Posts Tagged ‘mtr’

Wondering how to raise $50k for Energy Justice Network

October 3, 2009

Illustration by Linda Zacks from Orion Magazine for Ted Nace’s article on Energy Justice Network, “Stopping Coal in It’s Tracks.”

Can you spare $10? (Or more, if you have it…)

I’m trying to figure out how to provide financial support to Energy Justice Network. Thjs shoe-string operation hosts the No New Coal Plants list which is so helpful to us here in Appalachia (plus lists and fact sheets on biomass, natural gas, ethanol, nuclear energy, incinerators and more). It also provides organizing help to a myriad of local activists fighting polluting energy industries.

The goal is $50,000. All deduction are tax deductible. Online, you can charge a donation Action Center, Inc., Energy Justice Network’s 501 (c)(3) umbrella. The link is: There, you’ll be able to donate once or sign up for a recurring monthly donation. Willing to tweet about donating or post a request to your facebook or myspace feed? The short link is:

It’s a good investment. I’ll quote from the funding request Mike I sent out earlier this year:

Since 2001, Energy Justice Network has provided activists with web pages and fact sheets on the hazards posed by a variety of energy and waste technologies. We’ve linked the most-threatened communities with the resources and energy of students and with the wisdom of hundreds of hard-to-find grassroots leaders with whom we furiously network. Rather than take the NIMBY approach (Not In My Backyard), we always fight for NIABY: Not In Anybody’s Backyard. We’ve done more with less money, and based our assessments on the grassroots realities so many of us face, not a compromised sense of what will make it easy to get foundation funding or earn us the admiration of industry collaborators.

If you’d rather write a check, make it out to Action Center Inc.and mail it to:

1434 Elbridge St
Philadelphia PA 19149

I’ve already chipped in and hope you’ll join me. If all of us donate and ask our friends to join us, we can continue to build this resource for our fight against polluters and their suporters. Remember, “Not in ANYbody’s backyard!”


Benefit Contra and More 11/8: Toss the Possum and Shawn Brenneman

September 9, 2009

Yes! Save the Date of November 8 from 7 to 10 p.m. for a benefit raise money for Montain Justice Blacksburg, Concerned Citizens of Giles County and Energy Justice Network.

The contra dance band extraordinaire, Toss the Possum (check out their new logo above, and Blacksburg’s equally gifted caller (musican and contra dancer) Shawn Brenneman have graciously volunteered to show us a wonderful time

So come on down on at 7 p.m. Sunday, November 8 to the the YMCA’s dance floor at 1000 North Main in Blacksburg, Virginia, marked “B” on the map. (“A” is the Lyric Theater, where Coal Country is showing tomorrow night at 7 – 9:30.)

You can charge a ticket by donating $10 or more here (just save a receipt to show at the door. ) Action Center Inc. is our non-profit umbrella, so your donations are tax deductible. Just write “November 8 contra dance” on the designation line. And if you can’t come, you can still donate and be a sponsor. And please help us spread the word. We’d like to get at least 100 dancers. If you pre-register, we won’t be sweating it.

So come on out. And if you’ve never contra danced, don’t worry. We’ll show you how. You’re allowed to completely mess up for your first year of dancing. After that, you may mess up, if you smile while you do it. We LOVE new dancers. And if you refuse to dance, the music will be worth listening to, I promise you.

Now Verizon says it’s not boycotting Beck

September 5, 2009

Well, the Verizon saga continues. We know Verizon Wireless hears us now, as you can see above from a visit to my blog this morning. But Corporate Strategy and Policy chief Jim Gerace’s (email, 908-559-7508) says says bloggers got the Glenn Beck story wrong. In his interview w. Steven Mufson for today’s WaPo story, “Verizon Wireless Criticized by Green Groups for Backing Event,” he says,

We never pulled ads….We had a commitment to Fox for a number of ads. They placed them. We satisfied that commitment, and the last time any ad of ours ran in that time slot was Aug. 11 — about a week before bloggers attacked.

He also is staying put on Verizon’s sponsorship of the pro-mtr Rally for America.

Nobody knows what pullout means. All the damage is done. All the publicity for the event went out with our name on it . . . There’s nothing else to do….we also can’t allow the blogosphere to run our business.

He appears to be following the advice in the SF Advertizing Age’s September 2 article, “Verizon Catches Flak for Backing Rally Put on by Coal Producer: Local Sponsorship Undermines National Effort by Marketer to Establish Green Bona Fides,” In it, author Rita Chang (email) interviewed Marc Hausman, president-CEO of Strategic Communications Group (who also blogged on being contacted for the story.) while Hauser says that

Any level of participation in an event as a sponsor, supporter or even attendee lends the credibility of your corporate brand to that event or cause

and that he advises clients to steer clear of emotional, hot-button issues, he says that in the current case,

They’ve already taken the knocks; if they pull back now, they risk making the other side unhappy.

Verizon thought it was a great idea to invest $1,000 in the rally and get to table at the anti-mtr Rally for America. I wonder if the notice the support garnered has given the company any second thoughts? Chang also wrote,

Verizon Wireless, which has been trying to establish its green credentials nationally, is finding itself in hot water with environmentalists blasting it for local sponsorship of a rally organized by a coal producer….

Massey Energy, which last year agreed to pay a $20 million settlement to resolve Clean Water Act violations at coal mines in West Virginia and Kentucky. The Environmental Protection Agency said in a release on its website dated Jan. 17, 2008, that the settlement was the largest civil penalty in its history levied against a company for wastewater-discharge-permit violations.

In the WaPo, Mufson explained that

Verizon executives also said they are reluctant to tell legions of local managers that they lack the authority to take initiatives. Verizon says that the West Virginia sales team saw this as a music event and marketing opportunity; after all, the throngs that show up Monday won’t come because of the Waxman-Markey bill or speakers such as Lord Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley, who served as an adviser to former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and asserts that human activity is not causing climate change.

Of course Verizon Wireless in WV is not the only local office siding w. the climate change deniers. Back in August Greenpeace released a copy of an email from the American Petroleum Institute (API) about its series of “Energy Citizen” during Congress’s August recess.

The objective of these rallies is to put a human face on the impacts of unsound energy policy…. At the rallies, we will focus our message on…the adverse impacts of unsound energy policy (e.g., Waxman-Markey-like legislation, tax increases, and access limitations) on jobs and on consumers’ energy costs.

For the first soiree in Houston, TX, Anadark Petroleum Corporation ponied up four buses for a start (with more, if there was a waiting list, and let its employees start loading at loading at 10:15 a.m. for 11:30 company picnic (er, rally) complete with free hot dogs and sodas at the venue.

And guess where the venue for that first rally was on August 10? Yup, you’re right if you guessed Verizon Wireless Center. (hat tip to Kevin Grandia of the DeSmogBlog.) But seriously, Kevin, I’m wondering if that was at the actual company center or at the Amphitheater for which Verizon purchased naming privileges.

Can you hear us yet?

September 4, 2009

Banner from Verizon Wireless’s Verizon Wireless’ Green Initiatives

Well, it’s almost Labor Day Weekend, and no word from Verizon Wireless about its sponsorship of the Friends of America rally. See my August 31 post, “Can you hear us now? Verizon Wireless sponsors climate denial rally.”

So imagine my merriment, when I read on the company’s website how

Verizon Wireless works every day to protect our environment and give our customers opportunities to do the same.

Verizon even headlines one section on paperless billing

Save Trees When Accessing Account Information

There’s some kind of disconnect here. Does Lowell McAdam or his guy in charge of Corporate Strategy and Policy, Jim Gerace (email, 908-559-7508), realize that mountaintop removal operations don’t even take the time to harvest the timber, calling it and topsoil (and the mountain blasted to rubble) overburden–material which lies above the thin seams of coal which have caught their economic interest.

When I was writing August 31, In that post, I asked David Pogue to have his readers join in writing Verizon to complain. Dan wrote back,

thanks for the heads-up! Nicely done!

I sure wish he had joined us in getting the word out. The last time he wrote about Verizon Wireless’s shortcomings, he drew a letter to his publisher from Mr. McAdam, himself.

Instead we’re being dissed as a local issue. I say this because while Verizon backed down from its support of Glen Beck, in response to a campaign by Color of Change, the company was not as reponsive to questions regarding the rally by Ken Ward of the Charleston Gazette. He writes:

I asked Verizon officials for a response to all of this, and after being kicked around from office to office for a bit, I landed on the phone with Laura Merritt, a Verizon Wireless spokeswoman whose region includes West Virginia. Her response?

Basically, this was a decision at the local level to support the community. It did not involve the company’s political positions at all.

In this particular situation, we are supporting the event because it’s a local event. It wasn’t an effort to take a position on any particular issue.

Another Verizon Wireless spokesperson, Jim Gerace, went a little farther. He said his company simply paid $1,000 for the right to be able to sell its products at the rally:

It’s nothing more than that … and the groups who are trying to make it more than that are misguided. I’m definitely bothered that people are trying to put us in the middle of an argument.

I almost raised the point about Beck in the August 31 post, but ran out of time. As my regular readers know, I write this blog from the library and that imposes a deadline. But, now I won’t have to spell it out, thanks to the latest post by Jeff Biggers, “Verizon Wireless Dumped Glenn Beck: Will It Dump Bizarre Big Coal Sponsorship?

So, if Verizon Wireless still wants to back the rally, maybe it would like to replace its banner with this photoshop illustration by wag “One Citizen” of Charleston WV, which accompanied his or her post, “Verison Wireless To Unveil New Sport Featuring Its New Anti-Environmental Stance.”

Meanwhile the opposition grows. The Center for Biological Diversity sent out a news release dated September 1, on how it had launched a campaign asking folks to write letters threatening a boycott of Verizon for its support of mountaintop removal. Today it came out with a letter from an additional 33 environmental groups:

  1. Broadened Horizons Organic Teaching Farm
  2. Caney Fork Headwaters Association
  3. Chesapeake Climate Action Network
  4. Christians Caring for Creation
  5. Coal River Mountain Watch
  6. Cumberland Countians for Peace and Justice
  7. Defenders of Wildlife
  8. Ecumenical Ecojustice Network
  9. Endangered Habitats League
  10. Environmental Protection Information Center
  11. Florida League of Conservation Voters
  12. Floridians Against Incinerators In Disguise
  13. Friends Committee on National Legislation
  14. Friends of the Earth
  15. Friends of the Northern San Jacinto Valley
  16. Global Exchange
  17. Grand Canyon Wildlands Council
  18. Great Old Broads for Wilderness
  19. Greenpeace USA
  20. HOPE (Help Our Polluted Environment) in Taylor County, FL
  21. Kentucky Heartwood
  22. Kids to the Country
  23. Mid South Mediation Services
  24. Natural Resources Defense Council
  25. Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility
  26. New Sustainability Project
  27. Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
  28. Public Resource Associates
  29. Rainforest Action Network
  30. Responsible Endowments Coalition
  31. San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society
  32. Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards
  33. Tennessee Environmental Council

The website adds these 11 groups who approved the letter after the 4 p.m. deadline:

  1. Allegheny Defense Project
  2. Appalachian Voices
  3. Bull Mountain Land Alliance
  4. California Chaparral Institute
  5. Clinch Coalition
  6. Energy Justice Network
  7. Highlands Nature Sanctuary
  8. Native Forest Council
  9. Rainforest Relief
  10. SustainUS: US Youth for Sustainable Development
  11. Tennessee Forests Council

Environmental Action has lauched a campaign September 2, “Tell Verizon to Dump Big Coal.”

Scott Parking of Rainforest Action Network announced a campaign on September 2 and updates us on Verizon’s response to the CREDO campaign against Verizon’s participation in the rally in his post at It’s Getting Hot in Here: Verizon Wireless: Open Mouth, Insert Mountain. (Of course I’d recommend any of the non-profit campaigns over CREDO, which can be accused of having a tiny conflict of interest in this particular case.

But I’d suggest a direct email or phone call, rather than signing a petition if you have time. You can go to any of the campaigns above and find suggested talking points. And go to my August 31 post for the contact information.

So, ” reach out and touch someone” as AT&T likes to say. After all, Verizon is one of the products of the ATT&T breakup. So Verizon Wireless, can you hear us yet?

Take this job and shove it: former TMK security guards at Edwight treesit

September 2, 2009

Massey CEO Don Blankenship had told the AP that

The coal won’t spoil for a million years. I doubt the tree climbers will be there then.

Apparently Blankenship tells the AP one thing and TMK something else? Tonight, I got an email from Charles Suggs at Climate Ground Zero. He sent a link to a video of the almost hour-long interview (10 minute youtube version is here) with Chris Carey and Patrick Curry, two private security guards who say they walked off the job because of how they were ordered to harass Nick Stocks and Laura Steepleton.

Stocks and Steepleton are the Climate Ground Zero tree sitters at Massey’s proposed Edwight mountain demolition site. August 31, they descended from their platforms in two eighty foot poplar trees, after preventing blasting over the community of Pettry Bottom since the prior Tuesday.

Charles writes,

So here’s something out of the blue… Monday night I got a call from a fellow who worked a security shift at the base of the tree sit for Massey. He worked for the private security firm, TMK, that Massey hired to deprive the sitters of sleep and what not. Anyway, he walked off the job because of how they were ordered to treat the sitters and called me spillin the beans. Several others also walked off. Later that night, we got someone with a camera down to his house two hours away and recorded an hour-long interview with him and a friend of his who also walked off. They’re now also in touch with our lawyers.

Steepleton and Stocks had climbed the trees within 300 feet of blasting and 30 feet of the Massey Energy Edwight Surface Mine and hung two banners “Stop Mountain Top Removal” and “DEP – Don’t Expect Protection.” Mining Safety and Health Administration regulations require that non-blasting employees all be cleared from the area before blasting can take place. You can listen to an interview of Steepleton and Stocks by Bobby Nelson on Tri-State-talk, airing on Huntington station WRVC, one of the oldest radio stations licensed in WV. (Hat tip to Heath Harrison at West Virginia Blue.)

Charles said in a news release that date about the two:

For the past five days, they endured psychological torture, verbal assault and threats. Anonymous eyewitnesses said the Massey-hired security guards were telling the treesitters they were going to rape and kill the treesitters. On Sunday night, the guards put a running chainsaw to both trees, cutting them a little bit. The guards told Steepleton today that they oday that they were going to get them out of the tree no matter what because Massey ordered them to.

Stocks descended first and at that point, according to Suggs, WV native and activist Bo Webb had talked to State Police Sgt. about standing at the base of Steepleton’s tree to protect her from the guards, but Smith said he’d have to arrest Webb if Webb went up to the sit.

I told him he’s arresting the wrong people.

Judy Bonds sent us a copy of the letter to the editors she had sent the Charleston Gazette. (UPDATE: published on September 3):

Tree-sitters Nick and Laura are my heroes. These brave youngsters tried to protect the people living – or rather, dying – below a strip mine site. Tree-sitters are protecting all people living below these war zone sites. The coal companies are the ones who should be arrested for terrorizing, blasting and poisoning people. The sitters must deal with difficult living conditions sitting 80 feet high in trees. This requires courage and skill. The workers and security guards on the Edwight site behaved like thugs in rolling and kicking rocks down the hillside, blaring air horns and brandishing a chainsaw. This 24-hour sleep deprivation tactic made the situation more dangerous. The close-by community residents can hear and see their thug-like tactics. Gov. Manchin has been asked several times to stop the violence before a serious or fatal incident happens. Massey Energy’s anti-American hate fest will only incite more violence and make things worse as the governor’s inaction is an indication of his approval.

TMK Security of Delbarton, WV (photo below of its offices from its site shown above) boasts

TMK Security offers a wide variety of services to fit your companies needs and budget. From armed officers to plain clothed officers mobile or stationary TMK has the solution for you. Contact us and we will be happy to discuss your needs…TMK Security Officers are a cut above the rest. All TMK officers are drug screened and have a full criminal background check completed before their first day of employment, so you as a customer can have peace of mind your property is secured by the highest quality of officer.

The firm (B) is two-and-a-half hours southwest of Pettry Bottom (A), site of the Edwight mine according to Google’s driving directions:

If Blankenship is talking out of both sides of his mouth, it won’t be the first time. Remember how he called his PAC, “For the Sake of the Kids.” What a name for someone with a slurry impoundment sitting above Marsh Fork elementary school.

Can you hear us now? Verizon Wireless sponsors climate denial rally

August 31, 2009

Photo of Ted Nugent from Rolling Stone story, “Ted Nugent Threatens to Kill Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton During Vicious Onstage Rant.


New York Times columnist David Pogue drew the attention of Verizon Wireless CEO when he wrote about the cell phone industry. In his latest efforts as journalist and gadfly, he’s conducting a “Take Back the Beep” campaign to get the companies to stop making money off of customers with their long instruction messages for voice mail. In summing up his success, he wrote,

Next up: war, disease and global warming.

I’m going to take him up on that and invite him let his readers know that folks are writing Lowell McAdam, President and CEO of Verizon Wireless, asking that he issue a public apology and withdraw support from the Friends of America Rally, a pro-coal extravaganza to promote climate change denial and mountaintop removal mining. Put on by the Friends of Coal, it even has a YouTube invitation by Massey’s CEO Don Blankenship (Friends of Coal is an astroturf group for the West Virginia Coal Association.).

Hello I’m Don Blankenship and I’d like to invite you to a Labor Day rally in West Virginia. We’re going to have Hank Williams and have a good time but we’re also going to learn how environmental extremists and corporate America are both trying to destroy your jobs.

You can read about the rally, as detailed by Ken Ward in the Charleston Gazette. (UPDATE: 9/1/09, he writes about Verizon here.) There has been coverage by Peter Rothberg in The Nation, following up on a post by Jeff Biggers at HuffPo. Speakers include prominent global warming denier Lord Christopher Monckton and conservative pundit Sean Hannity, with Ted Nugent and others (including a WV State Policemproviding the music. Ted Nugent is a real charmer, having ranted, while waving a machine gun around:

Obama, he’s a piece of sh_t. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary, You might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless b_tch”

Verizon may call its co-sponsorship of the rally advertising, not a political statement, but Pogue;s colleague at the NYT, Adam Liptak, reported how Verizon Wireless, unlike other carriers, decided to block NARAL Pro-Choice America’s text messages from its network.

So if you want to write McAdam, his email is Lowell McAdam’s email is:

And as Jeff suggests, why not write the head of Verizon, too. Dennis Strigl is President and Chief Operating Officer of Verizon Communications. His email is:

If you like snail mail or the phone, Verizon HQ is:

1 Verizon Way
Basking Ridge, NJ 07920-1097
(908) 559-7000‎

Ten years ago, Julia Fox of University of Oregon and later Marshall University published a journal article called “Mountaintop Removal in West Virginia: An Environmental Sacrifice Zone.” It later became the second chapter of 2005 edition of the book Environmental Sociology. In the abstract she says:

Although the coal industry is regulated by the state and national governments, the regulators, it is argued, have been captured by Big Coal. The result is one of the most egregious and little-known instances of environmental degradation taking place in the United States today.

Well, things haven’t gotten any better and Verizon shouldn’t be casting its lot with the ravagers.

So, Mr. McAdam, can you hear us now?

Green Delaware, Del. Electric Coop & Coal (& Mr. Boucher, Oh, My)

August 14, 2009

Carol Overland (email), whom I know from Energy Justice Network‘s No New Coal Plants list, has awarded another horses ass. You can read her account at the link and it’s a hoot. It seems the folks at the Delaware Electric Coop didn’t take kindly August 12 to its members receiving information on the coal fired power plant in Dendron, Virginia, along with their chicken dinners. The plant has been proposed by Old Dominion Electric Coop (of which the Delaware Coop is a member) and word has it that ODEC hadn’t gotten an endorsement from its members before it proceeded.

Alan Muller (email), whom I also know as a no-coalista, heads up Green Delaware and had sent out this action alert. He and Carol handed out a great fact sheet prepared by the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition based on the testimony of David Schlissel of Synapse Energy Economics.

Alan’s working on his on write-up and sent me a preview:

The annual meeting was an interesting experience. Probably about a thousand people came for a free chicken dinner. What they learned, if anything, about the Coop’s electric policies is unknown to us because officials wouldn’t let us stay and listen, and wouldn’t let us see the information being distributed to members.
DEC has 83,000 meters (customers) and annual revenues of about $140 million. The cooperative (member owned) idea is powerful, and theoretically eliminates the conflict of interest between customers and stockholders that makes “investor owned” utilities like Delmarva Power work so hard against the public interest. Some people think DEC is the most progressive among the coops belonging to Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, DEC’s power supplier. This may be so.
But DEC management does not respond well to questioning or criticism, and seem’s determined to promote a new coal plant. DEC is also aggressively promoting the PEPCO “MAPP” transmission line. This isn’t surprising given that DEC want’s to sell power generated at big new coal plant in Virginia–the Coop can’t sell that power without getting it to Delaware. DEC is plainly not on board with the intent of Senate Bill 106 to reduce electricity sales in Delaware by 2% per year.
Delaware made a mistake in removing DEC from regulation by the Delaware Public Service Commission. At present, DEC management is effectively accountable to nobody. The General Assembly needs to reverse this bad decision and “reregulate” DEC.

Would be nice to put the democracy back in the cooperatives, if it were ever there. If not, it’s time to inject it.

Of course, my candidate for the award would have to be Rick Boucher:
“This campaign against surface mining is new, it is led by the more extreme environmental organizations, they clearly have targeted the Appalachian states, and unfortunately, the administration has responded to that to some extent…we’re going to do something about it.”

This according to Debra McCown (email) in her August 13 Bristol Herald article, “Boucher: Coal profits supersede environmental concerns,” which recounts his talk at the quarterly meeting of the Eastern Coal Council. I’m still seeking a copy of his remarks.

When I posted this on facebook, my friend Tom Palumbo responded,

New? Extreme? It is the #2 environmental concern of all of Virginians! (as reported by Virginian Pilot)

I’ve asked him for a link and will share it, if he has one.

Judge to Dominion: You Can’t Make Up Your Own Mercury Standards

August 11, 2009

Photo of Cale Jaffe (email, bio) who won a decision today over Dominion Resources, Inc.

Today, as even miners were protesting in WV about the sham that is the Department of Environmental Protection, activists against coal-fired electric plants learned of a victory in Virginia reversing a permit issued by the Virginia Air Board. After the Board’s decision, Dominion officially broke ground near St. Paul, although a route of appeal existed which led to a lock down last June outside Dominion Resources offices in Richmond.

Judge Spencer issues her order overruling exception to mercury standards

In an order issued August 10 and released August 11, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Margaret Poles Spencer (bio) invalidated an “escape hatch” which would have permitted Dominion Resources to release mercury at its proposed coal-fired plant in Wise County at levels which violated Federal law.

The State Air Pollution Control Board MACT permit (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) set a mercury limit but added a condition 33 that if Dominion

reasonably demonstrates using operational and other related information collected for a period not shorter than the first 12 months of operation of all the equipment used to control mercury … that the [set limits] are not achievable on a consistent basis under reasonably foreseeable conditions, then testing and evaluation shall be conducted to determine an appropriate adjusted maximum achievable annual emission limit …

What the plaintiff’s argued

Today’s decision reflects the pleadings July 31, where Southern Environmental Law Center attorneys, argued on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups (petition filed August 22, 2008) that the exception meant that the permit authorized emission limitations to be set after completion of construction, and a relaxation of emission limitations “beyond what has been achieved in practice by the best controlled similar source.”

Judge Spencer was pretty succinct:

The Court agrees.

She explained,

The Clean Air Act requires the MACT determination prior to construction of VCEC. 42 U.S.C. §74 12(g)(2)(B), CAA § I 12(g)(2)(B). The law does not allow “an after-the-fact analysis” of the emission limitation. See United States v. Ohio Edison Co ., 276 f.. Supp.2d 829, 864-865 (S.D. Ohio 2003). The establishment of a flexible “limitation” with an ongoing analysis, in Condition 33, is not a limitation determination prior to construction of a facility, as required by law. The Clean Air Act also requires that the mercury emission limit “not be less stringent than the emission control that is achieved in practice by the best controlled similar source.” 42 U.S.C. §7412(d)(3), CAA §112(d)(3). This “best controlled similar source” mandate would be negated if Dominion demonstrates it could not achieve the mercury emission limit in the permit. This result, authorized by Condition 33, therefore violates the CAA. See Cement Kiln Recycling Coalition v. EPA, 255 F.3d 855. 86l-62 (D.C. Cir. 2001) and Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority v. EPA, 358 F.3d 936, 955 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Moreover. Condition 33 states that determination of an “appropriate adjusted maximum achievable annual emission limit” will be based, at least in part, on what is “achievable on a consistent basis under reasonable foreseeable conditions” by Dominion. The law requires the mercury emission limit “not be less stringent than the emission control that is achieved in practice by the best controlled similar source” regardless of the permittee’s ability to achieve the set limit. Indeed, the limit must be set “irrespective of cost or achievability.” Cement Kiln Recycling Coalition, 255 f .3d at 857-58 ; See Nc.Md. Waste Disposal Auth. v. EPA, 358 F.3d l936, 955 (D.C. Cir. 2004).

What Dominion claimed

Dominion tried to argue that Condition 33 stated a procedure, available under state law, for requesting an amendment of the MACT permit.

Judge Spencer wasn’t buying that argument:

to the extent it states an existing post-construction procedure, it is at best, unnecessary. and at worst, violative of the Jaws addressing pre-construction mandates.

She also found that Condition 33 violated precedent in two other cases. It

has ‘”direct and appreciable legal consequences .” Golden and Zimmerman. L.LC v. Domenech 599 F. Supp. 2d 702, 71 0 (E.D. Va. 2009). It negates the requirement of all absolute MACT limit prior to construction. As noted above. Condition 33 allows a flexible “limitation” during the first 12 months of operation in that the permittee (Dominion) is allowed to demonstrate it cannot achieve the set limit. See Sierra Club v. EPA, 479 F.3d 875, 880 (D.C. Cir. 2007).

Foreshadowing the Bush Legacy on Coal

January 8, 2009

Photograph by J. Miles Carey of the Knoxville News Sentinel accompanied December 25’s NYT story by Shaila Dewan, “Coal Ash Spill Revives Issue of Its Hazards.”


leg·a·cy (lg’-s)–The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

  1. Money or property bequeathed to another by will.
  2. Something handed down from an ancestor or a predecessor or from the past

In these final weeks leading up to the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the media has turned to writing stories on the legacy of George W. Bush. In the past, I’ve written on Mr. Bush’s record on torture, secrecy, the unitary executive, concentration of wealth, the increasing deficits, the economic downturn (recession, depression?), warrantless domestic spying, reproductive rights, children’s health care, organized labor and the erosion of civil liberties under the Patriot Act.

To assess what has been handed down from his eight years in office is doable. To write about what will last long term is harder. One exception, though, comes to mind: here in Appalachia, we face a permanent hole in our vistas (and our lives) in the wake of so-called mountaintop removal mining (MTR). So-called because I prefer to call it Mountain Range Destruction. This type of mining pulverizes whole mountains for their underlying coal and dumps the resulting toxin-laden rubble in headwater streams. I’d love to provide you with the latest figures on the extent of this destruction and how much has occurred during the Bush administration, but I cannot find the data. And while I might consult with Ken Ward, Jr. over at the Charleston Gazette for arcane sources, right now he’s covering the coal sludge spill pictured above.

In looking at the Bush legacy on coal, in the past, I’ve written about:

  • the National Mining and Health Safety Administration including
  • the firing of West Virginia mining engineer Jack Spadaro for refusing to sign on to the final report on the Martin County coal sludge spill
  • the appointment of industry officials in a case of “foxes guarding the henhouse
  • the result on the weakening and stalling of regulations to protect miners
  • resistance to the Supplemental Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2007, in which George Miller (D-CA) attempted to address weaknesses in the MINER Act of 2006, passed as a result of West Virginia’s Sago mine disaster and subsequent mining deaths in West Virginia and Kentucky.
  • the Army Corps of Engineers and its redefinition of “waste” to “fill” in the Clean Water Act, which reversed court rulings preventing MTR rubble from being dumped into valleys
  • the unsuccessful attempts to pass the Clean Water Protection Act to reverse the rule.
  • the midnight change which canceled the Stream Buffer Zone rule which said that mining companies may not dispose of the rubble within 100 feet of an intermittent or perennial stream, unless the company can prove the mining activity won’t hurt water quality or quantity. Environmental lawyers had successfully used this rule in court to stop MTR permits. For examples, see Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition v. the Army Corps of Engineers on October 11, 2007 and before that the Haden decision in favor or Kentuckians for the Commonwealth From May 8, 2002.
  • the ties of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to the coal industry prior to his nomination and how he fought against citizen standing in environmental suits.

I’ll add links to the above, as time allows. Today, though, I thought I’d go back to almost the very start of the administration, to January 29, 2001, and look at how it went on to foreshadow his legacy on coal. That’s the day George W. Bush signed the executive order establishing The National Energy Policy Development Group, more commonly known as the Cheney Energy Task Force, whose recommendations served as the basis of Joe Barton’s (R-TX) Energy Policy Act of 2005 which included a lot of money for the coal industry including funding for things I questioned before such as coal-to-liquids and “clean coal.” The task force revealed, like later events, the administration’s penchant for public secrecy and its alignment with the interests of, among others, the coal and the primarily coal-fired electric power industries.

The National Energy Policy Development Group
aligns closely with industry

The task force, working quickly, produced its National Energy Policy report by May 16, 2001. The composition of the task force, according to the report, was confined to government officials. It prominently featured a quote by the president

America must have an energy policy that plans for the future, but meets the needs of today. I believe we can develop our natural resources and protect our environment.

Sounds good, as do so many turns of phrase, starting with “compassionate conservative.” The plan’s recommendations, however, often looked like a wish list from industry. For instance, the President should:

  • issue an Executive Order to direct all federal agencies to include in any regulatory action that could significantly and adversely affect energy supplies, distribution, or use, a detailed statement on: (1) the energy impact of the proposed action, (2) any adverse energy effects that cannot be avoided should the proposal be implemented, and (3) alternatives to the proposed action.
  • direct the Secretary of Energy to explore potential opportunities to develop educational programs…long-term in nature…funded and managed by the respective energy industries, and should include information on energy’s compatibility with a clean environment.
  • [increase funding for]the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program [LIHEAP [which is used primarily to pay energy bills for low-income individuals[and]… allow funds dedicated for the Weatherization and State Energy Programs to be transferred to LIHEAP
  • [put] FEMA…[in charge of planning for how to address] power shortages
  • direct the EPA Administrator to work with Congress to propose legislation that would establish a flexible, market-based program to significantly reduce and cap emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and mercury from electric power generators…over a reasonable period of time to allow utilities to make modifications to their plants without fear of new litigation [note no carbon dioxide caps]
  • direct the Secretary of the Interior to work with Congress to create the “Royalties Conservation Fund”… [to] earmark potentially billions of dollars in royalties from new oil and gas production in ANWR [the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
  • issue an Executive Order…directing federal agencies to expedite permits and other federal actions necessary for energy related project approvals on a national basis.
  • [direct]to propose appropriate funding of those [energy efficiency] research and development programs that are…modeled as public-private partnerships.
  • direct the Department of Energy to continue to develop advanced clean coal technology by…[i]nvesting $2 billion over 10 years to fund research in clean coal technologies [and] Supporting a permanent extension of the existing research and development tax credit.
  • direct federal agencies to provide greater regulatory certainty relating to coal electricity generation through clear policies that are easily applied to business decisions.

You get the idea. You can read other examples here.

The court fight to reveal who met with Cheney and the Task Force regarding the report

In April 2001, Representatives Henry A. Waxman and John D. Dingell asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to examine the process and costs associated with the task force. Subsequently, Senators Joseph I. Lieberman, Ernest F. Hollings, Carl M. Levin, and Byron L. Dorgan, chairs of their respective committees or subcommittees, also requested this analysis.

After Cheney refused to cooperate, David Walker, the GAO’s comptroller general sued for the information. On December 9, 2002, United States District Judge John D. Bates ruled against Walker. Walker did not pursue an appeal. The GAO, instead, issued an incomplete report on August 22, 2003.

The skewed task force recommendations also led Judicial Watch and the Sierra Club to sue for disclosure of just whom had met with Cheney and the task force and when. But, on June 24, 2004, the Supreme Court ruled, returning the case to the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

At the time John Dean wrote that the election of John Kerry could make the suit moot. If Bush were re-elected, he noted

I remain hopeful that the underlying lawsuits in Cheney v. District Court will open the records of the National Energy Policy Development Group.

That is the right result legally and constitutionally – and the right outcome for our democracy. We deserve to know if private interests are unduly influencing purportedly governmental bodies.

Such was not to be: the court closed the book on disclosure, when it ruled May 10, 2005 that Cheney and the task force were not subject to the federal open meetings law.

An anonymous whistleblower emerges

And then years after all the stonewalling, the WaPo’s energy reporter Steven Mufson heard from a whistleblower. On July 18, 2007, in Papers Detail Industry’s Role in Cheney’s Energy Report (transcript of chat with readers), Mufson wrote that a former White House official provided his paper with a copy of a

confidential list prepared by the Bush administration shows that Cheney and his aides had… held at least 40 meetings with interest groups, most of them from energy-producing industries.

And sure enough that list included the National Mining Association, Entergy (a company with coal-fired electric plants) and others. Mufson writes,

Jack N. Gerard, then with the National Mining Association, had a meeting with Lundquist and other staffers in February. He urged the administration to give the Energy Department responsibility for promoting technology for easing global warming and to keep the issue away from the Environmental Protection Agency, which could issue regulations on greenhouse gas emissions. The administration adopted that position.

All these meetings were held before a meeting with environmental groups on April 4, for which Cheney was not even present. And the official who supplied the list indicates

By the time of the meeting…the initial draft of the task force was substantially complete and President Bush had been briefed on its progress.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-CA), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, who unsuccessfully pushed for details of the meetings, told Mufson

Six years later, we see we lost an opportunity to become less dependent on importing oil, on using fossil fuels, which have been a threat to our national security and the well-being of the planet.

And, I might point you to just how inefficient that dependence is, as I wrote about in the recent research of Stanford’s Mark Jacobson, who found that

options [such as clean coal] that are getting the most attention are between 25 to 1,000 times more polluting than the best available options [such as wind].

And all of this dependence on coal continues to take its toll, the most recent example I wrote about being the massive fly ash spill right before Christmas at a coal-burning electric plant in Tennessee.

December 22, 2.6 million cubic yards (the equivalent of 525.2 million gallons, 48 times more than the Exxon Valdez spill by volume) of coal ash sludge ruptured a dike of a 40-acre holding pond at TVA’s Kingston coal-fired power plant covering 400 acres up to six feet deep, damaging 12 homes and wrecking a train….

According to the EPA the cleanup will take at least several weeks, but could take years. Officials also said that the magnitude of this spill is such that the entire area could be declared a federal superfund site.

Of course, looks at legacy benefit from 20-20 hindsight. But isn’t it interesting to see how even in his earliest days in office, the President was revealing a pattern which would emerge in the years to come, a pattern which will effect us for years in the future?

But to me, there’s a larger question. While those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it, is it really our best use of time right now to be writing about the Bush legacy? I think we’ve already had a lot of coverage on how Bush operated. The time for researching how Mr. Bush got us to where we are today is long gone and could be spent more wisely. Mother Jones (see, even we centrists in Appalachia quote her) said “Pray for the dead but fight like hell for the living.” Translating that as a metaphor for journalism (and activism)–it’s time to concentrate on holding Barack Obama accountable.

Coal v. Wind: MTR would lose $600 million over 17 years for Raleigh County, WV

December 10, 2008

Image adapted from cover design for the new report,”The Long-Term Economic Benefits of Wind versus Mountaintop Removal Coal on Coal River Mountain, West Virginia” released yesterday.

  • When externalities such as public health and environmental quality are factored in, a mountaintop removal mine ends up losing $600 million over it’s expected 17 year life. The costs of these externalities are taken in by the public in the form of health expenses and environmental clean up costs as well as lost resources, like ginseng and wild game.
  • A wind farm would remain profitable over its life, forever.The Raleigh County Government would receive $1.74 million each year from the property taxes on a wind farm, whereas only $36,000 would make its way back to Raleigh County from the severance taxes on the coal taken out of Coal River Mountain. And the money from the wind farm comes in forever.
  • A scenario where a local wind industry came to the Raleigh County was considered. In this scenario, over 1700 people would be employed at a local wind turbine production facility. A facility such as this would only be placed in an area where wind farms were going up.

Also see Grist‘s November 24 guest post, “An open letter to Al Gore: Speak now against the rape of Coal River Mountain,” by author Jeff Biggers (bio, email).