March 12, 2015


India’s ‘Airpocalypse’ 

“Rising levels of air pollution in India are truly worrisome. New Delhi is now ranked as the most polluted city on earth where air pollution may be 60 times higher than what is considered safe. In total, 13 of the world’s dirtiest 20 cities are now in India, according to the World Health Organization,” writes Asit K. Biswas and Julian Kirchherr in The Diplomat.

Suggested Tweet: India’s ‘Airpocalypse’ repeating China’s mistakes with #coal & #fossilfuels

First Modi Budget Gives Coal a Risky Boost

“Is the Indian government putting its promise to electrify India at risk by relying on dirty energy just when coal is losing the battle with solar? …The first Modi budget included the announcement of a number of Ultra Mega Power Projects (UMPPs) and saw India’s coal minister talking up a tripling of Indian coal mining to 1.5bn tons per annum by 2020 … For India renewables look like a far less risky option for delivering affordable electricity for all than complicated and dirty coal. Maybe this will have sunk in by the next budget,” writes ‘Kim’ in Endcoal.

Suggested Tweet: First Modi budget gives #coal a risky boost #India

US Coal Producers: Another Year Older and Deeper in Debt

“One core takeaway from the [US] Energy Information Administration’s recent 2015 Short Term Energy Outlook is that the coal industry in general is looking at less production, lower market share and fewer players over the next year. … At the end of 2015, the coal industry will be another year older and deeper in debt,” writes Tom Sanzillo from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Suggested Tweet: By the end of 2015 US #Coal Producers Will be Another Year Older and Deeper in Debt #energy @ieefa_institute


Permit revoked for US coal-to-gas plant

Environmental groups are celebrating the decision of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to revoke the air quality permit for the proposed US$2.8 billion Rockport coal-to-gas plant. Indiana Gasification gained the air permit in 2012 and last year gained a one-year extension on the deadline to begin project construction. The Indiana Government had agreed to assist Leucadia National Corporation’s project by guaranteeing to buy the gas produced by the plant for 30 years and resell it to consumers. (RTV6, ValleyWatch)

Suggested Tweet: Big win as permit revoked for #US #coal-to-gas plant

Holdout bank retreats on mountaintop mining

PNC Financial, the seventh largest US bank, has announced it will no longer finance coal companies which obtain more than 25 per cent of their production from mountaintop removal. Nor will the bank provide credit to “individual MTR [mountaintop removal] mining projects.” While seven banks have retreated from support for mountaintop mining projects, major banks including Morgan Stanley, Barclays, Bank of America and Deutsche Bank still back companies employing the practice. (Guardian, PNC Financial)

“We will strive for zero per cent growth in the consumption of coal in key areas of the country,”

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang told the National People’s Congress.

top news

Queensland Government unveils new Abbot Point plan: The recently-elected Queensland Government has approved a new land-based dump site for dredge spoil from Adani’s proposed expansion of the Abbot Point coal terminal. While the government has ruled out public funding for the dredging and disposal costs, it has stated its support for the development of the Galilee Basin mines. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed new dump site is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. (Queensland Government, Guardian)

Duke Energy cops US$25m coal ash dam fine: The North Carolina State Department of Environment and Natural Resources has announced that Duke Energy has been fined US$25.1 million for groundwater pollution caused by a coal ash dam at its Sutton Plant. Environmental groups have criticised the department for failing to require Duke Energy to also clean up the polluted groundwater, which breaches state standards for boron, thallium, selenium, iron and manganese, amongst others. (New York Times, Miami Herald)

Ex-Indian PM charged in coal corruption case: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been summoned by a Delhi court to face charges of criminal conspiracy, corruption and breach of trust. The charges stem from the 2005 allocation of the Talabira coal block in Odisha to Hindalco for a power station to supply an aluminium smelter. Singh was the Minister for Coal at the time.  The chairman of Hindalco, Kumar Mangalam Birla and former Coal Secretary PC Parakh, are also scheduled to appear in court on April 8. (NDTV)
European industry weakens air pollution standards: A Greenpeace investigation has found that over half of the 352 members on a technical working group drafting air pollution standards for European Union power stations are from energy companies or their lobby groups. Delegations from Britain, Poland, Czech Republic, Greece, Germany, France and Spain have been the strongest advocates for weakening proposed air pollution standards. (Guardian, Greenpeace)

Commission warns NSW may have huge numbers of abandoned mining pits: The NSW Government’s Planning Assessment Commission has “conservatively” estimated that between 7500 and 10,000 hectares of open cut pits could be left after as many as 30 coal mines in the Hunter Valley are mined out. “The commission does not accept that a mining legacy of large voids across the Hunter Valley is acceptable,” it stated. Lock the Gate estimates the state government could be left with a US$11 billion rehabilitation legacy as a result of the pits. (Newcastle Herald, Lock the Gate)

Thai utility sanctions new units for highly polluting coal plant: After years of resisting community concerns about the polluting Mae Moh lignite plant, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand announced it has signed an agreement for Marubeni Corporation and Alstom to build a new 600 megawatt (MW) plant at the site. The proposed plant would replace four of the existing nine units at the plant, which were originally built by Marubeni Corporation and Alstom. The local community has been pressing for the plant to be shut down. (Marubeni Corporation, Bangkok Post)

“The coming debate [on climate change] is about two things: what governments can do to attempt to regulate, or otherwise stave off, the now predictably terrifying consequences of global warming beyond 2C by the end of the century. And how we can prevent the states and corporations which own the planet’s remaining reserves of coal, gas and oil from ever being allowed to dig most of it up. We need to keep them in the ground,”

wrote Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, in a column explaining why in his final few months as editor there would be an increased emphasis on climate change coverage.


Australia: Fire in Yallourn mine raises questions about safety of Latrobe Valley mines.

China: Under the Dome documentary on pollution blocked in China; remains available on YouTube.

Japan: Coal-laden Cambodian ship sinks in Sea of Japan; crew rescued.
Kenya: MPs object to government approval of Lamu coal plant before consulting residents.

NZ: Finance Minister doubts financial viability of government-owned coal company Solid Energy.

US: Wyoming legislature passes bill allowing US$1 billion bond issue for Pacific coal export ports.

“If weak [domestic coal] market conditions prevail in China, there is certainly potential for the government to enforce even tighter restrictions [on imported coal] ... including stricter trace element limits affecting phosphorus, chlorine and arsenic,”

stated industry analyst CRU in a report on the Chinese coal sector.

companies + markets

Two proposed US coal mines abandoned: Arch Coal, the second largest US coal producer, has withdrawn its bid for the 868 million-tonne West Jacobs Ranch coal lease in Wyoming. Arch Coal applied for the lease in 2006, which adjoins its existing Jacobs Ranch mine. However, in January it agreed to relinquish its lease. Arch Coal said the decision was due to the company’s assessment of its needs and its “prudent capital allocation strategy.” In Colorado, Rhino Resource Partners announced that – after having spent US$29 million – it was abandoning its proposed Red Cliff project due to the costs of completing an Environment Impact Statement and the “ongoing weakness in the coal markets.” (SNL, Daily Sentinel)

China coal imports to fall further in 2015: Wood Mackenzie, a consultancy known for its optimism on coal demand, is forecasting “negative growth into China for imports in 2015.” Customs data from China for February indicates that coal imports continue to fall, with a nine per cent decline from January. February imports were down 33 per cent on the same month in 2014. (Mining Weekly, Reuters)

Gloom engulfs Germany’s largest coal generator: In its 2014 annual report RWE AG, Germany’s largest power generator, bemoans that a majority of its coal and gas power plants are currently losing money due to wholesale power prices being forced lower by growing renewables. RWE’s Chief Executive Officer, Peter Terium, stated that the “crisis in conventional power generation continues” and is occurring faster and “too severely for us to counteract.” (Bloomberg, Bloomberg)
Doubts about Indian Ultra-Mega Projects: Doubts have been raised over whether the five 4000 MW ‘Ultra-Mega Power Projects’ announced in the budget will attract finance. “Whether the sector has financial capacity to invest in new capacity of such scale remains a question mark,” said Manish Agarwal from KPMG in India. An anonymous government official has indicated that the Ministry of Power will also seek to have existing power purchase agreements with private power generators renegotiated to lower prices. (Business Standard, Economic Times)

US coal plant retirements accelerate in 2015: The US Energy Information Administration estimates that 12,900 megawatts (MW) of coal plants will be retired in 2015, largely due to the implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency's Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. The EIA estimates that in 2015, 20,000 MW of utility-scale generating capacity will be added to the grid with 9800 MW of wind and 2200 MW of solar. The EIA estimates that coal production, domestic consumption and exports will all fall in 2015. (Energy Information Administration, Energy Information Administration)

Russia’s Mechel flounders in sea of debt: OAO Mechel, the third largest Russian coal company, is struggling to refinance its US$6.4 billion debt after the publicly-owned bank OAO VTB threatened to take legal action to bankrupt the company. “Mechel’s risks of bankruptcy outweigh its chances to survive at the moment,” said Sergey Donskoy, an analyst at Societe Generale SA. (Bloomberg)

resources                      take action

Climate change: time for the Energy Community to take action, CEE Bankwatch Network, March 2015. (Pdf)

This report reviews the energy polices of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia and Ukraine. It concludes that these countries could avoid the high environmental and carbon costs of new coal plants by embracing an energy strategy which emphasises increased efficiency and renewable energy.

The Business Case for Off-Grid Energy in India, The Climate Group & Goldman Sachs, February 2015. (Pdf)

This report provides a detailed review of the potential - and constraints - of off-grid renewable electricity in India as an alternative to a reliance on the extension of the grid to address energy poverty.

Petition against Kenya’s first coal plant

Lamu community members are calling on Governor Issa Timamy to support renewable energy instead of what would be the country’s first coal power station. The petition is here.

Please Sign the Bulga Declaration

After a Planning Assessment Commission report recommended that the tiny town of Bulga in the Hunter Valley be relocated to make way for the expansion of Rio Tinto’s Warkworth coal mine, thousands of people have signed the Bulga Declaration vowing to use “all peaceful means” to block the mine expansion. The declaration is here.

Human Chain at the Garzweiler mine, Germany

On April 25 a coalition of German environmental groups is organising a mass protest and human chain at the Garzweiler open-pit mine in North Rhine-Westphalia. After the human chain there will be a rally and concert. Details are here. The coalition has also launched a petition (in German) calling for a phase out of coal plants.

Suggested Tweet: April 25 human chain protest against Garzweiler #coal mine #Germany Rally & concert afterwards

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