its inherently dirty operations, their money does not appear to be where their mouth is. Since the beginning of 2011, Peabody has already spent almost $2,000,000 on federal lobbying on numerous dirty legislative deeds, such as attacking the Clean Air Act, preventing pollution regulation of coal operations, promoting false Carbon Capture and Storage solutions, which the American Physical Society just declared to be prohibitively costly. Prior to 2011, Peabody spent over $20 million on similar efforts from 2008-2010, on top of almost $400,000 to federal politicians and their leadership PACs in the same time frame.
More about the Peabody prank can be found on the website of the Yes Men, who have taken credit for the actions that Peabody should actually commit to. Too bad for the asthmatic children whose parents do have to take economic responsibility for the coal industry.
Crossposted from Greenpeace USA
Just over a year ago, oil billionaire David Koch used to joke that the company he owns with his brother Charles, Koch Industries, was “the biggest company you’ve never heard of.”
Then Greenpeace released our March, 2010 report, “Koch Industries: Secretly Funding the Climate Denial Machine,” that documented the Kochs’ systematic funding of the political system in order to stop action on climate change, including funding campaigns on climate denial. We have now updated this report; Koch Industries: Still Fueling Climate Denial.
Over the last year, the publicity-averse brothers have found themselves and their company, Koch Industries, under increased scrutiny from the public and the press. But the Koch Brothers continue to use their oil wealth to fund campaigns, front groups, think tanks, and politicians to sabotage climate and clean energy policies.
Greenpeace’s new research throws a focus on some of the information that has come to light over the last year, not least the Kochs’ previously-secret twice-annual gatherings of their rich and powerful allies to plot their strategy. In one of our three new case studies, we present a dossier showing that the media magnates invited to their summer 2010 meeting in Colorado have provided a convenient echo chamber for the Kochs' media network, thrown into overdrive as more people become aware of the Koch Brothers and how they use their oil money.
Our next two case studies demonstrate how Koch’s network of climate denier front groups have attacked state policies that were developed to curb climate change. One of these new case studies documents how the Kochtopus is currently attacking the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a multi-state effort in the Northeast to reduce climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions. Ironically, Koch Supply and Trading, a subsidiary of Koch Industries, has participated in RGGI carbon trading even as Americans for Prosperity has campaigned to get states to pull out of RGGI.
Our third new case study offers a full overview of a similar multi-pronged attack on California’s Global Warming Solutions Act, which took place during the 2010 election cycle when Koch financed ballot Proposition 23. This effort was supported by Koch funded groups Americans for Prosperity and the Pacific Research Institute.
The Kochs’ funding of the climate denial machine continued apace in 2009 (the most recent year that Koch foundation tax forms are available), when they contributed over $6.4 million dollars to some 40 organizations that continue to deny the scientific consensus on global warming while attempting to slow or block policies to solve the climate crisis.
The Kochs have now given a total of $55.2 million to these groups since 1997, $31.6 million of which they spent between 2005 and 2009. Favorite Koch Foundation organizations like the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, the Mercatus Center and the Institute for Humane Studies continued to be top beneficiaries. Americans for Prosperity, a front group founded by David Koch, has now received over $5.6 million in documented donations from the Koch foundations.
It doesn’t stop there. Where our 2010 report found that Koch Industries lobbying expenditures totaled $37.9 million dollars since 2006, that figure has now risen to over $49.5 million, an increase of $11.6 million over the last year. In 2010, Koch Industries was the largest political spender of the entire energy sector, dumping $2,645,589 in campaign contributions from their political action committee. Koch currently outspends heavyweights ExxonMobil, Southern Company, American Electric Power and Chevron. In addition, the Koch Brothers and their spouses directly contributed over $360,000 to federal politicians in 2010.
There’s more. Plenty more. Visit our updated Koch Industries web page for the full deal.
Crossposted from Greenpeace USA.
In the midst of attacks from Congress on virtually all things environmental, EPA has announced a rule to reduce emissions of mercury and other toxic air pollution. The two-decade history of this long-developing rule is a frustrating anecdote of the success of the anti-public health coal lobby.
Coal industry has contributed heavily to the campaign coffers of our lawmakers. Senator Inhofe (R-OK), America's most iconic politician against environmental logic, introduced the speciously entitled CARE Act. When it comes to public health, the bill is better called the 'Don't Give a Damn Act.' CARE would strip EPA's ability to protect people against airborne toxics. American Electric Power is clearly supportive of Inhofe's stalling bill. Other companies willing to pay evil lobbyists, but not to pay to invest in pro-public pollution technology, include Southern Energy and Duke Energy.
To their disappointment, this rule requires polluters reduce emissions of heavy metals, toxic gases, and other dangerous pollutants. Let's be clear, these companies have a choice.
'Mad hatter's disease,' named after a symptom of mercury exposure, wreaks havoc on the central nervous system and eventually the entire body. Also called Minimata disease, named after the river and community who suffered from wanton mercury pollution by industry in Japan, chronic mercury poisoning has been studied for several decades now.
Mercury contributes to thousands of deaths annually and may adversely affect the development of over 400,000 babies per year. Mercury exposure is serious problem for the lungs, brain, heart, stomach, kidneys, and the immune system. About 90% of human exposure is through the diet. Because of 'bioaccumulation' (mercury collects over time in organisms' bodies, including human bodies) and 'biomagnification' (concentration increases as animals eat other animals) we are most exposed through eating animal products. Newborn babies are most vulnerable, since they act as a mercury filter in the womb, and are exposed again through their mother's milk. Umbilical cord blood is a filter for a number of hazardous pollutants that include mercury. The only safe level of mercury exposure is zero.
Polluters have been spreading mercury around the country. Taller smokestacks never help. Much airborne mercury often falls back to the ground and waterways within only 100 or so miles, but since it doesn't breakdown it is re-emitted into the air, floats down streams, or is carried around by animals who ingest it. In 2008 about half the area of all rivers and lakes were under water contamination advisories, 80% of which was due to mercury pollution.
Most coal-fired power plant owners have not yet opted to install easily available technology that could reduce up to 90% of their mercury emissions. The majority of mercury poisoning is linked to burning coal. Some of this is transboundary pollution from burning coal in other countries. Fortunately, the US administration is constructively engaged in international discussions to reduce transboundary airborne mercury pollution. A positive outcome at the next international meetings surely depends on a strong rule. This rule is supposed to be finalized by November, whereas the next round of international mercury talks is the first week of the same month.
This new EPA rule would reduce our exposure to many of the most toxic substances humans have ever encountered (and created). Everyone knows arsenic is poisonous. Notwithstanding Frank Capra's masterpiece adaptation of Arsenic and Old Lace, we cannot blame widespread arsenic contamination on Cary Grant's well-meaning aunts. The main culprit is coal, always dirty and filthy.
The same oil and gas companies that set up a front group to campaign against regulations over hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) have spent a combined total of more than $126 million on lobbyists, while pouring money into the campaign coffers of the Hill’s loudest fracking regulation opponents.
DeSmogBlog recently exposed “Energy in Depth” as an oil and gas front group set up to lead the charge against anyone legislating against or even investigating the dangers of hydraulic fracturing and other natural gas industry practices that pose public health and water contamination threats.
Purportedly set up to represent “small, independent oil and natural gas producers,” instead “Energy in Depth” is funded by some of the largest oil companies on the planet, such as Chevron, BP, Shell and Occidental, along with the American Petroleum Institute and other trade associations.
The “Independent” Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) memo obtained by DeSmogBlog was written in 2009, five days before the introduction of bills aimed at closing loopholes around the chemicals used in fracking.
In 2009, Congressional Democrats introduced two bills proposing to close the current loopholes around the use of chemicals used in fracking– The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act (S. 1215), and The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals Act of 2009 (H.R. 2766).
Greenpeace (thanks to OpenSecrets.org, DirtyEnergyMoney.com and MapLight.org) looked at the recent lobbying records of the giant oil and gas interests that describe themselves as “small and independent” operators that funded EID. During 2009 and 2010, the EID funders spent a combined $126.8 million on lobbying.
Of course these companies were also lobbying on other issues, but the two fracking bills were key issues listed in their lobby registration documents.
A ProPublica investigation into oil and gas money received by members of the Natural Gas caucus found that they received 19 times more money on average than members of Congress who signed a letter in support of a proposal to require fracking companies to disclose the chemicals they use when drilling on public lands.
All of the five members of Congress mentioned in the leaked “Energy in Depth” memo testified against the proposed legislation before it was tabled. For their efforts, each have received regular payments from a majority of EID members, including the IPAA itself. (See financial figures, compiled below)
The Congressional battles over regulation continue with Republican Representatives Joe Barton (R-TX) and Fred Upton (R-MI) taking up the issue late last year, and another key fracking supporter, Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) pressuring Ken Salazar to back off a proposal to introduce new regulations through the Department of Interior if Congress refuses to act.
2010: $5.51 million (some of this was likely spent to deny culpability in the Deepwater Horizon disaster due to their 25% stake in BP's Macondo well)
2009: $2.81 million
Total Anadarko lobbying and political contributions.
Dan Boren (D-OK), chair, House Natural Gas Caucus.
For the 2009-2010 election cycle Dan Boren raked in $216,250 from the oil and gas industry. He is the natural gas transmission and distribution industry’s top recipient, and second highest for the oil and gas industry. Among his funders are Chevron, Occidental, Anakardo, Marathon, and, of course, the Independent Petroleum Association of America.
Doc Hastings (R-WA)
At $84,671 in contributions, the oil and gas industry is Hastings' top contributing industry with regular payments from the EID member companies.
Hastings has been fighting any rules or transparency around fracking and its chemicals, writing to Ken Salazar late 2010 arguing that such rules would “ threaten thousands of jobs, deepen the federal deficit through reduced revenues, and harm natural gas development and our nation’s energy security.”
Doug Lamborn (R-CO)
Lamborn’s second-highest industry favorite was oil and gas, at $31,500, again with EID members prominent in the ranks.
Louie Gohmert (R-TX)
Gohmert raked in $48,550 in oil and gas money in the last election cycle. The oil and gas sector was his third highest donor by industry, a contributions from EID members included Chevron, Marathon and Halliburton.
John Fleming (R-LA)
Oil and gas was Fleming's second biggest earner at $123,500, including Chevron, Occidental, Marathon, IPAA, Halliburton.
Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)
Lummis’s top funders are the oil and gas industry, with $89,550 in 2010 dirty donations.
According to a recent report [pdf], the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has overestimated the economic benefits of recycling coal ash by twenty (20) times. The EPA's estimate of $23 billion in annually economic benefit appears to have been based off of flawed methodology, contrasting with the federal government's own data suggesting an actual $1.15 billion annual total. The report was released by the Environmental Integrity Project, Earthjustice and the Stockholm Environment Institute at Tufts University.
As DeSmogBlog and PolluterWatch revealed in late October, lobbyists hired by coal companies and associations spent a full four months lobbying officials from the EPA and the White House Office of Management and Budget to prevent proper regulation of coal ash before the American public was given a formal chance to add its voice. These meetings, which were off-record, may actually have been illegal under the Administrative Procedure Act.
The lobbyists that attended these meetings include Bill Tyndall of Duke Energy, John Pemberton of Southern Company, Anthony Kavanagh of American Electric Power, and Patrick Quinn, who represents several coal clients through his firm, the Accord Group.
...perhaps they had something to do with EPA's drastic miscalculation?
Coal ash slurry, which is a combination of water and materials leftover from the coal combustion process, contains ingredients that can cause cancer and brain damage as well as radioactive elements. The toxic sludge is often stored in open impoundments (huge ponds) or injected into abandoned coal mines, causing major concern over drinking water contamination. Some of these storage ponds have actually broken through their earthen dams, most recently demonstrated by the disastrous 2008 spill at the Tenessee Valley Authority's Kingston facility, which sent over a billion gallons of coal slurry into the community and river system below.
Yet coal ash is still not formally considered "hazardous" by the EPA, and is therefore still less regulated than household garbage.
More can be found at the Charleston Gazette.
Background on the coal industry's lobbying to prevent regulation can be found in DeSmogBlog/PolluterWatch report, Coal-Fired Utilities to American Public: Kiss My Ash [pdf].
The fossil fuel industry knows that its time is running out. While their influence and profits are still enormous, we can see from increasing shifts to unconventional extraction methods--hydraulic fracturing, deepwater drilling, tar sands mining, and other examples--that easily accessible fossil fuels are dwindling. That's a pretty clear indicator that they will not last indefinitely, before even considering how burning dirty fuel to the last particle will cook the Earth, not to mention the casualties along the way. You know, like the Gulf of Mexico, or the people of the Athabasca watershed, or those whose wells are now full of poisoned [PDF] or flammable water.
Unfortunately, for people who care about the future of humanity and the vast variety of species were are dragging to extinction [PDF] through the climate crisis, profit is the key factor for fossil fuel barons and their influence peddlers. With time running out and industry insiders well aware of it, Big Fossil is focusing on how to preserve itself for as long as possible. Creating a public relations war over the seriousness of global climate disruption has been the keystone tactic in this process.
Companies recognize the benefits of investing in public doubt, and unfathomable sums have been dumped into this effort across the board, whether through the grossly unapologetic Koch Industries or ExxonMobil, or more slyly by the likes of Chevron or Duke Energy. Industry misinformation is then pushed to the public through astroturf front groups (like the Koch-funded and -founded Americans for Prosperity), through advertising campaigns (like those run by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity), and by hiring "scientists" or "experts" with that special lack of integrity and credibility that allows a person to earn money at the expense of a far, far broader population. As this happens, Congress and federal offices are constantly being filled with polluter servants instead of public servants, taking massive campaign donations or cutting career deals in order to further enrich Polluters, Inc.
As if the battle wasn't uphill enough, we now have witnessed the first round of elections post-Citizens United, in which powerhouses like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce raised tens of millions of dollars from the corporate titans it serves and funneled the money into attack ads, sending a warning message to politicians who aren't bending over backwards for big business, if not delivering a crippling blow to their election campaigns.
Now wouldn't be a bad time to look up the definition of "democracy." Google it now, before net neutrality is a thing of the past.
For information on the coal industry's backroom lobbying to prevent the classification of coal ash as "hazardous," check out the recent DeSmogBlog/PolluterWatch report, Coal Fired Utilities to American Public: Kiss My Ash [pdf]. Also refer to the new Greenpeace map of high-hazard coal ash locations.
The Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to decide whether or not to federally regulate coal ash, wrapping up the public comment period that began in late June. Coal ash, a residual product from burning coal, contains known neurotoxins and carcinogens, such as arsenic, lead, and mercury. The substance is also notably radioactive.
While Little Blue Run pond may give the impression of a quaint place to go for a swim, it is anything but. Owned by FirstEnergy, Little Blue Run is a coal ash impoundment right near the converging border of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio (check this map). The waste stored in Little Blue Run is produced seven miles away at FirstEnergy's Bruce Mansfield Power Station.
If the dam holding the pond's material were to break, 50,000 people in Ohio would be in immediate danger of a toxic flood. As if this dramatic threat is not stressful enough, people in the area also live with the lingering concerns of water contamination and ailments from dry ash circulated by the wind.
Lisa Jackson and the EPA seem to have no doubt about the dangers of coal ash. The agency found there is at least a 1 in 50 chance of developing cancer when living close enough to ash ponds, and recognizes that ponds like Little Blue Run have arsenic levels 900 times that of what is considered "safe".
It is time for the EPA to see its job through, ending the needless poisoning of Americans unfortunate enough to live too close to the toxic messes Big Coal leaves behind.
Photo Credit: Duke University
DeSmogBlog and PolluterWatch present: Coal Fired Utilities to American Public: Kiss My Ash [pdf]. This report reveals
If coal ash, a waste product from burning coal to generate power, contains concentrated levels of known carcinogens, neurotoxins and radioactive elements, is it hazardous?
According to King Coal’s lobbyists, the answer is ‘No.’
On behalf of the rest of the American public, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to move towards officially classifying coal ash as “hazardous.” This step would open regulatory doorways that could limit contamination of drinking water, related sicknesses, and dangerous toxic floods.
Corresponding with today’s final public EPA hearing on coal ash in Knoxville, Tennessee, DeSmogBlog and PolluterWatch released a report [pdf] calling attention to the relentless attempts by coal lobbyists to prevent the labeling of this hazardous material as, er, 'hazardous'. This last hearing is expected to reflect the sentiment at previous public hearings—people don’t want to live at risk of contamination from heavy metals like arsenic, mercury and lead. Especially the folks in Tennessee who continue to deal with the consequences of a failed coal ash impoundment.
Utilities in the United States generate almost 140 million tons of coal ash each year, so they're willing to throw around millions of dollars to prevent the regulation of such a prevalent waste product. Those with the most at stake include American Electric Power, Duke Energy, and the Tennessee Valley Authority, which together account for over 25% of the coal ash sites that have been classified as particularly dangerous.
As the coal titans became weary of the EPA’s intent to finally treat coal ash like the powerful contaminant it is, they dispatched a legion of lobbyists to delay regulation. The effort succeeded, buying time to ramp up a public relations campaign touting the “beneficial” uses of coal ash and pushing the familiar dire economic implications of federal oversight.
Last year, as EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson submitted a draft proposal for coal ash rules to the White House Office of Management and Budget, coal lobbyists began booking potentially illegal meetings with the White House, en masse, so as to clog OMB’s review of the EPA proposal. From October 2009 to April 2010, coal’s influence peddlers held at least 33 meetings with White House OMB staff—three times more than meetings that included university scientists and environmentalists.
King Coal’s lobbying arm earned two substantial victories from these meetings. First, Jackson’s goal of reaching a decision by the end of 2009 was effectively delayed. The second victory was the addition of a new, weaker proposal to require liners in coal ash ponds as a way to reduce water contamination, while classifying the waste as 'non-hazardous.' With this option, coal companies may have successfully bought their way out of meaningful oversight unless the EPA finally wakes up and does the job it is supposed to do, namely protect people and the environment from toxic materials.
Who exactly are these polluter lobbyists?
PolluterWatch has profiled a few of the key coal representatives who have fought tooth and nail to prevent the regulation of coal ash:
- John Pemberton of Southern Company
- William Tyndall of Duke Energy
- Patrick Quinn of the Accord Group, on behalf of Southern Co, Duke, and WE Energies
- Anthony Kavanagh of American Electric Power
Also noteworthy is Lisa Jaeger of Bracewell & Giuliani. Though not present at the meetings posted on the White House website, she lobbies on behalf of the Council of Industrial Boiler Owners, Southern Co, Dynergy, and other clients who pay her to prevent various regulations.
Of these lobbyists, only Kavanagh has not been employed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The American Petroleum Institute is so bent on protecting the pollution industry that it is willing to cast public health aside in favor of saving a buck.
Politico's Morning Energy today reported that API and the Manufacturers Alliance are complaining about EPA moves to strengthen the Clean Air Act's standards, which must be based solely on heath considerations, according to the Supreme Court. For API to speak out against an improved Clean Air Act shows a callous disregard for those who have been sickened or killed from pollution-induced health problems, such as asthma or heart failure.
Politico's Josh Voorhees wrote,
"The Manufacturers Alliance’s Donald Norman and API’s Howard Feldman will warn that the agency’s regulations would be too expensive for industry and put almost the entire country into nonattainment for federal air quality limits, including rural areas where no one lives. EPA’s rules are due in mid- to late October."
In a blog response, the National Resources Defense Council notes that the industry's typical "economic disaster" prophesy is likely blown out of proportion, as such economic scare-claims [pdf] over environmental regulation have historically been.
If you don’t have the pleasure of reading the periodical missives from Bracewell & Giuliani polluter hack Frank Maisano, you are really missing something. This week’s installment contained the usual spin and terrible jokes but also a special defense of his friend and colleague Jeffrey Holmstead. What for, you ask? Well if you listen to Maisano explain it, Holmstead was simply offering “legislative support activities,” including “writing an amendment to prevent funding,” which he says, is “not rocket science.”
Maisano's full explanation follows:
As well, for those of you still paying attention to the legislative support activities of my friend Jeff Holmstead, let me just suggest that we put this to rest. For one, writing an amendment to prevent funding is not rocket science and it has been done a million times. Secondly, understanding the implications on the CAA of such a move is something you probably ought to ask – oh, I don't know – clean air act experts. And finally, does anybody really believe the enviro community wasn't consulted by Sens. Kerry and Boxer as they wrote their 900-plus page LEGISLATION. As for the calls for ethics investigations and donation returns, it is just a political "talking point" for enviros attempting to rally against Murkowski's reasonably popular idea to limit the regulation of CO2 by EPA. By the way as my colleague Scott Segal points out below, enviros donate 94% to Democrats, while utilities are pretty much split (51R-49 D).
A few interesting things from Maisano's take on this issue:
- Is Maisano admitting what Murkowski, Holmstead and Martella have repeatedly denied, that the lobbyists wrote the legislation themselves, as has been done "a million times?" And if it isn't rocket science, why wasn't Murkowski capable of doing it herself? Do Alaskans even need a Senator if any coal lobbyist off the street can walk in and write legislation?
- Calling Holmstead and Martella "Clean Air Act experts" is like praising demolition men for their understanding of building architecture. Sure they understand the Clean Air Act, but only because they have spent years helping Bush and now coal and oil tycoons undermine and circumvent that law. The larger question of course is did Murkowski ask them, or did they ask her to submit the legislation on behalf of her largest contributors?
- Finally, equating Murkowski, Holmstead and Martella's actions with those of the environmental community or any other ethical lobbyists is disingenuous to say the least. Advising a member of Congress of your constituency's opinion on a particular piece of legislation is an act far apart from writing the legislation yourself, hosting conference calls at a Senator's invitation to solicit support for the legislation and directing your clients to donate to that Senator's campaign as the legislation is being finalized. Frank Maisano makes an admirable attempt to make up for his friends' actions on the Murkowski amendment but his spin simply falls short.
The truth in Maisano's missive is that this activity is very likely commonplace. It is not difficult to believe that this is the first time that Holmstead and Martella have crafted legislation on behalf of a polluting client to be introduced by a cooperative member of Congress. Such is life in the sewer of American politics that dirty industry lobbyists can push legislation through a friendly Senator by simply contributing to her campaign. Unfortunately for Maisano, he's been swimming in that sewer for so long he doesn't seem to know how badly it stinks.