January 15, 2015


Why Engagement With Fossil Fuel Companies Offers So Little Promise

“As a long time shareholder activist, I’ve spent more time than I can calculate filing shareholder proposals and engaging in conversation with fossil fuel companies, often in collaboration with major pension funds with large positions in such companies … My takeaway from these efforts, along with a lingering concussion from too much cranial contact with brick walls, is that the time for polite conversation is over … It’s time for investors to shake off their cognitive dissonance, admit that the core business model of fossil fuel companies has to be abandoned, and take meaningful action,” writes Shelley Alpern, the Director of Social Research & Advocacy at Clean Yield Asset Management.

Suggested Tweet: Why Engagement With Fossil Fuel Companies Offers So Little Promise http://bit.ly/1xirNZv@salpern #divestment #coal #fossilfuels

Losing Streak Continues for US Coal Export Terminals

“The US coal export industry continued its losing streak as 2014 ended and 2015 began. A coal terminal project in Louisiana lost its permit in state court, and one in Washington ran into a stiff legal challenge … The developments continue a string of victories for environment groups fighting the export of coal to developing economies such as China. Of 15 proposals to build major new coal export facilities across the US, all but four have been defeated or canceled within the past two years. And only a few existing facilities have won approval to expand,” writes Katherine Bagley in InsideClimate News.

Suggested Tweet: Losing streak continues for #US #coal export terminals writes @Kat_Bagley http://bit.ly/14NFYQk


Indian Government blocks Greenpeace India activist's UK trip

The Indian Government took the extraordinary step of advising immigration officials to block Greenpeace India campaigner, Priya Pillai, from flying to the UK to speak to a parliamentary committee. Pillai is campaigning against UK-headquartered Essar Energy’s plan to develop the proposed Mahan coal mine in Madhya Pradesh, which has been blocked by a recent Supreme Court decision cancelling over 200 coal allocations on the grounds that they were made illegally. Pillai, who described the move as a “black day for fundamental rights in India”, is challenging the ruling. In 2014 the Indian government blocked the transfer of international funds to Greenpeace India and three other groups and refused a visa for a Greenpeace UK activist. (Times of India, Greenpeace India)

Suggested Tweet: Greenpeace #India challenges Indian govt ban on discussing Essar Energy Mahan #coal plan w UK parliamentary committee http://bit.ly/1yfO2TA

“The trampling on a citizen’s rights in this case reeks of authoritarianism more suited for the likes of a North Korea, not a democracy. And when it becomes a pattern —this is not the first time Greenpeace campaigners have been targeted thus, and there also is a creeping rise in cases of activists or academics et al being deported or denied entry to India —we need to worry,”

stated an editorial in the Economic Times, a major Indian newspaper.

top news

Coal and railway companies oppose Adani’s dumping plan: GVK Hancock Coal and the railway company Aurizon have objected to a plan by the Queensland Government to dump spoil from the proposed expansion of Adani’s Abbot Point coal terminal on the Caley Valley wetland. The two companies argue that the proposal could render their mine and railway projects “financially unviable.” A separate proposal has been announced to supply water for the proposed Galilee Basin mines from the diversion of water from two rivers over 120 kilometres away. (Guardian, Guardian)

Council rejects permit for US coal terminal: The Plaquemines Parish Council voted 8-0, with one abstention, against a building permit for RAM Terminals’ proposed coal export facility in Louisiana. “The people in my district were so adamant, I just felt that we had to strike it down and send a strong message,” said Parish Councillor Audrey Trufant Salvant. In late December 2014 a Plaquemines judge ruled that a permit issued by the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources was invalid due to the failure to consider alternative sites. (The Times-Picayne)

Study identifies unburnable coal: A study by two University College London academics has estimated that the bulk of the remaining coal resources in China, the US, Australia and Russia would need to remain unmined to have a one in two chance of keeping the global temperature increase below a two degree increase. “Our results suggest that, globally, a third of oil reserves, half of gas reserves and over 80 per cent of current coal reserves should remain unused from 2010 to 2050 in order to meet the target of 2°C,” wrote the authors, Christophe McGlade and Paul Ekins. (Nature)
Chinese coal imports fell in 2014: Official Chinese government customs data reveals that in 2014 coal imports fell by nearly 11%, the first annual drop in imports this century. Imports for December were down 23 per cent compared to December 2013. New restrictions on low-quality coal came into effect on January 1 of this year which, combined with slowing manufacturing exports and cuts to steel capacity, have the China Coal Industry Association expressing its pessimism about the outlook for the industry in 2015. (Business Recorder, Greenpeace)

Chinese censors spike story on coal baron’s scandals: Chinese government censors directed that the business magazine Caijing delete a story detailing alleged links between the Shanxi coal baron Zhang Xinming and former senior Communist Party officials. Zhang, who founded the Shanxi Jinye Coking Coal company, was arrested last year as part of an investigation into a deal involving a subsidiary of China Resources. Caijing also alleged that Zhang’s company grew in part through having police launch investigations into rival coal mine owners and then stepping in to take over their troubled assets. (South China Morning Post)

Alarm at move to gut Indian environmental laws: A parliamentary committee has begun hearings on a report to the Modi government which recommends sweeping changes to national environment laws. A coalition of Indian lawyers and activists has urged the report be rejected as it would open ‘no go’ areas to development and remove the power of the National Green Tribunal to undertake a ‘merits review’ of project approvals. (The Hindu, The Statesman)

“If a university seeks to educate extraordinary youth so they may achieve the brightest possible future, what does it mean for that university simultaneously to invest in the destruction of that future? Given that the university has signalled its awareness of the dangers posed by fossil fuels, what are the implications of Stanford’s making only a partial confrontation with this danger? … For Stanford’s investment policies to be congruent with the clarity and drive in its classrooms, the university must divest from all fossil-fuel companies,”

wrote 295 members of Stanford University’s faculty in a letter to the President and Board of Trustees of the University.


Egypt: Tourism operators object to proposed increase in coal import terminals.

India: Government scraps tenders for Tamil Nadu and Odisha projects; plans to re-open tenders after changes.

North Korea: Coal exports to China estimated to be worth US$1 billion in 2014.
Ukraine: Prosecutor says corrupt South African coal import deal inflated costs by US$56 million.

UK: After clearing trees, 395,000 tonne Sheffield coal project stalls due to coal price fall.

companies + markets

Raids on Indian coal importers: The Indian Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) has raided the offices of 80 coal-importing companies, agencies and coal sampling laboratories as a part of an investigation into a US$4.68 billion scheme to shift funds offshore. The DRI believes that between 2012 and 2014 as much as 120 million tonnes of Indonesian coal was valued by Indian importers at almost double the value declared when exported. The amount of the over-valuation enabled funds to be deposited in offshore accounts of the importers. (Mining Weekly)

UK Government offers loan to ease mine closures: The UK Minister for Energy, Matthew Hancock, has agreed to provide a loan of US$12 million to the Hatfield Colliery Partnership to avoid financial collapse and underwrite a “managed closure plan.” The rival UK Coal company has previously been loaned US$6 million to enable a smooth closure this year of its two underground mines. When the Hatfield mine in South Yorkshire closes in 2016, no underground mines will remain operating in the UK. (Financial Times)
Profitability of Chinese coal utilities to fall: The profitability of four major mainland Chinese coal-fired power producers is expected to plummet this year to under one-quarter of last year’s combined net profit. Profitability of coal generators is being eroded by slowing demand, increased coal production costs and the growth of renewable energy. Standard Chartered analysts estimate the utilisation rates of mainland coal plants could fall by 4 per cent this year. (South China Morning Post)

China orders provinces to prepare coal cut plans: The National Development and Reform Commission, China's state planning agency, has directed the city of Shanghai and the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Guangdong to develop a plan by June setting out how they will reduce coal consumption. The three provinces are in the Yangtze River delta, a heavy industrial zone identified by the government as a priority area to target in its bid to improve air quality. (Reuters)


Global Energy Markets in Transition, Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, January 2015. (Pdf)

This briefing paper provides a global overview of some of the key trends undermining coal’s role in the electricity market: the growth in renewable energy, increasing energy-efficiency, weak electricity demand, and policy initiatives aimed at expediting a transition to lower carbon electricity generation.

The Facts about Kinder Morgan, Sightline Institute, December 2014. (Pdf)

This report provides a detailed background on the environmental breaches and numerous corporate misdeeds of Kinder Morgan, which operates major US coal export terminals.
Cutting Subsidies and Closing Loopholes in the US Department of the Interior’s Coal Program, Center for American Progress, January 6, 2015. (Pdf)

This report analyses the use by coal companies operating in the Powder River Basin of a myriad of subsidiaries to minimise royalty payments. The report argues the US government should amend regulations governing federal coal sales to levy charges on the basis of the market price.

CoalWire is a weekly bulletin of coal-related news published by CoalSwarm. Please send material which you think should be included or suggestions for features to editor@coalwire.org

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