Category Archives: Coal Mining

4/27/2011 Statement of Leta O'Daniel to Mr. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, OHCHR

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4/6/2011 Daily Times: San Juan Generating Station operator requests permit change

4/6/2011 Daily Times: San Juan Generating Station operator requests permit changes [11:10 a.m.] By Chuck Slothower Posted: 04/06/2012 11:09:15 AM MDT: FARMINGTON — The operator of San Juan Generating Station on Friday requested changes to the coal plant’s air permit to allow for the installation of new pollution controls demanded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Public Service Co. of New Mexico has been battling with the EPA over what kind of technology it should install to meet federal haze-reduction requirements.

“We are prepared to move forward on installing new environmental controls that will meet federal visibility requirements and further reduce the plant’s emissions,” PNM chief executive Pat Vincent-Collawn said in a prepared statement Friday. “Our strong preference is to do this in the most cost-effective way so that the cost to PNM customers and our state’s economy is kept as low as possible.”

PNM is pushing a state plan to install nonselective catalytic reduction technology. But the EPA has mandated selective catalytic reduction, a more expensive but much more effective technology.

The Albuquerque-based utility company says the state plan would cost about $77 million, while the EPA’s mandate would cost $750 million or more. The EPA counters that SCR would cost only $345 million.
Friday’s filing with the state Environment Department requests air permit changes that would allow for the installation of either technology.

The plant’s current permit level for nitrogen oxides is 0.30 pounds per MMBtu and would be lowered to either 0.23 pounds per mmBtu with the installation of SNCR or 0.05 pounds per MMBtu with the installation of SCR, the utility said.

Located west of Farmington in Waterflow, San Juan Generating Station produces 1,800 megawatts of electricity. The city of Farmington owns a portion of one of the plant’s four units.

On March 28, PNM and San Juan Mine operator BHP Billiton agreed to a $10 million settlement with the Sierra Club to take steps aimed at keeping coal waste out of nearby streams.

3/30/2012 Scientific American: Fossil Free: Microbe Helps Convert Solar Power to Liquid Fuel

Fossil Free: Microbe Helps Convert Solar Power to Liquid Fuel  By pairing biology and photovoltaics, a new “electrofuel” system could build alternative fuels  By David Biello  | March 30, 2012 |  A new “bioreactor” could store electricity as liquid fuel with the help of a genetically engineered microbe and copious carbon dioxide. The idea—dubbed “electrofuels” by a federal agency funding the research—could offer electricity storage that would have the energy density of fuels such as gasoline. If it works, the hybrid bioelectric system would also offer a more efficient way of turning sunlight to fuel than growing plants and converting them into biofuel.

“The method provides a way to store electrical energy in a form that can be readily used as a transportation fuel,” chemical engineer James Liao of the University of California, Los Angeles, explains. Liao and his colleagues report on their “integrated electro-microbial bioreactor” in Science on March 30.

To convert electricity into liquid fuel, Liao and his colleagues focused on Ralstonia eutropha, a soil microbe that can use hydrogen as an energy source to build CO2 into more microbial growth. Already, the microbe’s biological machinery is being harnessed for industrial purposes—for example, to churn out plastic instead of proteins. By tweaking the industrial microorganism’s genetics, the team now has coaxed it to churn out various butanols—a liquid fuel. “If one speaks with combustion engineers, then they will tell you that the simplest real fuel is butanol,” says chemist Andrew Bocarsly of Princeton University, who is not involved in the electrofuel project.

Liao’s bioreactor gets its electricity from a solar panel. The current flows into an electrode in the bioreactor, which is full of water, CO2 and R. eutropha. The electricity starts a chemical reaction that uses the CO2 to make formate—carbon dioxide with a hydrogen atom attached, which is an ion (electrically charged) that substitutes for insoluble hydrogen as an energy source for the microbe. The genetically engineered R. eutropha then consumes the formate, yielding butanols, plus more CO2 as a waste product—the latter of which is recycled back through the biochemical process.

R. eutropha doesn’t particularly like to be shocked, however, so Liao’s team built a “porous ceramic cup” to shield the microbe from the electrical current. Powered by its photovoltaic panel, the bioreactor produced 140 milligrams per liter of butanol fuel over 80 hours, although it then stopped working. “In principle, we can use the same approach to produce other kinds of fuels or chemicals,” Liao says.

The approach combines the appeal of energy-dense liquid fuels—packing 50-times or more the energy per kilogram of even the best batteries—with the potential to produce more fuel in a limited area than plants. Photosynthesis achieves the same thing, absorbing sunlight and storing its energy in the bonds of carbohydrate molecules—otherwise known as food and, nowadays, fuel. But photosynthesis is inefficient. For example, corn converted to ethanol captures less than 0.2 percent of the original energy in the sunlight as fuel. A photovoltaic cell can convert 15 percent of incoming photons into electricity, but such solar electricity is hard to store. Using solar power in an electrofuel bioreactor such as Liao’s could theoretically convert as much as 9 percent of the incoming sunlight into the final and storable fuel. “By combining a man-made device, which has a great potential for improvement, with biological CO2 fixation, we get the best of both worlds,” Liao argues, although that kind of efficiency has yet to be demonstrated. Even this demonstration process turns more sunlight into liquid fuel, however, than biofuels such as corn ethanol or even photosynthetic microbes genetically altered to make butanols. Plus, Liao adds, “it is possible to increase the productivity much higher, since Ralstonia is an industrial microorganism.”

 

4/3/2012 Blog posting by Wenona Benally Baldenegro: Senators Seek to Extinguish Navajo & Hopi Water Rights

Senators Seek to Extinguish Navajo & Hopi Water Rights by Wenona Benally Baldenegro, April 3, 2012 at 9:53pm. S.2109 and the “Settlement Agreement” require Navajo and Hopi to give Peabody Coal Mining Company and the Salt River Project and other owners of the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) tens of thousands of acre-feet of Navajo and Hopi water annually – without any compensation – and to force the extension of Peabody and NGS leases without Navajo and Hopi community input, or regard for past and continuing harmful impacts to public health, water supplies and water quality – as necessary pre-conditions to Navajo and Hopi receiving Congressional appropriations for minimal domestic water development. This is coercive and wrong

4/4/2012 National Geographic News Watch: Indigenous Peoples Can Show the Path to Low-Carbon Living If Their Land Rights Are Recognized

Indigenous Peoples Can Show the Path to Low-Carbon Living If Their Land Rights Are Recognized Posted by Stephen Leahy in Climate Change and Indigenous Peoples on April 4, 2012  Youba Sokona of Mali is co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III. Photo: Citt Williams, OurWorld2.0  Many indigenous peoples are living examples of societies thriving with sustainable, low-carbon lifestyles. Successfully meeting the global climate change challenge requires that much of the world shift from high carbon-living to low.  This shift is daunting. Current emissions for Australia and the United States average about 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide per person. In the coming decades that needs to fall to two tonnes per person as it is currently in Brazil or the Dominican Republic.  Emissions from most indigenous peoples are even lower and are amongst the lowest in the world.

All options for making the shift from high- to low-carbon living need to be explored and that’s why the United Nations University Traditional Knowledge Initiative (UNU) and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) invited indigenous peoples to a special three-day workshop in Cairns, Australia last week.

“Climate change is the result of our behaviour,” said Youba Sokona, co-chair of the IPCC Working Group III that will report to governments in 2014 on ways carbon emissions can be reduced.

The IPCC is the world authority on climate, assessing the state of knowledge on the issue every five to six years. Traditional knowledge of local and indigenous peoples have been left out until now.

“One of the critical solutions is to change our behavior, to change our production and consumption systems,” said Sokona, a climate expert from the African nation of Mali.

The Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous peoples workshop offered a number of “examples of local peoples in Siberia, in Australia, northern Canada and in some African countries demonstrating that it is possible to change our behavior,” he said.

Marilyn Wallace, a Kuku Nyungkal Aboriginal woman. Photo: Citt Williams, OneWorld 2.0 

“I live in a shack but I love being on my ‘bubu’, my traditional land,” said Marilyn Wallace of the Kuku Nyungka ‘mob’ (tribe) in northern Queensland, Australia.

Wallace has lived in towns but fought for years to “return to country” and live in her tropical forest homeland 60 kilometers from Cooktown.

At the workshop Wallace and every other indigenous delegate focused on land rights. The simple truth is that if they can’t live on and manage their lands with time-tested traditional methods, they can’t be part of the solution to climate change.

“It is clear that rights, equity and ownership of land are crucial issues for indigenous peoples,” agreed Sokona.

While Sokona thought the workshop went well he was surprised at the laser-like focus on land rights issues.

“The IPCC has to talk about rights and culture. You cannot separate it from climate change,” said Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, Executive Director, Tebtebba(Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education).

Vicky Tauli-Corpuz, Executive Director, Indigenous Peoples’ International Centre for Policy Research and Education and member of the indigenous Kankana-ey Igorot community in the Philippines. Photo: IISD

“The IPCC has been issuing major reports for 20 years now and things have only gotten worse. What does that say? It says it is not changing the way people behave or the systems that reinforce this,” said Tauli-Corpuz, a member of the indigenous Kankana-ey Igorot community in the Philippines.

Dealing with climate change means changing the current economic system that was created to dominate and extract resources from nature, she said.

“Modern education and knowledge is mainly about how to better dominate nature. It is never about how to live harmoniously with nature.”

“Living well is all about keeping good relations with Mother Earth and not living by domination or extraction.”

That kind of talk confused some participants looking for case studies, techniques and data on how to reduce carbon emissions. In the hallways one scientist complained that indigenous presentations lacked hard data and therefore nothing could be done with what they were presenting.

Even the physical workshop set up demonstrated the difference in worldviews. Held in the meeting rooms of a very nice Hilton Hotel, the speakers sat on a raised dais, looking down on participants sitting in rows classroom style. For many this echoed school systems that suppressed and continue to suppress traditional knowledge. When indigenous people discuss things everyone sits or stands in a circle. And people talk, especially elders, until they have said what they wish to convey no matter the time or schedule.

“The workshop was not structured to reflect the indigenous peoples’ way of sharing their knowledge,” said Tero Mustonen, Head of the Village of Selkie in North Karelia, Finland.

“If this is supposed to be an intercultural change, it did not work very well,” said Mustonen, who has a doctorate and has written scientific papers.

The IPCC’s structure is rigid, with an emphasis on technical information, he said. “Indigenous peoples’ worldview and traditional knowledge can’t be conveyed by numbers and charts.”

However, if the oral history of traditional people can be recognized as valid as science that would be a major breakthrough, said Mustonen.

“No one has all the answers,” said Jean Pierre Laurent, Ethnobotanist at TRAMIL (Traditional Medicines of the Islands) in the Caribbean nation of St Lucia.

Translating traditional knowledge into academic language is possible. “My role in St Lucia has been to bridge science and traditional knowledge,” said Laurent, who was raised on a farm there.

This UNU-sponsored workshop sends an important message to indigenous people to hold on to their traditional knowledge, he said.

And one indigenous person has a climate change message for those who are most responsible.

“Are the Europeans (industrialized nations) delivering climate mitigation from their heart? Are they ready to do that?” Wallace, an Aboriginal woman, asked.

“It was a hard journey for us to get back on our land. Now we say: “come and learn from us.”

12/21/2011 Sierra Club Applauds President Obama for Landmark Mercury Protection

Sierra Club Applauds President Obama for Landmark Mercury Protection – Measure will protect families, women and children from toxic brain poison: Washington, D.C. — Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rolled out landmark nationwide protections for toxic mercury from dirty power plants. Mercury is a dangerous brain poison that taints the fish we eat and poses a particular threat to prenatal babies and young children. Exposure in the bloodstreams of pregnant and nursing women can result in birth defects such as learning disabilities, lowered IQ, deafness, blindness and cerebral palsy. Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of mercury pollution in the United States, pumping more than 33 tons of this dangerous toxin into our air and water each year.

The new protection, which replaces a weak, court-rejected standard from the Bush Administration, will slash mercury pollution from power plants by more than 90 percent and improve air quality for millions of Americans.

In response, Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club, issued the following statement:

“Today’s announcement from President Obama and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson marks a milestone for parents and families across the country. It means that, after decades of delay, we now have strong nationwide protections against toxic mercury, and most of all, it means peace of mind for the parents of more than 300,000 American babies born every year that have been exposed to dangerous levels of mercury.

“The Sierra Club applauds the President and his Administration for their courage and resolve in protecting American families – particularly women and children – from this dangerous toxin and for standing up to polluters’ attempts to weaken this life-saving protection.

“More than 800,000 public comments – a record – were filed in support of the protection, and we are pleased that the President heard the concerns of the American people.”

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For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org/mercury.

For mercury B-roll footage, click here.

Great news! Please spread the word.

1. National Sierra Club statement below — English — http://sc.org/suqS23

2. National Sierra Club statement — Spanish — http://sc.org/rFj4A1

3. State by state benefits of the mercury protection (click on your state) —  http://www.epa.gov/mats/

4. Blog post from Mary Anne Hitt. Please retweet and share.  http://sc.org/tUSt7L
5. Email thank you take action to President Obama — English — http://sc.org/udH6gO

6. Email thank you take action to President Obama — Spanish — http://sc.org/s1vbfJ

Oliver Bernstein, National Communications Strategist

Sierra Club
Phone: 512.477.2152 x102
Cell:  512.289.8618

12/21/2011 Washington Post: Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts?

Will the EPA’s mercury rule cause a wave of blackouts? No.Posted by  at 08:45 AM ET, 12/21/2011: Later this afternoon, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson is expected to roll out the agency’s new regulations on mercury and toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants. That raises some questions: Just how many plants will end up getting shuttered as a result of all of the EPA’s new air-pollution rules? And how much of a pain will this be?The main plant facility at the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Ariz., which could be at risk of closure. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

It’s a hotly debated topic these days, with industry groups (and plenty of Republicans)predicting possible blackouts and economic havoc, while environmentalists have mostly been rolling their eyes. So, to help settle this debate, the AP’s Dina Cappiello recently surveyed 55 power-plant operators across the country. She found that as many as 68 coal-fired plants — up to 8 percent of the nation’s coal generation capacity — will shut down in the years ahead. (The Edison Electric Institute has estimated that up to 14 percent of coal capacity could be retired by 2022.) That’s no easy task. But, from the available evidence, it also won’t likely prove apocalyptic.

Cappiello’s survey found that the coal plants set to be mothballed are mostly ancient — the average age was 51 — and largely run without modern-day pollution controls, as many of them were grandfathered in under the Clean Air Act. What’s more, many of these plants were slated for retirement in the coming years regardless of what the EPA did, thanks to state air-quality rules, rising coal prices, and the influx of cheap natural gas. “In the AP’s survey,” she writes, “not a single plant operator said the EPA rules were solely to blame for a closure, although some said it left them with no other choice.”

Crucially, none of the operators contacted by the AP seemed to think that huge swaths of America were on the verge of losing power, as Jon Huntsman claimed. An official from the North American Reliability Corporation put it this way: “We know there will be some challenges. But we don’t think the lights are going to turn off because of this issue.” This jibes with an Edison Electric Institute study, as well as a Department of Energy study(which focused on worst-case scenarios), a study from M.J. Bradley & Associates, and the EPA’s own modeling (PDF). Utilities will manage to keep the power running, in part by switching to natural gas, as plenty of gas plants currently operate well below capacity.

At this point, there’s good reason to think that utilities can retire their oldest and dirtiest plants without crushing disruptions. It won’t be simple or cost-free — the EPA estimatesthat the mercury and air toxics rule alone will cost utilities at least $11 billion by 2016 to install scrubbers on their coal plants, and those costs will likely get passed on to households. On the flip side, the reduction in mercury is expected to prevent some 17,000 premature deaths per year and provide an estimated $59 billion to $140 billion in health benefits in 2016.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/will-the-epas-mercury-rule-cause-a-wave-of-blackouts-no/2011/12/20/gIQALEu88O_blog.html

Mike Eisenfeld

New Mexico Energy Coordinator

San Juan Citizens Alliance

108 North Behrend, Suite I

Farmington, New Mexico 87401

office 505 325-6724

cell 505 360-8994

meisenfeld@frontier.net

12/8/2011 Associated Press: EPA head says ruling on Ariz. coal plant complex

12/8/2011 Associated Press: EPA head says ruling on Ariz. coal plant complex By FELICIA FONSECA: FLAGSTAFF, Ariz.—The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency expects to make a decision on whether to mandate pollution controls for a coal-fired power plant on the Navajo reservation next spring.But with so many competing interests, regional administrator Jared Blumenfeld in the EPA’s San Francisco office admits the agency won’t satisfy them all, and the differences likely will have to be ironed out in court. “To say it’s complex would be an understatement,” he told The Associated Press in an interview Thursday.

The Navajo Generating Station near Page ensures water and power demands are met in major metropolitan areas and contributes significantly to the economies of the Navajo and Hopi tribes. Conservationists see it as a health and environmental hazard.

Blumenfeld said the EPA ultimately must decide what technology would best protect the air around the Grand Canyon and other pristine areas as part of its regional haze rule. Whether that means low nitrogen oxide burners already installed at the plant, more expensive scrubbers or something else won’t be disclosed until next year. The plant’s owners would have five years to comply once a final rule is issued.

“It is likely we will be scrutinized, so we are sticklers for following the rules,” he said.

The Navajo Generating Station is just one of three coal-fired power plants in the region that directly or indirectly affects the Navajo Nation. The EPA already has proposed pollution controls for the Four Corners Power Plant and the San Juan Generating Station in northwestern New Mexico, which are in clear view of one another. The latter is overseen by another EPA region.

The Department of Interior is conducting a study with a draft due out this month on the 2,250-megawatt Navajo Generating Station that will show just how vast the interests are in the plant that began producing electricity in 1974. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is the majority owner of the plant. It is run by the Salt River Project and fed by coal from Peabody Energy’s Kayenta Mine.

The regional haze rule allows the EPA to look at factors other than air quality and cost effectiveness in determining regulations for power plants. Navajo Generating Station provides energy to deliver water from the Colorado River to Tucson and Phoenix through a series of canals and fulfills water rights settlements reached with American Indian tribes.

Blumenfeld said the agency needs specific information on what tribes, like the Gila River Indian Community, would expect to pay for water if that power no longer was available, or the figures from the Navajo and Hopi tribes on revenue losses should the power plant cease operation. SRP has said it could be forced to shutter the plant if it doesn’t secure lease agreements or it cannot afford more the expensive pollution controls.

“Until we have the detailed information about what those impacts are, we can’t do very much with that,” Blumenfeld said.

His office also has been criticized by some Republican members of Congress for what they say are unnecessary regulations that are hurting local economies. Blumenfeld said while critics believe states can take over the EPA’s duties, his agency ensures consistency across the board.

“Ultimately it’s an example of common-sense standards of helping the American public have a healthy life,” he said. “We recognize that we also need energy, but I think they are not in conflict.”

Andy Bessler

Southwest Organizing Representative
Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal to Clean Energy & Community Partnerships
www.sierraclub.org/ej/partnerships/tribal
www.sierraclub.org/coal
andy.bessler@sierrraclub.org
P.O. Box 38 Flagstaff, AZ 86002
928-774-6103 voice
928-774-6138 fax
928-380-7808 cell

11/17/2011 Mining and American Indians Still Don’t Mix

11/17/2011 Indian Country Today: Mining and American Indians Still Don’t Mix by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva The Native American community has a long, troubled history with mining interests, and today that history is catching up with us in Arizona. From a new push for uranium mining at the Grand Canyon to the ongoing battle over Resolution Copper, it’s not too much to say my home state tribes are under siege.

Many of us remember the decades of cancer deaths and cover-ups the Navajo Nation endured during the Cold War uranium boom. The risks today are different, but the story is the same: big mining interests want to cash in on minerals under some ground they don’t own, and the rest of us are going to pay the price.

Let’s start at the beginning. Resolution Copper has proposed to exchange 4,500 acres of land in northern Arizona for the 3,000 federally owned acres it wants to mine. The land the company wants includes not only Oak Flat Campground, a protected site since 1955, but the nearby Apache Leap area sacred to the San Carlos Apache Tribe.

Once you take a good look, it’s not even a good deal on paper. Current mining law says the public would receive no royalties on the estimated 1.6 billion tons of copper the company would extract and sell. Worse, Resolution Copper is jointly owned by troubled mining giants BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto. Both have long been accused of undermining native rights around the world to increase their profit margin. The latter, based in Australia and London, has faced a decade’s worth of especially credible allegations of human rights abuses. Neither cares about the local economy or has shown an interest in Indian sovereignty.

Rio Tinto’s role is especially disturbing. The company faces major potential sanctions in Sarei v. Rio Tinto, a case pending before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that focuses on its alleged abuses in Papua New Guinea. (The Australian news program Dateline in June aired credible allegations of the company’s role in a violent separatist movement in the province of Bougainville.) A company with such a dark history shouldn’t be trusted with the sensitive land Resolution Copper is seeking.

Resolution’s parent companies send their profits overseas and market their product to the highest bidder. This isn’t about providing copper for American industry—it’s about cashing in on public resources and leaving the rest of us to clean up the mess. Native communities don’t need a long memory to know what that means.

Then there’s the Grand Canyon. There are about 1.1 million acres of public forest land surrounding the canyon currently subject to a moratorium on new mining claims set by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. Salazar said in June he would recommend withdrawing the land from new claims for 20 years by the end of 2011. This recommendation comes after two years of study by Interior Department land conservation and natural resource experts.

No one seems to want new mining up there. The withdrawal is supported by local tribes. It’s also supported by Coconino County, which includes the canyon, and just about everyone else. But the new Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011 asks Congress to block the withdrawal. If it becomes law, mining prospects could open as soon as companies are ready, regardless of the ancestral Havasupai territory that would likely be affected. The likeliest company to file new claims is Canada-based Denison Mines Corp., in which South Korea’s largest energy producer owns a twenty percent stake.

The lawmakers responsible for this assault – Sen. John McCain and Reps. Paul Gosar, Jeff Flake, David Schweikert, Trent Franks and Ben Quayle of Arizona and Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch and Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah, all Republicans – have wanted to open this land all along, and are now cynically selling their plan as an economic stimulus. In reality, it’s all about profits for a handful of uranium mining companies that don’t hire local labor, don’t keep their profits in the state (or in some cases the country) and don’t sell their product domestically.

The Havasupai, Hualapai, Kaibab-Paiute, Navajo, and Hopi have banned uranium mining on their land, for good reason. But we need to go further, which is why I introduced the RESPECT Act in this Congress to ensure that we require nation-to-nation consultation and signoff prior to any land trade impacting Native American nations or filing a bill in Congress to process those trades. Tribes should be an integral part of the decision-making process whenever federal activities could affect tribal life, and this bill makes that happen.

It’s unfortunate that mining has become such a controversial part of our economy and our community. I’m hardly opposed to mining on principle – I recognize the need for mineral goods in our economy. But they shouldn’t come at the expense of Native American rights, worker safety or the law.

Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva has represented Arizona’s Seventh Congressional District since 2002. He co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus and is the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Before his election to Congress, he served on Arizona’s Pima County Board of Supervisors and led the effort to create the landmark Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan.

Read more:http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/ict_sbc/mining-and-american-indians-still-dont-mix http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/ict_sbc/mining-and-american-indians-still-dont-mix#ixzz1eAV4uadHhttp://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/ict_sbc/mining-and-american-indians-still-dont-mix

Posted in: cancer, Climate Change, coal mining, environmental justice, fragile ecosystem, government accountability, Grand Canyon, Nuclear power, radioactive waste, uranium miningTagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11/15/2011 The Guardian: Coal's dirty secret: it's dying

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11/15/2011 The Guardian: Coal’s dirty secret: it’s dying: Protecting uneconomic jobs in a dying industry – coal mining in the UK – is not acceptable. But neither is abandoning workers to the dole, which is where green energy comes in. I spent half my childhood in Fife, surrounded by villages where abandoned coal mines has left nothing behind but unemployment. Walking to school, I remember seeing houses with all the windows smashed in and “scab” daubed in giant letters across the walls. The destruction of an industry is a terrible and traumatic event.

But the call from a right-wing think tank to exempt the UK coal industry from taxes on carbon could not be more wrong-headed. It is mounting a Canute-like stand against the tide, rather than swimming with it.

Carbon emissions have to be curbed to prevent climate chaos and in the UK this is legally binding. For the 6,000 coal workers in the UK, the solution is not to subsidise their jobs in a hopeless attempt to compete with Poland, China and elsewhere. The answer is to re-skill them for the industries of the future: clean, sustainable energy.

Tony Lodge, author of the Centre for Policy Studies report out next month, argues:

This collapse in the market for coal could come as new cleaner coal power stations are possibly under construction by the mid-2020s – or in sight of opening – but by the time they are commissioned the UK coal industry would have effectively ceased to exist.

UK mining still looks after a third of our coal demand, supplying 18.4m tonnes last year, and this is expected to hit 19m tonnes this year. This collapse would lead to Britain needing to import all of its coal demand … It would also lead to the loss of up to 6,000 coal sector jobs.

But the future of “clean” coal in the UK is far from clear. The proposal to build a carbon capture and storage demonstration plant at the coal-fired power station at Longannet has collapsed, due to cost. The smart money now appears to be on CCS partly cleaning up gas, not coal and not anytime soon.

Lodge’s second point – UK coal demand – is also moot. There are no respectable future energy scenarios in which coal use rises – none – and in any case British coal burns dirtier than most imports.

We should also look at where special pleading leads us: to failure. The “past masters” of special pleading are the energy intensive industries – think steel, cement, paper. They lobbied intensely to weaken the European Union’s emission’s trading scheme, and succeeded. As a result they are now reaping billions of Euros in windfalls, but has that protected jobs? No, Tata Steel, which is sucking almost €400m out of the ETS, announced it was sacking 1,500 workers in May.

There’s an unpleasant irony in the Centre for Policy Studies trying to save the UK coal industry: the think tank was founded by Margaret Thatcher who so unflinchingly destroyed its core in the 1980s. Today, protecting uneconomic jobs in a dying industry – coal mining in the UK – is not acceptable, but neither is abandoning those workers to the dole. But the clean, sustainable energy industry is growing in the UK and will need new, skilled staff.

The Chancellor George Osborne put £100m into Scottish renewable energy on 11 November. This was the first glimmer of hope for the green economy since Osborne did his best to trash it in his cynical party conference speech in October.

If the government truly commits to the green economy – in word and deed – then the Green investment bank will be allowed to borrow and drive investment, the Green deal will be allowed to meet the vast need for better energy efficiency and electricity market reform will do more than support nuclear power. And if that happens, there will be many more than 6,000 new jobs in sustainable, growing industries.

Posted in: Climate Change, coal mining, environmental justice, fragile ecosystem, government accountabilityTagged: , , , , , , , , , , ,