King Coal

Coal Long and It was Good to Know Ya!

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May 1, 2012
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American Electric Power — the nation’s largest consumer of coal — held its annual meeting recently and CEO Nicholas Akins told shareholders that the company’s future in coal is diminishing as coal reserves diminish — expressing the truth that there is no future in coal which those in the industry know but are never willing to talk about:

“By 2020, we estimate natural gas will account for 27 percent of AEP’s generating capacity, compared with 24 percent today,” he said.

Coal will fall to 50 percent in 2020 from 67 percent in 2011, with the rest made up of nuclear, renewables, hydro and pumped storage and energy efficiency.

“This effort to create a more sustainable balance of our generation resources will be very challenging and expensive but will provide long-term fuel stability and allow us to adapt to the major upcoming market and operational changes,” he said.

Ken Ward Jr.’s excellent Coal Tattoo has a lot more reflection on what those statements mean — along with a tie-in to AEP’s Big Sandy project in Kentucky — and why coal-bought government leaders aren’t willing to acknowledge this reality… and why reporters aren’t more willing to confront them about it.

Citizens Say No to Kentucky Power Electric Rate Increase

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April 30, 2012
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Happening now…

Citizens Say No to Kentucky Power Electric Rate Increase

Over 1,000 comments turned in urging Public Service Commission to reject Kentucky Power Company’s proposed 30% rate increase

[Frankfort, KY] – On Friday, April 27, 2012, Representatives of the Sierra Club, and the Kentucky Environmental Foundation presented over 1,000 comments from citizens across the state urging the Public Service Commission (PSC) to reject Kentucky Power Company’s (KPC) request to raise electric rates 30 percent to pay for a scrubber to be installed on their Big Sandy coal-fired power plant. Concerned about health and financial costs associated with the coal plant, citizens called for the plant’s closure.

Kentucky Power Company’s request will place an unreasonable financial burden upon 175,000 citizens in eastern Kentucky who have already seen their rates go up 17% over the last couple years,” said Alex DeSha, a representative of Sierra Club and KPC ratepayer. “The Kentucky Public Service Commission is a public institution responsible for ensuring citizens are provided with safe, reliable energy service at a fair and reasonable rate, this proposal will place an unreasonable financial burden on ratepayers- the Big Sandy should be retired and we need to pursue better options.”

Sierra Club, represented by Earth Justice, recently submitted expert testimony by Synapse Energy Economics to the commission challenging Kentucky Power Company’s plan to charge ratepayers $940 million to retrofit the Big Sandy coal plant. Synapse Energy Economics testimony demonstrates that replacing the 43-year-old Big Sandy with energy efficiency, renewable energy, and cleaner natural gas generation would result in a substantial savings for ratepayers over the proposed retrofit.

Kentucky Environmental Foundation’s health coordinator, Deborah Payne, MPH., detailed that the costs of burning coal go beyond what is seen on electric bills. “While the costs of coal based energy are continuing to increase, it is also important to recognize other embodied costs of this energy source. Dollars spent treating asthma and heart disease caused by coal plant emissions create an unfair burden on Kentuckians.” John A. Patterson MD, MSPH, FAAFP was equally forthright, “Pollution at any level from coal fired power plants affects all human organ systems and contributes to 4 of the 5 leading causes of death in the U.S.- heart disease, cancer, stroke and chronic lung disease

The Public Service Commission is scheduled to hear testimony on the case this Monday, April 30th at 10 a.m. in the commission’s office in Frankfort, Kentucky. The proceedings are open to the public and will be streamed live at http://psc.ky.gov.

Filed testimony is available on the Commission’s electronic docket, located at: http://psc.ky.gov/Home/Library?type=Cases&folder=2011%20cases/2011-00401

 

Sue the Government — State Supreme Court rules against Beshear administration and their coal company cohorts

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April 27, 2012
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Back in 2010, a handful of community groups sought to join a legal dispute between the state government’s Energy and Enviornment Cabinet and a company, Frasure Creek Mining. A Judge allowed the action, which then complicated the Beshear administration’s Cabinet plan to settle with the mining company… because, you know, the citizens’ groups didn’t want to settle, they wanted justice. Crazy, right?

Beshear’s cabinet and the mining company then filed to remove the citizen’s from the lawsuit so they could do their behind-closed-doors Frankfort wheeling and dealing like normal.

Well the state’s Supreme Court just ruled that in fact the lower court judge was absolutely correct in allowing the groups to join the suit and while your duly elected Governor might see this as a loss, people who appreciate democracy will see it as a victory:

The high court unanimously found that Judge Phillip Shepherd did not err in allowing Appalachian Voices, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper, Waterkeeper Alliance and three citizens to take part in a suit brought by the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet against Frasure Creek Mining.

The groups sought to intervene to object to a settlement between the state and Frasure Creek, which operates coal mines in Pike County, over the discharge of pollutants into the Kentucky, Big Sandy and Licking rivers and their tributaries.

You can also read the Supreme Court’s full ruling if you like. Spoiler alert… this is how it ends:

Because the trial court has jurisdiction to permit the Citizen Plaintiffs a limited intervention, and because the propriety of that intervention under Kentucky law can be challenged and assessed in the ordinary course of trial and appeal, the Court of Appeals correctly denied the Cabinet’s and Frasure Creek’s petitions for extraordinary relief. Accordingly, we hereby affirm, the Court of Appeals’ Order in these consolidated cases.

All sitting. All concur.

Boo-hoo for coal bought politicians, woo-hoo for the rest of us.

And to the Supreme Court, Steve says…

“I have no power,” says Kentucky Legislator

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April 11, 2012
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Over at KFTC, a lovely look at lobbying… in which you don’t need a suit, a briefcase or a smarmy attitude. You can be a lobbyist, KFTC can help you, it’s fun and informative:

Throughout the day we managed to see four more representatives. Two of them were already supporting the bill, another was sympathetic and was easily convinced to co-sponsor the bill. The last representative we spoke to was not sympathetic but his words stuck out to me more than anything else that was said that day. We filed into his neat office, settled in his guest chairs and gave him our usual pitch, focusing again on the economic boom that this bill would bring to Kentucky. At the end I watched for his reaction, he looked up from the note card on which he had been taking notes and, like the other representatives, asked us what we wanted him to do.

“Co-sponsor the bill, or help us get a hearing in committee.” His response made me cringe: “I have no power,” he capped his pen and then continued, “I’ll keep an open mind, but how could I possibly influence the bill getting a hearing?” With that, I felt hope drain from me. I thought I was the powerless one. I thought I was the one who needed to influence representatives and they, the officials with power, could make the change. But through the day, every politician we met had told us to look elsewhere for help. “The committee chair is really in charge, my support wouldn’t help… Go to their constituents, they’ll have influence over the representative… You can’t talk to me, talk to higher ups, they’ve got the control…”

Ahhh… Frankfort. Read the rest of Fiona Grant’s report

They were lobbying in favor of the Clean Energy Opportunity Act… you can read more about it here (PDF).

Pretty soon, maybe none of us will have any power.

Get it? Get it?

Alaska Study: “Coal-fired power is more expensive than all the other generation types we examined.”

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March 22, 2012
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Via Coal Tattoo, a study out of Alaska demonstrates that coal energy isn’t actually cheap energy:

[T]he estimated “levelized cost” of constructing and operating a new coal plant today is more expensive than generating the same amount of power from a new hydro or natural gas plant, and is comparable to the cost of wind power. Finally, the cost estimates for coal-generated power fail to factor in the “externalized costs” of pollution cleanup, medical bills, and environmental damages borne by the taxpayers and the public. When these costs are included, coal-fired power is more expensive than all the other generation types we examined.

Coal may keep the lights on, but how many King Coal-bought politicians does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Read the report.

Take Action: Clean Energy Opportunity Act in Frankfort, and Coal Shills

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March 20, 2012
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From KFTC:

The House Committee on Tourism Development and Energy is expected to consider two clean energy bills when it meets on Thursday, March 22 at 10 am in room 131 of the Capitol Annex in Frankfort.

The committee will take testimony on HB 167, The Clean Energy Opportunity Act, a bill that would gradually increase the share of electricity in Kentucky that comes from energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Testimony will also be heard on HB 187, a bill that would encourage investment in renewable energy by allowing commercial-scale renewable systems to connect to the grid through an arrangement called net-metering.

Click on over to read more and contact Frankfort.

And, hey!, while you’re at it, why not sign this petition in response to Greg Stumbo’s insulting “buy a mountain” comment:

“Heaping praise on the coal industry while ignoring the devastation it inflicts on Kentuckians and the environment is totally unacceptable. Stop shilling for the coal industry and start protecting Kentuckians and our mountains from dirty coal.”

They’re 67% of the way to their signature goal – put ‘em over the mountaintop.

Buy a Mountain, Kentucky, our politicians are all sold out

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March 19, 2012
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[Via Sonka]

Governor Beshear took time out of his schedule last week to hold a press conference celebrating the 50,000th “Friends of Coal” license plate sold to Kentuckians.

Kentucky Coal Association President Bill Bissett praised Beshear and a group of more than 12 coalfield lawmakers who attended the press conference for supporting the coal industry.

Bissett said the industry has been pleased that so many people have shown support for the coal industry by choosing the black, specialty license plates.

Beshear dialed back his rhetoric — there was no fist banging, screaming tirade against the federal government from the Governor on this happy occassion — but not so House Speaker Greg Stumbo.

Stumbo, channeling all that is great about the Kentucky Democratic Party, clearly defined the real issue and offered up real solutions to poisoned water, lost wealth and ravaged communities.

To the people who say let’s save mountains: Go buy one,” Stumbo said. “There’s a bunch of them for sale. And if you own it, and you don’t want it mined, guess what, it’s not going to be mined that way.”

There you have it.

Alternately, you could buy a House Speaker. They are for sale, too.

In other news, from the always great Coal Tattoo, we learn that the West Virginia Center for Budget Policy recently broke down the incredible tax burden facing the West Virginia coal industry (PDF).

– In 2008, Wyoming collected approximately $2.1 billion in taxes from coal and natural gas producers, compared to $787 million in West Virginia.

– Wyoming’s average effective tax rate on coal producers was 10.6 percent, compared to 6.5 percent in West Virginia.

– The average effective tax rate on natural gas producers was 10.2 percent in Wyoming and 8.2 percent in West Virginia.

– The average property tax rate for coal and natural producers in Wyoming was 4.8 percent for each industry, while the average property tax rate for natural gas was three percent and one percent for coal in West Virginia.

– If West Virginia replaced its real and personal property tax scheme with Wyoming’s county gross production tax, it would have raised an additional $115 million in 2008.

Incredible.

Going back to Beshear’s press conference for the coal industry, the Governor of Coal said this:

“Coal mining, as I’ve said many times before, is one of the cornerstones of Kentucky’s economy,” Beshear said during a Capitol press conference. “More than 19,000 people work directly at our mine sites with several times more than that number holding jobs indirectly related to the industry.”

Which is awesome because it reminds us of the 2008 study which found that the coal industry provides just 1% of the jobs in Kentucky:

And has an overall negative net impact on the state’s economy of $115 Million thanks to all of us subsidizing their industry (or, as you could maybe put it, ‘Buying the mountains and giving them away):

Play it again, Steve!

Republicans Push Energy War whilest also pushing compromised Presidential Candidate

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March 6, 2012
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The Republican Party (with the help of some Blue Dogs) are trying to turn coal into an election-season issue, according to the Rush Limbaugh of print media, The Washington Times. Speaker Boner wrote a tear-blotched letter to the President citing exaggerated statistics from the Coal Industry as a evidence that Obama is destroying America.

“These rules, the most expensive in EPA history, stand to cost 180,000 American jobs per year and would force the premature retirement of 12 percent of America’s coal-fired energy generation,” he said.

Mr. Boehner’s comments were based on a report sponsored by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity and released in September.

In late February, a bipartisan group of 219 members of Congress led by Reps. Ed Whitfield, Kentucky Republican, and John Barrow, Georgia Democrat, sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget calling for a stop to the EPA’s greenhouse gas rule-making.

“Affordable, reliable electricity is critical to keeping and growing jobs in the United States, and such a standard will likely drive up energy prices and threaten domestic jobs,” they wrote.

As you see there, Ed Whitfield is again leading the charge. Bought and paid for by the energy industry, Whitfield continues to be one of the most vocal leaders in Washington pushing the industry friendly agenda at cost to actual living breathing people and in benefit to non-breathing corporation-people.

Hal Rogers isn’t one to get left behind, so he too is playing this game, though his latest salvo was an incorrect observation about snails and the XL Pipeline which provides no jobs for Kentucky and is justified on drastically overblown industry statistics (you don’t say!) on “job creation” while putting the heartland’s water system at great risk.

“Talk about snail’s pace,” Rogers said at a hearing on the State Department’s 2013 budget, musing that a snail could have crawled the route of the proposed pipeline, from the Canadian border to the Gulf Coast, within the 40-month review period.

“That’s one speedy snail, Mr. Chairman,” responded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s right. It would take the average garden snail about 67 months to crawl in a straight line from the Canadian border to Houston.

For all you Republicans (or your Republican friends) who think Rogers, Whitfield and Boehner are right-on and that corporations conducting studies on behalf of themselves would never lie to them, the GOP Presidential race continues to prove that Mitt Romney is a compromised candidate not to be trusted. As The Politico reports, green-friendly billionaire Republican forces have given millions to Romney’s campaign and Super PACs, betting that could Romney win the Primary and then the Election his recent gravitation to a hard-right, pro-coal, anti-environment stance (which is directly at odds with his actual record and yet further evidence no conservative should trust him let alone vote for him), then Mitt Romney would flip-flop his position and sell out the very energy industry he’s currently so passionately defending:

Other green-minded financial backers may not be giving as much as Robertson, but they still share the view that climate-change science and a solid environmental agenda wouldn’t be a lost cause if Romney won the White House.

“My feeling is that on these issues that people learn,” said former Gov. Thomas Kean (R-N.J.), who maxed out last fall to Romney with a $2,500 check. “And my hope is, as time goes on, he will understand that not everybody agrees on how you deal with these issues, but I hope he will agree with 99 percent of the scientists who believe this is an issue that we have to deal with.”

….Rob Sisson, president of the Republicans for Environmental Protection, said he’s scraping together personal funds to write a check to the Romney campaign after getting a chance to meet him for the first time last month during a town hall campaign stop in Kalamazoo, Mich.“I think his record as governor was pretty good as far as Republicans go,” said Sisson, who also gave $1,000 last June to Jon Huntsman’s campaign. “I really get the sense from him and the folks around him with whom I’ve spoken that as president he’d really look at each situation, gather the data and really make a decision that’s best for the country.”

“If that goes against the grain of how he’s campaigning now, so be it.”

Read the rest, it’s good fun.

Tennessee Senate to Debate Mountaintop Removal

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March 1, 2012
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Via the always great Coal Tattoo:

Anti-mountaintop removal activists are working overtime this week (see here and here), trying to draw attention to a vote expected in the Tennessee General Assembly on a bill called the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act.

As it turned out, the King Coal powers in our rocky topped neighbor to the south stripmined the bill’s language, ensuring that sometime in the future when the Volunteers win football games they’ll play “Reclaimed Barren Valley” as their victory song.

The Tennessean reports:

A last-minute amendment gutted a bill intended to ban the blowing off of Tennessee mountaintops and ridges, during the Senate Energy and Environment Committee meeting Wednesday.

Sen. Mike Bill, R-Riceville, offered the change that deleted the language of the Tennessee Scenic Vistas Protection Act to protect ridgelines above 2,000 feet from a practice often called “mountaintop removal.”

A paragraph was substituted saying that leftover rock, dirt and debris that is blasted away could not be placed in streams.

Appalachian Voices reports:

After the amendment was added, the bill sailed through unanimously with the exception of Senator Beverly Marerro, a great mountain advocate who voted against the final bill because of how badly the original bill had been gutted.

Needless to say, the bill as passed is not the Scenic Vistas bill. It is, as we say – a marshmellow – with essentially zero value. It is a blank slate which allows us to take up the conversation of mountaintop removal with the entire 33 member Tennessee State Senate. An amended bill is not the very best scenario that we could have faced, but it isn’t a bad position to be in. For the first time in history, to my knowledge, a mountaintop removal ban will be heard in its entirety on the Senate floor of a state legislative body.

Lexington Loves Mountains… and so do you!

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February 9, 2012
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It’s that time, folks. Time for the annual mountain fest when all you mountain lovin’ freaks take to the streets and flaunt your mountain lovin’ predilections.

Disgusting amounts of fun and activism begin today and run through next Wednesday, with the biggest event coming next Tuesday, the 14th, Valentine’s Day, aka, I LOVE MOUNTAINS DAY.

Highlights of the multi-day Lexington Loves Mountains include:

  • Thursday, Feb. 9th: Film Screening — Dirty Business: “Clean Coal” And The Battle For Our Energy Future // @ Homegrown Press 7 pm, FREE, 574 N Limestone
  • Friday, Feb. 10th: I Love Mountains Oldtime Music Showcase with Rich & the Po’ Folk, Karly Dawn, Little Sarie & The Hillfolk, Sugar Tree, The Jarflies, Carrie Jean & Sylvia Rose // @ Al’s Bar, $10, 8 pm
  • Saturday Feb. 11th: Legislative Letter Writing Party Hosted by The Morris Book Shop. Featuring Kentucky Authors and Musicians. Starts at 12 pm

And more — check the facebook list for full details — including Monday’s “Dine for the Mountains” during which 10% of all food and drink sales at Third Street Stuff, Al’s Bar and Stella’s will go to KFTC.

Tuesday, February 14th is the big day. I LOVE MOUNTAIN DAY!

12:00 p.m.: Gather on the front steps of the State Capitol (please eat lunch before you arrive).

12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.: Rally and march. Our rally will feature special guest speaker, Tar Sands Activist Melina Laboucan-Massimo

You can head up earlier than noon to lobby legislators, wander Frankfort or make new friends and you’ll be done by 2PM. So why wouldn’t you go?

And afterward, there’s a happy hour shindig from 4 to 8PM at Al’s Bar featuring the music of Warren Byrom and others.

So go. Blow the top off Frankfort, poison their air with your disgusting mountain loving voices.

Tell ‘em to get off your backs.

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