American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity

Coal front group ACCCE launches ad campaign ahead of presidential debates

  • Posted on: 3 October 2012
  • By: JesseColeman

Twenty four hours before the first presidential debate, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a front group for the coal industry, has launched a new ad as part of a $35 million dollar PR campaign.

The new ad, now playing on television stations around the country, is typical of the coal industry propaganda prominent in this year's presidential election.  Candidate Mitt Romney has mirrored coal industry messaging, releasing political ads decrying President Obama's"war on coal" and announcing "I like coal" during the first presidential debate.

A Greenpeace investigation that looked in to the history of coal funded advertising has revealed that the coal industry has been using the same scare tactics designed to limit regulation since the 1970's, when the Clean Air Act and Acid Rain legislation forced the industry to invest in a modicum of environmental protection, like scrubbers for smokestacks.

In this new campaign, Big Coal’s PR flaks at ACCCE have recycled the same tactics of attacking the EPA, promoting the myth of clean coal, threatening economic catastrophe, and stoking nationalist fears that the industry has used for decades.

ACCCE’s newest ad, released October, 2:

With emotive piano riffs and sweeping shots of baseball diamonds for backdrop, the narrator in ACCCE’s latest creation praises the “proven clean coal technologies that have resulted from a can do attitude,” with all the sappy sincerity of a political ad. The ad continues with a stern warning that “heavy handed EPA regulation” and “fads” like renewable energy are “giving those countries who are wisely increasing their reliance on coal an economic advantage,” while pictures of the great Wall of China scroll over the screen.

ACCCE’s brand new $35 million dollar ad campaign relies on the myth of clean coal, attacks on EPA, and an appeal to xenophobia…sound familiar?  It should.

Take this other recent ad by the coal front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) attacking the EPA:

In this 2012 ad a narrator warns that EPA regulations designed to reduce the amount of mercury released by coal fired power plants will “throw even more of us out of work.” The ad makes no mention of the dangers of mercury, a pervasive toxin that causes serious mental and physical issues, especially in children and pregnant women. However it does make one of the most common coal industry threats – that people must choose between the environment and a healthy economy.

Compare the bull riding bombast in the ad above to this 1974 ad, attacking the Clean Air Act:

The ad claims that the Clean Air Act, a seminal piece of legislation that has drastically reduced air pollution and saved countless lives, will cause “galloping unemployment.” Regulate coal – lose your job.  

As you can see from these similar ads, using economic threats to scare people away from pollution regulation has been a tactic of the coal industry for a long, long time. (FYI – Gross Domestic Product has tripled since the Clean Air Act was passed.)

Are you scared yet?

No?

Well how bout some good old fashioned xenophobia: 

This 2007 ad reminds us that regulating coal makes dictators smile, because coal regulations force America to buy natural gas from unfriendly foreigners. Yep, having clean air and water plays right in to Hugo Chavez’s hand. Who knew?

 

But making autocrats grin seems trivial compared to the threats outlined in this 1974 ad:

According to American Electric Power, (which is now a major funder of ACCCE) legislation to stop acid rain will result in middle-eastern petro-princes buying all of America’s coal. The ad says “The middle east oil companies are fast capturing the world’s money. There isn’t much they’re incapable of buying. So it could happen.” Almost as chauvinist as it is logically incongruous, this ad underscores the coal industry’s reliance on completely baseless claims designed to scare legislators and the public into inaction. 

Next they will be telling us that attempts to measure air pollution will make the lights go out and we won’t be able to watch TV!

 

 

 

Which they did in 1974:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This ad (right) warns us that the EPA’s plan to measure pollution at the top of coal smoke stacks would shut down power generation, causing blackouts. Terrifying!  Except the EPA went ahead and measured pollution from the top of the coal stacks, and there were no blackouts due to EPA regulation in 1975, or since.

So what does that tell us about claims by pro-coal politicians that EPA regulations will cause blackouts this year in 2012? Senate republicans claim that “EPA’s train wreck of new regulations on energy providers will destroy jobs, raise electricity prices, threaten the reliability of the electric grid, and increase the chance of blackouts.” Should we believe them? Or is this just one more lie from a fear mongering industry that has been making the same idle threats for almost four decades?

West Virginians impacted by coal chemical spill need water

  • Posted on: 21 January 2014
  • By: JesseColeman

West Virginia Water Crisis: People in Need 10 Days Later

On January 9th, Freedom Industries, a company that stores chemicals for the coal industry, spilled 7,500 gallons of Crude Methylcyclohexanemethanol (MCHM), a little known, little understood compound into the Elk river. The spill occurred one mile upriver from the water intake that supplies tap water for all of West Virginia's capital city of Charleston.

The thick oily chemical was pumped through the water system and into homes and businesses throughout the area, causing vomiting, skin problems, and diarrhea. Now, nearly two weeks since the disaster was discovered, the water has been deemed "safe to drink," though water from the tap still releases a sickly sweet chemical odor, especially when heated.

Pregnant women and children are still advised to drink bottled water, but very few people in the affected area are interested in drinking from the tap, with child or not. The tremendous need for potable water has led to the creation of the West Virginia Clean Water Hub, a community led effort to provide the people of Charleston and the outlying areas with bottled water, a need that government agencies have largely ignored. Sign this petition to demand justice for people whose water has been poisoned

So little is known about 4-MCHM that regulators didn't even know it's boiling point. Now scientists are scrambling to find out how the chemical reacts with the chlorine in the municipal water system, and whether the chemical has leached into water heaters and water pipes in people's homes. Authorities recommend that all pipes that have come in contact with the pollutant be flushed, including water heaters and outdoor faucets. However, West Virginia American Water, the company that owns the water treatment facility contaminated by the coal chemical, is only offering a 10 dollar credit (1000 gallons) to consumers. The cost of flushing homes will therefore fall on already struggling West Virginians, where poverty is rampant and Walmart is the largest single employer.

West Virginians still need fresh water. To donate visit Keeper of the Mountain Foundation.

The affected intake also supplies water to 9 counties surrounding Charleston, which contain multiple rural communities, like the small community of Pratt. Pratt was added to Charleston's municipal water system only two months ago. This was initially celebrated by the residents of Pratt, because it meant relief from the extremely poor quality water from local sources, which have been contaminated by Acid Mine Drainage, coal dust, and other coal industry impacts.

Water contamination from the coal industry is nothing new to West Virginians, who have lived with poisoned wells streams for generations. This spill, the latest and most dramatic in a long history of water contamination, exposes the problems of lax and inadequate regulation coupled with politicians that prioritizes the bottom line of the coal industry over the health and safety of people. The chemical 4-MCHM was exempted from federal laws that require disclosure. The tanks that held the chemical were not required to be inspected regularly, due to a loophole that exempted above ground tanks from inspection.

Crews continue to work on the site of contamination at Freedom Industries.

West Virginian politicians with close ties to the coal industry have continued to defend coal companies from federal and state regulation, even as 300,000 of their constituents went without drinkable water.  Speaking at an event hosted by the coal front group American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) last week,  Joe Manchin, West Virginia’s junior senator and former governor continued to defend the coal industry from reglation. “Coal and chemicals inevitably bring risk — but that doesn’t mean they should be shut down,” said Manchin. “Cicero says, ‘To err is human.’ But you’re going to stop living because you’re afraid of making a mistake?” Manchin has significant financial ties to the coal industry.

The current governor of West Virginia, Earl Ray Tomblin, was also quick to defend the coal industry. In a press conference days after the spill, he said "“This was not a coal company.  This was a chemical supplier where the leak occurred.  As far as I know, there are no coal mines within miles of this particular incident.” Governor Tomblin's remarks ignore the fact that many communities affected by this spill are only using municipal water because local sources have already been poisoned by coal extraction and use. Tomblin also ignored the fact that Freedom Industries' product is a necessary part of the coal extraction and burning process.

To donate water to West Virginians, please visit the Keeper of the Mountain Foundation.

To volunteer or request clean water, visit the West Virginia Clean Water Hub.

Wes Virginia coal chemical spill

 

Industry: 

Will ALEC block EPA coal pollution safeguards at Illinois' controversial Prairie State Energy Campus?

  • Posted on: 26 February 2013
  • By: Connor Gibson

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the Illinois-based Prairie State Energy Campus, a combined coal mine and power plant spearheaded by Peabody Energy, co-owned by eight public power companies based in the Midwest. Numerous cost overruns from construction delays and equipment problems at the Campus resulted in customers in several states having to pay for power well above market price.

While Peabody defends Prairie State Energy Campus (PSEC) from SEC scrutiny, a corporate front group has developed copycat legislation that could exempt dirty projects like PSEC from national clean air and water laws.

A model state bill developed by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) would block federal pollution regulations when coal is mined and then burned or altered within the borders of a single state. The "Intrastate Coal and Use Act," created within ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture task force, is ideal for projects like Prairie State Energy Campus, which mines and burns coal on site.

By exempting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from overseeing permits for projects like Prairie State, ALEC's Intrastate Coal and Use Act leaves regulation to state agencies, which may have weaker pollution standards or simply lack enough staff to do their jobs, as the gas fracking boom has demonstrated.  

Peabody itself is a member of ALEC's anti-environmental task force, which readied the Intrastate Coal and Use Act for national distribution, and a member of ALEC's Private Enterprise Board, which may explain ALEC's role in promoting the Prairie State Energy Campus.

Materials leaked to Greenpeace after ALEC's most recent conference in Washington DC show that the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coal front backed by companies including Peabody, was showcasing Prairie State at ALEC's conference. Files in a USB drive branded with the ACCCE logo contained three promotional videos for PSEC while a paper folder with the ACCCE logo contained a promotional brochure for the Campus. 

The ALEC model does not appear to have been introduced in Illinois, although ALEC has been busy pushing a wishlist of state laws for its dirty energy members companies like Peabody, Duke Energy and ExxonMobil.

One of ALEC's national priorities this year is to un-legislate state incentives for clean energy under the false premise that they have an adverse impact on electricity rates. While there appears to be no significant correlation between state clean energy standards and raised utility rates, the Prairie State Energy Campus is raising electricity prices, as reported last July in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

The St. Louis suburb [Kirkwood] needed a stable, long-term power source. The plant’s developers needed customers. The parties struck a deal — a 30-year contract that would supply more than half of Kirkwood’s electricity beginning in late 2011. The kicker: The energy produced at Prairie State would be cheap compared with market power prices at the time.

But now, as the first of two 800-megawatt generating units at Prairie State begin operations — six months late — the plant hardly seems the bargain it did five years ago.

The $5 billion price tag is 25 percent more than when the city signed on, driving up the price of electricity that Kirkwood and other cities are obligated to buy. And construction delays mean the city is getting nothing for the monthly $296,000 checks it began writing to Prairie State’s owners in February.

Because ALEC peddles copycat laws that benefit dirty and expensive coal projects while attacking clean energy incentives, renewable energy interests like the American Wind Energy Association and the Solar Energy Industries Association have abandoned ALEC.

History of ALEC's Adoption of the Intrastate Coal and Use Act:

An ALEC legislator in West Virginia named Gary Howell introduced a version of the Intrastate Coal and Use Act back in 2011; his bill inspired the current model bill that ALEC is distributing. Delegate Howell suggested that all of the top 20 coal producing states consider his legislation, indicating where watchdogs should keep their eyes peeled for ALEC's model legislation.

While the bills weren't passed in 2011, West Virginia is again considering the Intrastate Coal and Use Act in the 2013 session, renewing their attempts to keep the EPA from overseeing permits to burn coal from mountain top removal.

Another version of the Intrastate Coal and Use Act has surfaced in Kentucky.

In fact, it was the Kentucky-based Bluegrass Institute that sponsored ALEC's Intrastate Coal and Use Act within ALEC's anti-environmental task force, apparently based off of what WV Del. Howell has been introducing into his own legislature. Like ALEC, the Bluegrass Institute is a member of the State Policy Network, an umbrella organization for state and national think tanks and interest groups that are usually funded by the Koch brothers and company.

Coal's Broken Promises: Not Cheap, Not Clean

A 2005 Peabody company newsletter shows that PSEC was supposed to cost $2 billion, less than half its actual price. The cost estimate was later doubled to $4 billion before reaching its actual $5 billion price tag. According to a 2012 report by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis:

Instead of being a source of low cost electricity, the first year cost of power from Prairie State is 40 to 100 percent higher than the current cost of power in the Midwest wholesale markets and is expected to remain higher than market prices for the next ten to thirteen years, if not longer.

The Campus proposal was supported by former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (currently serving a 14-year prison sentence for corruption charges), who publicly supported construction of the plant and ate up Peabody's false promises of cheap energy. In Big Coal, author and journalist Jeff Goodell notes that Peabody's desire to build its own coal plant was to help burn its own reserves of high-sulfur coal from Illinois, which the market did not have much of an appetite for. A representative of the Illinois Office of Coal Development told Goodell, "Most power plants are built in order to generate electricity. Prairie State was really conceived more as a platform to burn Peabody coal." While Peabody sold all but 5% of its stake in PSEC to eight nonprofit power companies, it has been the driving force behind the Campus since 2001.

Goodell noted that even with its highly-touted pollution control equipment, PSEC is still a dirty coal plant. It still emits hazardous particulates, acidic gasses and heavy metals. It still dumps immense amounts of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, the key greenhouse gas that is contributing to global climate change:

"Prairie State will emit more than 11 million tons [of carbon dioxide] a year, marginally less than a similar size coal plant built thirty years ago, but more than twice as much as every vehicle sold by the Ford Motor Company in a single year."

Illinois' bind demonstrates the lose-lose situation promoted by the coal industry: drink and breathe our pollution now, and pay more...now and later.

As clean energy becomes increasingly viable, even without considering the costs of fossil fuel pollution and climate change, some cities are taking matters into their own hands, including [the ironically-named] Carbondale Illinois, which recently established that 100% of its power will come from clean energy. Cincinnati, Ohio dumped Duke Energy and made a similar commitment, as have all municipal facilities in Austin, Texas.

But clean energy advocates be warned: the more the American public recognizes that 19th Century energy like coal is a thing of the past, the more the dirty energy industries are going to spend big to desperately defend their bottom lines.

Industry: 

Climate-denying Indiana Regulator helps ALEC Coal Companies Delay EPA Climate Rules

  • Posted on: 13 December 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Click here to see the contents of the ACCCE USB drive from ALEC's 2012 States & Nation Policy summit.

You're probably familiar with the old "fox in the hen house" story, but what about when a hen joins the fox den?

This is the case with the recent American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) meeting in Washington, DC. Leaked documents obtained by Greenpeace reveal that ALEC's anti-environmental jamboree was inundated with coal money and featured an Indiana regulator advising coal utilities on delaying US Environmental Protection Agency rules to control greenhouse gas emissions and hazardous air pollution.

At ALEC's coal-sponsored meeting, where state legislators and corporate representatives meet to create template state laws ranging from attacks on clean energy to privatization of public schools, Indiana's Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Management Tom Easterly laid out a plan to stall the US EPA global warming action in a power point clearly addressed to coal industry representatives at ALEC's meeting.

In a USB drive branded with the logo of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a folder labeled "Easterly" contains a presentation titled "Easterly ALEC presentation 11 28 12" explaining current EPA air pollution rules and how Tom Easterly has worked to obstruct them. The power points is branded with the Indiana Department of Environmental Protection seal. In the latter presentation, Easterly ended his briefing to ALEC's dirty energy members with suggestions for delaying EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions at coal plants.

Easterly's presentation, which is posted on his Indiana Dept. of Environmental Mgmt commissioner webpage, even offered a template state resolution that would burden EPA with conducting a number of unnecessary cost benefit analyses (which the federal government has done through the Social Cost of Carbon analysis) in the process of controlling GHG emissions.

 

 

 

The template resolution Easterly presented to ALEC was created by the Environmental Council of States (ECOS), a group of state regulators that create template state resolutions similar to ALEC, often with overlapping agendas that benefit coal companies. ECOS has some questionable template state resolutions for an "Environmental" organization, including a resolution urging EPA not to classify coal ash as "hazardous." Although its less regulated than household trash, coal ash contains neurotoxins, carcinogens and radioactive elements and is stored in dangerous slurry "ponds" that can leak these dangerous toxins into our waterways.

Almost too predictably, ECOS' work is sponsored by the coal fronts like ACCCE and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), both sponsors of the ALEC meeting where Easterly presented the ECOS model resolution. See clean air watchdog Frank O'Donnell's blog on ECOS for more.

Easterly's work, including his presentation to ALEC, is also promoted by the Midwest Ozone Group, a group whose members include ACCCE, American Electric Power and Duke Energy.

Commissioner Tom Easterly's suggestion of burdening EPA with tasks beyond its responsibility is concerning, as is his ongoing campaign to discredit the science of global warming--something he doesn't have the scientific qualifications to do. To this end, the Indiana regulator fits nicely into the coal industry's long history of denying problems they don't want to be held accountable for and delaying solutions to those problems. The same processes applied to acid rain, a problem the coal industry also denied for years--check out Greenpeace's collection of Coal Ads: Decades of Deception.

Climate Science Denial at Indiana's Department of Environmental Management

Even before Indiana's top enforcer of federal and state environmental regulations was advising coal companies on how to continuing polluting our air and water, it appears that denial of basic climate science is the state's official position on global warming--Indiana's 2011 "State of the Environment" report rehashes tired climate denier arguments such as global temperature records having "no appreciable change since about 1998." (see why this is a lie) and referencing the "medieval warm period" as false proof that current temperature anomalies are normal (they aren't, see Skeptical Science for a proper debunking). Similar arguments have apparently been presented by the Indiana government to ALEC since 2008--the ACCCE USB drive contains another Indiana power point created in 2008 full of junk climate "science." This level of scientific illiteracy is concerning, especially for the regulatory body responsible for overseeing pollution controls for the coal industry.

Remember, this isn't the Heartland Institute. It's the State of Indiana....working with the Heartland Institute, a member of ALEC's anti-environmental task force that has been central in coordinating campaigns to deny global warming. See Commissioner Easterly's full presentation to ALEC on climate "science."

ALEC States & Nation Policy Summit 2012: brought to you by King Coal

ALEC's brochure for last week's meeting shows a disproportionately large presence of coal sponsors. The brochure lists 14 sponsors, five of which are coal interests:

  • American Electric Power (AEP): the second largest coal utility in the U.S. now that Duke Energy and Progress Energy have merged.
    • Political spending since 2007: AEP has spent over $46.2 million on federal lobbying and $3.9 million on federal politicians and political committees.
  • Peabody Energy: the world's largest private-sector coal mining company, known for its legacy of pollution and aggressive finance of climate change denial.
    • Political spending since 2007: Peabody has spent over $37.9 million on federal lobbying and $690,769 on federal politicians and political committees.
  • American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE): a coal public relations front whose members include AEP, Peabody and other ALEC-member coal interests. ACCCE's new president is Mike Duncan, former Republican National Committee chairman and founding chairman of Karl Rove's American Crossroads. ACCCE spent over $12 million on advertising during the 2012 election to promote the fantasy of "clean coal." ACCCE reportedly spent $40 million on TV and radio ads during the 2008 election and over $16 million around the 2010 election. ACCCE was caught up in a scandal when a subcontractor forged letters on behalf of senior and civil rights groups urging members of Congress to oppose national climate legislation. For more, see ACCCE on PolluterWatch.
  • Edison Electric Institute (EEI): the primary trade association for electric utility companies, whose members include AEP, Duke Energy and numerous other members of ALEC's energy/environment task force.
    • Political spending since 2007: EEI has spent over $63.7 million on federal lobbying and over $2.1 million on federal politicians and political committees.

$15.3 million: total federal politicians and committees spending from these groups since 2007

$194 million: total federal lobbying expenditures from these groups since 2007

The collective millions spent on federal lobbying and politicians went a long way for these five coal interest groups. Their lobbying goals included weakening 2009 climate legislation and working to interfere with US EPA rules to reduce coal pollution or greenhouse gases.

All five of these groups have recently lobbied to prevent US EPA from controlling greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act. These five interests only represent a slice of the coal interests spending money in politics, and just a few players among many in the coal, oil, gas and chemical industries that dump millions of dollars into public relations campaigns telling us that climate change is not a problem.

 
 
Known Associates: 
Industry: 

PR Watch on the Election's Fossil Fuel Advertising: Hurricane Sandy Endorses Obama

  • Posted on: 5 November 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Hurricane Sandy as seen from Space. From The Guardian.

This guest article was written by Mary Bottari and Sara Jerving of the Center for Media and Democracy, crossposted from PR Watch.

The fossil fuel industry has paid a hefty price for the privilege of framing the political discourse about America's energy future. Hundreds of millions have flowed into campaign coffers from energy companies attempting to purchase complete freedom to drill, frack, and burn. Huge "dark money" groups, the Koch's, Karl Rove, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, join dozens of oil and gas industry associations in pouring money into television ad campaigns demanding "energy independence," while trashing wind and solar.

Things were going great. Even though hurricanes had slammed into two Republican National Conventions in a row, no one seemed to notice, and Romney's only mention of climate changes was as a punchline. No reporter asked a single climate change question of Romney or Obama during the debates. Even though the U.S. now had 175,000 wind and solar jobs, pro-green energy forces were disappointed in Obama and were less active. For big oil and gas the White House and the Senate were within reach. Critically, they had to move fast before the majority of voters started to not only notice the changing climate patterns, but really started to worry about them.

Then something happened that completely scrambled the board.

Hurricane Sandy blew New Jersey out of the water and inundated New York. The massive storm threw the Romney campaign completely off-message. Not only did they have nothing to say about the serious issue of climate change and the potential for more frequent and more devastating monster storms, the Romney-Ryan message of "smaller government" and "fewer first responders" sank in the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.

In an unprecedented, last-minute move, Independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg threw his support behind Obama yesterday. His statement "A Vote for a President to Lead on Climate Change" lays out the seriousness of the situation. "In just 14 months, two hurricanes have forced us to evacuate neighborhoods -- something our city government had never done before. If this is a trend, it is simply not sustainable," Bloomberg states.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.

Polluting High Rollers Dominated the Airwaves

Until Sandy rolled in, the airwaves were completely dominated by the fossil fuel industry.

According to The New York Times, by mid-September there had already been a $153 million spent on TV ads that promoted the fossil fuel industry. The analysis showed that energy topics were mentioned more frequently than any other issue besides jobs and the economy. This figure is four times what clean energy advocates were spending.

The numbers stand in sharp contrast to the last presidential election in which the green energy industry and other forces spent $152 million compared to $109 million spent on fossil fuel interests.

Broadly, the ads promote fossil fuels in the context of jobs, domestic security, and energy prices. Combined, they try to convince Americans that "energy independence" should be the nation's top priority. Yet they neglect to point out that solar and wind also create high-wage jobs and energy independence too. According to Open Secrets, oil and gas campaign contributions are at historic highs and are more lopsided than ever before with 90 percent of the funds going to Republican candidates. Top contributors include William Koch's Oxbow Corp, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, and Koch Industries, who have already contributed $59 million to federal candidates. Leading coal mining corporations, such as Alliance Resource Partners, Cumberland Development, and Murray Energy, have kicked in $11.6 million to federal candidates.

But the money does not stop there. The Citizens United Supreme Court decision has opened the door to unprecedented spending by "dark money" nonprofits, SuperPACs and new constellations of trade associations that are on track to spend over $1 billion to "educate" voters about the issues, including the urgent need to extract and burn every last bit of fossil fuel.

  • Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, a "dark money" group and his American Crossroads SuperPAC, pledged to spend $300 million in this election, a large percentage on fossil fuel spin. There are dozens of ads in the presidential race and in Congressional races. One Crossroads ad blames Obama for higher gas prices. Another slams Obama for putting the Keystone Pipeline on hold. While Crossroads GPS does not disclose its donors, American Crossroads PAC does and it is loaded with fossil fuel contributors, including Alliance Resources Partners CEO Joe Craft who has given the group $1.25 million, Petco Petroleum which has given the group $1 million, and over $2 million from TRT holdings, which controls Tana Exploration, a Texas-based oil and gas company.
  • David Koch's Americans for Prosperity "dark money" group, pledged to spend over $100 million this year in support of Republican candidates. The group's ads also attack Obama and clean energy when talking about Solyndra and the stimulus bill which allegedly sent some clean energy jobs overseas. More recently they have pushed pro-coal "Stand with Coal" ads in Ohio and Virginia.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an industry association and dark money group, has pledged to spend more than $50 million on the election and has fielded energy ads in key races such as Ohio with a messages like "Shale Works for Us," in promotion of expanding drilling for shale oil and gas.
  • The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a coal industry front group, has pledged to spend some $40 million on coal related ads. One ad, targeting Ohio's Sherrod Brown, criticizes the Senator for endorsing "higher energy taxes" linking him to "Washington's costly energy policies."
  • The American Petroleum Institute, an industry trade association, has pledged some $40 million this campaign season on efforts to push the expansion of oil and gas drilling. Two of their primary campaigns, "Vote 4 Energy" and "Energy Citizens" attempt to exert the aura of a grassroots base pushing for fossil fuel development. Their ads feature "energy voters" parroting fossil fuel talking points.
  • The American Energy Alliance, a "dark money" group run by former Koch Industries lobbyist Tom Pyle, is spending millions alleging that Obama's policies would lead to $9 a gallon of gas and a recent ad airing in Ohio and Virginia harps on Obama for comments he made about coal industry in 2008.

Rarely are voters seeing any counter-narrative. Alternative energy forces have spent only $2 million, and some environmental groups are weighing in with modest resources. New ads by the League of Conservation Voters saying U.S. Senate Candidate Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) will stop the offshoring of U.S. jobs and "will end big oil subsidies" -- with cheerful Wisconsin windmills and pumpkins in the background -- started only in the final days of the campaign. Is it any wonder that candidates have been able to ignore the serious issues?

"To ignore a global crisis that has been fully understood for over 15 years and is quickly slipping out of control shows just how far coal and oil money have drowned out constituents all the way from the Statehouse to the White House," said Greenpeace's Connor Gibson.

What Does the Fossil Fuel Industry Want?

Although environmentalists are not happy with what they perceive as Obama's timidity, the fossil fuel industry is apoplectic about the steps he did take as president. They have leveled blistering criticism about Obama's efforts to slow down the Keystone Pipeline; they don't like his new auto emissions standards; they are unhappy with new EPA mercury emissions rules for boilers; and they don't like the fact that permits for drilling and fracking on federal lands have slowed.

The industry is looking for a victory in the battle over TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline project, which would carry heavy tar-sands crude oil from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries, exporting some portion of the oil overseas. Construction of the pipeline was confronted by an active movement of citizens concerned about the impact that the pipeline would have on communities and on the threat burning the tar sands posed to the planet. Burning all the available tar sands would be "game over" for the climate, according to NASA scientist Jim Hansen, one of the nation's most respected climate change experts. Romney has vowed to give the project clearance on his first day in office, while Obama has approved a portion of the segment, and has allowed for further environmental impact study of the northern portion.

The industry also wants carte blanche to use federal lands for the highly controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" for shale oil and gas. Fracking has the documented potential to contaminate drinking water sources and foul both air and land -- in addition to spoiling millions of gallons of fresh water as part of the drilling process.

The industry is calling for a streamline on the permitting process for fossil fuel development on all lands. While industry's ads have argued that increased drilling will decrease gas prices, global gas prices largely follow international trends.

The industry is also keen to hold onto to the billions of fossil fuel subsidies it receives each year from the federal government. According to the International Energy Agency, fossil fuel subsidies from the government are 12 times greater than renewable energy.

No matter who wins the presidency, there will be major battles on each of these issues. The question is, after years of fossil fuel propaganda, how engaged will the American public be in the effort to save the planet from the fossil fuel industry?

The Price of Fossil Fuel Propaganda

According to author and activist Bill McKibben, "This will be the warmest year in American history. It came with the warmest month in American history, July. It featured a statistically almost-impossible summer-in-March heat wave. It brought us a drought so deep that food prices have gone up 40 percent around the world. It brought us this completely unprecedented mega-storm, the biggest storm, as one weatherman put it yesterday, to hit New York since its founding in 1624," McKibben told Time.

The problem according to McKibben is that "there's been a 20-year bipartisan effort in Washington to accomplish nothing, and it reached its comedic height this summer when our presidential candidates, despite barnstorming through the warmest summer in American history, seemed not to notice. The reason is the incredible power of the fossil fuel industry. Until we can diminish that power, I imagine nothing very large will be done to deal with climate."

Hurricane Sandy has launched a full frontal attack on fossil fuel industry propaganda.

It is up to us to follow in her path.


Will Dooling contributed to this article.

Coal Utility CEO dismisses link between Hurricane Sandy and Climate Change

  • Posted on: 31 October 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

Image source: Knoxville News Sentinal

Duh. That's probably what you thought to yourself when you read my headline.

Yes, as American families on the east coast are reeling from an unprecedented weather disaster, Southern Company CEO Thomas Fanning told CNBC:

“I don’t think the data supports that the storms are more frequent or unusual than they have been in the past. But the point is right now that we are not dedicated to getting into an ancillary argument.” (h/t The Hill)

Fanning probably considers the much-needed conversations considering Hurricane Sandy and climate change as "ancillary" because Southern Company plays a very central and very inconvenient role in creating global warming. Apparently, Fanning's home and livelihood weren't damaged by superstorm Sandy, although his birthplace of Morristown, NJ was hit by the storm. Lucky him--out of sight, out of mind! Apparently there's no need to talk about the deeper issue of global warming. (Greenpeace photos of damage from Sandy).

See, not only is Southern Co one of the nation's largest coal-burning utilities, but it creates more carbon pollution than any other utility in the country and ranks #7 in global power company carbon emissions. Southern Co is responsible for dumping over 145 million tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere each year, making it a key culprit in the global climate crisis.

In turn, global warming creates conditions that can make cyclones like Hurricane Sandy more intense than they naturally would be, not to mention increasing the likelihood of other extreme weather events like droughts, floods, and heavy storms. If you live in the U.S., you know this year was particularly suspicious in terms of climate-related disasters.

Suspicious unless you have your head in the sand, as Mr. Fanning appears to. What's worse is how much Thomas Fanning's company has paid money to stuff other people's heads in the sand with them.

While aggravating global warming through its immense greenhouse gas emissions, Southern Company has also been a key manipulator in our national dialog over global climate change:

  • Funding shill groups: Southern Co. is a member of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, a front group run by coal utility lobbyists at the law firm Bracewell & Giuliani. Through ERCC lobbyists Scott Segal and Jeff Holmstead, Southern Co and other dirty utilities bitterly opposes any requirements for coal companies to reduce their pollution or greenhouse gases causing global warming. Southern Co is also a member of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), another front group opposing strong environmental standards for coal pollution. You may be familiar with ACCCE for its multimillion dollar ad buys around the election, or for its involvement in a scandal where forged letters were sent to Congress to oppose climate legislation in 2009.
  • Buying politics: Since 2008, Southern Co. has spent over $61 million lobbying our federal government, much of which was to block environmental laws and legislation addressing climate change. Southern Co. has spent over $10 million each year on federal lobbying since 2004. To support its lobbying expenditures, Southern Co. has also sent over $1.6 million to federal politicians and registered political groups since the 2008 election cycle.
    • In the 2012 presidential election, Southern Co. has sent $46,650 to Republican candidate Mitt Romney and $8,580 to President Barack Obama (OpenSecrets).

Unfortunately for the climate and those who are now suffering from weather disasters, Southern Company is just one of many companies funding our politicians and then paying lobbyists, setting up front groups and financing hack scientists to push politicians even farther into an anti-science fantasy-land. Along with Southern are other key bad actors like Duke Energy, Peabody, ExxonMobil, Chesapeake Energy, Koch Industries and other fossil fuel interests that also want to stomp any mention of global warming out of politics, protecting billions in profit and limiting their liability over pollution problems.

Understanding how these behemoths operate and coordinate makes it less surprising, though no less offensive, that we didn't hear about climate change in the first presidential debate series in over 20 years.

It doesn't matter if global warming is an "ancillary" issue to Southern Company after disasters like Hurricane Sandy, or if the presidential contenders won't be honest with Americans about the problem. Our changed climate is only going to keep changing.

Big Coal: decades of deception

  • Posted on: 10 September 2012
  • By: Cindy Baxter

Coal giant American Electric Power's slogan in the 70's.

[See our full archive of coal advertisements here]

“Can coal be cleaned before it’s burned? Of course it can!

Although this language comes from a 1970s advertisement from coal giant American Electric Power, this claim would be right at home with today’s “clean coal” advertising.

When someone sent us some old 1970’s newspaper advertisements from coal-burning giant American Electric Power, questioning proposed regulations to stop coal pollution, the language had a familiar ring to it. How long had the industry been telling us that coal was clean? Has the industry been using the same deceptive advertising campaigns to scrub its image (and delay important regulations to protect public health) for decades? So we went back through the archives to review the record.

We found that the coal industry has spent at least four decades spinning lies to convince us coal is clean, and any scientific evidence on pollution is crooked.  The industry further claims that any pollution regulation will cost jobs and cripple the economy.

The origins of truth spinning by the coal industry dates back to the birth of public relations in the first part of the twentieth century. The coal industry claimed they had cleaned up dirty coal eliminating the “black froth” on streams so that nearby waterways would remain “pristine.”

 


 

The 70’s and the Clean Air Act

The real spin from the coal industry began in the 1970’s when the Clean Air Act introduced air quality guidelines to curb sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide that come from burning coal.

 
The coal industry pursued an aggressive PR offensive.  American Electric Power (AEP), then the country’s largest coal-burning utility company, launched ads calling for modifications of the Clean Air Act, or else the country would face “galloping unemployment.” 
 

AEP also ran ads warning that scrubbers designed to remove life-threatening pollutants from smokestack emissions wouldn't work, but would create large quantities of “oozy gook.

In contrast, today AEP’s subsidiary, Appalachian Power has quite a different take on scrubbers.   The company states on its website that the sludge from scrubbers is harmless: “…. This harmless substance then is sent to a landfill. The scrubber captures almost all of the SO2 produced from burning coal. That makes our air cleaner. It also gives plants the flexibility to use locally-available high-sulfur coal, which helps keep fuel costs low.”

To get around the local pollution problems and to adhere to the new air quality regulations, the industry started building tall stacks to disperse the pollution instead of reducing it.  When the EPA targeted tall stacks, AEP again fought them tooth and nail.

 

When the Middle East oil embargo sent gas prices skyrocketing, the industry tried to use concerns about the crisis to support its agenda. The Saudis would buy US coal, screamed one advertisement.  “What time is the electricity on today?”  asked another.  “Fanatical Environmentalists” were threatening America’s future, according to one ad.

 

What acid rain?

In 1980 the U.S. government began what would be a decades-long effort to grapple with the problem of acid rain caused by sulfur emissions from coal-fired power stations.

The coal industry attacked the emerging scientific consensus on acid rain.  Edison Electric Institute, funded by the utility industry and member of the Coalition for Energy Environment Balance, published “Facts About Acid Rain.”  The author, Alan Katzenstein, later worked for the Tobacco Institute and claimed that second hand smoke was harmless.

 

1990 Clean Air Act Amendments
When the Clean Air Act was amended in 1990 despite a barrage of industry-launched court cases, scrubbers became mandatory for all new power plants. Yet the coal industry still argued that regulation would “short circuit America’s electricity system”

 

But the lights stayed on.

In fact, the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments have saved billions of dollars spent on human health and worker days, according to a 2011 EPA analysis. A 2009 EPA report states that acid rain deposits over the US have decreased by 43 percent.

Enter the Greenwash

Once the coal industry had to comply with new standards, it began scrubbing the record of its resistance to public health standards.   The industry claimed that its state of the art technology cleaned up the emissions and pollution from coal plants that they had furiously spurned the previous decade. “A cleaner environment is on everyone’s agenda” said the EEI.
 

Enter climate science denial
By the early 1990’s, there was a new threat to Big Coal. After years of scientists' warnings about the impacts of greenhouse gases from burning coal and other fossils fuels, climate change began to emerge as a widespread concern. Once the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its first report, the coal industry rolled out the same attacks on the scientific evidence.

A new industry front group, Information Council on the Environment, ran a test series of advertisements challenging climate science. The objective was to “reposition global warming as theory, not fact.”  This strategy formed the beginnings of a decades-long, industry-funded campaign of climate science denial that continues to this day.

An economic argument was also used against climate action, with claims that a treaty like the Kyoto Protocol would ruin the economy. The “not global, won’t work” mantra of these ad campaigns has been a consistent excuse from U.S. officials in international climate talks for the last 12 years.  

 

The new “clean coal”

By the 2000’s, the coal industry increasingly relied on its “coal is clean” mantra.

Americans for Balanced Energy Choices, the coal industry coalition, argued that coal was “better for the economy and cleaner for our environment.” 
 

Industry convinced federal agencies to pour taxpayer subsidies into a search for new coal emissions technologies including “carbon capture and storage,” or CCS.

CCS would bury C02 in underground aquifers. Despite being a prohibitively expensive and unproven technology, it has become the new poster child for clean coal.

By 2007, ABEC was claiming that they were going “beyond clean”. CCS was portrayed as being just around the corner, and pollutants like SO2 and NOX were now reduced to “near zero.” 

 

In 2008, ABEC morphed into the “American Coalition of Clean Coal Electricity” (ACCCE) that mobilized industry supporters across the country before the elections.  ACCCE now claims “clean coal technology is real – and it is deployed across the U.S. and around the world to the benefit of people and our planet.”

The coal industry has spent decades trying to convince Americans that protecting our health and the environment will destroy the economy and leave us in the dark.

Yet our country has continually improved public health and environmental protections without the economic disasters hyped by the coal industry.

We couldn’t believe them then. Why should we believe them now?

Industry: 

Duke Energy Uses ALEC to Attack Climate and Clean Energy Laws in Pay-to-Play Politics

  • Posted on: 17 July 2012
  • By: Connor Gibson

In the lead up to this fall's Democratic National Convention, polluter giant Duke Energy has offered a $10 million loan. Good thing, since Duke CEO Jim Rogers has taken the lead on the remaining fundraising for the DNC and is now being criticized for doing a shoddy job of it amid his controversial takeover as CEO following a big merger with Progress Energy.

Lost amid this dramatic transition is Duke's ironic role in the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. ALEC is the infamous corporate bill mill that connects notably-conservative state lawmakers with lobbyists, PR agents and other representatives of companies ranging from Koch Industries to Phillip Morris to Pfizer. ALEC's agenda spans across Big Business priorities, creating template state laws that serve to deny climate change science, privatize schools, protect killers (as with the Trayvon Martin "castle doctrine" legislation) and disenfranchise voters through Voter ID laws.

Voter ID laws that Democrats call "suppressive," an ironic contrast to Duke's $10 million line of credit to the DNC.

Duke Energy is heavily invested in ALEC in several ways. Duke sponsors ALEC's meetings, dedicates its staff to help oversee ALEC's state operations, and consistently operates in ALEC's anti-environmental task force, a who's-who of polluters and apologists attacking clean energy legislation that Duke purportedly supports. Here's an overview of Duke's notable role in ALEC:

  • Duke pays heavily for ALEC's operations--they have spent $116,000 on ALEC meetings since 2009, including $50,000 for ALEC's May 2012 meeting in Charlotte, NC where Duke is headquartered (Charlotte Business Journal). This well exceeds the top annual ALEC membership fee of $25,000.
  • Duke representatives Chuck Claunch and Bonnie Loomis are liaisons to ALEC's Energy, Environment & Agriculture (EEA) task force, which ghostwrites state laws attacking regional climate programs, controls for hazardous coal ash storage, renewable energy standards, EPA enforcement of clean air and water laws, and numerous other polluter handouts written and approved by the oil, coal and public relations companies in the EEA task force's filthy roster.
  • Progress Energy's Kathy Hawkins and Jeanelle McCain are also involved in ALEC's EEA task force, further bloating Duke's influence within ALEC now that Progress is part of Duke Energy.

Duke has told the press that it doesn't agree with all of the EEA model bills, specifically attacks on renewable energy and reductions in greenhouse gases. This is deceitful, since such laws are at the core of ALEC's anti-environmental task force and have constantly evolved to match changes in political trends. If Duke doesn't support the purpose of this task force, then why is it offering up Duke stafff and money beyond its ALEC membership dues?

Beyond Duke's active participation within ALEC's anti-environmental task force, Duke has also positioned its operatives in two states to help oversee further fundraising and recruitment for ALEC.

Duke and ALEC in South Carolina

Duke's South Carolina Regional Director Chuck Claunch was handpicked by ALEC's State Chairmen in South Carolina to help fulfill their obligations to recruit new ALEC members, raise money, and other responsibilities detailed in ALEC's own IRS tax filings [PDF p.36]. Since Mr. Claunch is also part of ALEC's anti-environment task force, it's possible he helped create model bills that became South Carolina law. Also acting as a private sector co-chair in South Carolina is Progress Energy's Jeanelle McCain, another member of ALEC's anti-environmental task force. With the Duke-Progress merger now made official, it is unclear how Mr. Claunch and Ms. McCain may shift roles, or if Duke's influence in South Carolina is expanding through ALEC.

Known ALEC South Carolina legislators who work with Duke and other polluters in ALEC's EEA task force:
  • Rep. Dwight Loftis
  • Rep. Nelson Hardwick
  • Rep. Bill Sandifer
  • Rep. Jeffrey Duncan

Working alongside ALEC's State Chairmen in Indiana (Rep. David Wolkins and Sen. Jim Buck) is Duke's Vice President of Government Affairs, Julie Griffith. Beyond the numerous contradictions detailed in this blog, perhaps Ms. Griffith would like to explain her role in ALEC, a notable front for the tobacco industry, and her position as chair of the executive leadership team of the American Lung Association. That and her political work for a company that causes lung damage from coal pollution. Just as in South Carolina, Rep. Wolkins and Sen. Buck chose Duke's Julie Griffith to help them oversee ALEC's operations in Indiana, primarily fundraising. Known ALEC legislators in Indiana who have been part of ALEC's EEA (Energy/Env/Ag) task force:
  • Rep. David Wolkins (EEA task force chair, 2011 ALEC legislator of the year, ALEC State Chairman in IN)
  • Rep. Wesley Culver
  • Rep. Brian Bosma
  • Rep. Heath Van Natte

ALEC: Duke Energy partners with Koch Industries, Exxon, Peabody, Heartland, ACCCE, Art Pope...

While over 25 companies have dropped ALEC, including Walmart, Best Buy, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, John Deere, Dell and numerous others, Duke continues to staff and fund ALEC alongside ExxonMobil, BP, Koch Industries, Peabody Energy, and other major polluters to dismantle state environmental protections across the country. 

So even though Jim Rogers says we should wean off of foreign oil, Duke conspires with multinational oil companies to attack climate solutions.

Typical.

The oil majors are only one example of Duke's secretive partnerships that contradict its statements on climate change and sustainability. ALEC's EEA task force includes operatives from climate science denying groups like the Heartland Institute, Americans for Prosperity, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the Goldwater Institute, and the John Locke Foundation, all of which have enjoyed support from the billionaire Koch brothers and North Carolina political overlord Art Pope.

By participating in ALEC's anti-environmental task force, Duke continues to partner with representatives of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), a front group that Duke abandoned in 2009 when ACCCE's aggressive lobbying against national climate legislation became an obvious conflict of interest (and when ACCCE was caught up in a scandal involving fraudulent letters to Congress opposing climate legislation). Let us not forget that national climate legislation in 2009 essentially became a handout for major polluters like Duke who helped write the legislation.

Greenpeace recently released a new report detailing a Clean Energy Roadmap for Apple, highlighting progress Apple has made in using clean energy sources for its Cloud data centers while stressing that Apple is still far too dependent on coal-burning utilities like Duke Energy for its energy. While Greenpeace calls upon Apple to help shift the energy market in a cleaner direction, we are also asking Duke Energy to make a dramatic shift away from dirty coal, especially from destructive mountain top removal mining. Responding to Greenpeace, Duke Energy told CBS, "In North Carolina, we are allowed to buy non-mountaintop coal as long as the cost is not higher than conventional coal supply. Even if we wanted to pay more, we couldn't because the state mandates it."

Come on, Duke--you gave money to 115 of the 170 North Carolina legislators elected in 2010 and spent $19 million on federal and state political contributions during that election cycle alone. You are wrapping up your scandalous merger into the nation's largest utility company. If Duke wanted to strike down a mandate to use coal from the most destructive sources available, they could do it. Instead, Duke plays to its major strength: using clean PR to hide the dirty money it spends to hold our air, water and climate hostage with outdated, 20th Century energy.

Amid the sudden ouster of former Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson and conflicts with ratepayers in multiple states, Duke already has plenty to be embarrassed about. Using ALEC to partner with the world's worst corporate citizens and climate science deniers gives Duke's other shames a run for their money.

In the name of transparent democracy, Greenpeace challenges Duke to disclose which ALEC model bills they have supported at ALEC meetings, whether by vote or through Duke sponsorship. Better yet, Duke should join the 30 companies and organizations who have cut ties with ALEC and its poisonous role in American politics.

Known Associates: 

Peabody Punked, Still "Proud" of Dirty Electricity

  • Posted on: 10 May 2011
  • By: Connor Gibson

Photo Credit: Business Insider

A website campaign known as "Coal Cares" was launched on behalf of Peabody Energy today, offering to distribute free flashy inhalers to children living within 200 miles of a U.S. coal plant.

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.

Known Associates: 
Industry: