Bruce Nilles

Senator Murkowski Teams Up Wth Energy Lobbyists to Derail the Regulation of Global Warming Pollution

I suppose it might be sad to say that we were and were not surprised to hear this week that two dirty energy lobbyists helped craft the effort to neuter the Clean Air Act, which could next appear as an amendment to the Senate’s debt ceiling vote next week.

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Mixed Bag on Coal Mining Decision from Obama Administration

This post was co-written by Bruce Nilles and Mary Anne Hitt, director and deputy director, respectively, of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.

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South Carolina Stands Up to Big Coal

South Carolina is on the front lines of global warming, being that they are in the path of the more fierce hurricanes and rising sea levels. So it should be no surprise that a coalition has formed against the latest planned coal-fired power plant there – a 660-megawatt near the Pee Dee River area.

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Dynegy Abandons Plans for 5 New Coal Plants

The hints came down in December, but today it is confirmed: Dynegy is abandoning its plans to build five new coal plants as a joint venture with LS Power. Without its larger partner, LS Power will have a very difficult time developing and financing the proposed plants, even though the company has said it will try.

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Duke Energy Gets Slammed on Mercury Emissions

Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers is the self-appointed coal industry leader in the green game -- he even got a nice spread in the New York Times earlier this year on his big ideas for climate legislation. And yet even the greenest of coal groups, Duke Energy isn't even taking basic steps to control harmful emissions like toxic mercury, much less global-warming-causing carbon dioxide.

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Voters Not Conned By Coal

This week's post was co-written by Mary Anne Hitt, the new deputy director of the National Coal Campaign.

Wow -- what an amazing and transformational time to be an American. Whether you have been voting for decades or you have just voted for the first time, the election of Barack Obama marks an incredible new chapter in the history of our nation, our planet, and our energy future.

In the midst of this renewed spirit of possibility and hope, it is worth noting that in the 11th hour of the Presidential election, as John McCain and Sarah Palin were making their last-ditch attempt to win swing states in America's heartland, they picked one final issue that they hoped would turn those states red. Of all the issues facing the nation -- the economy, health care, the war in Iraq -- which issue did the McCain campaign choose as its Hail Mary, its last hope to win the election?


Did you notice something else?

It didn't work.

When the votes were counted, McCain lost critical coal-producing states he hoped to win over with his last-minute coal blitz -- Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Virginia, to name a few.

The coal industry spent millions this election season, sponsoring the debates and the conventions and blanketing the nation with so-called "clean coal" ads. But I imagine it didn't fool you, and if the election of Barack Obama taught us anything, it's that the American people are ready for honesty and integrity, not spin from well-funded industries. While we heard a lot about clean coal during the election, you know the facts:

- Coal is not clean
- Coal is not cheap
- Coal is not a replacement for oil
- Coal is not abundant

In local elections coal also took a beating, because citizens understand the economic benefits offered by clean energy and demanded that America move beyond coal. 

Here are just two examples:  In Missouri, a state with a long history of coal burning, voters by a margin of 2:1 passed a statewide initiative requiring the state's utilities to turn away from coal and meet 15 percent of their energy needs with clean energy. With its strong manufacturing base and great potential for clean energy, Missouri is now racing to catch up with other Midwest states, such as Minnesota and Iowa, to be a part of this clean energy revolution.   

In Sevier County, Utah, voters overwhelmingly approved an initiative that gives local residents the right to reject zoning for dirty coal plants.  This is likely the end of a long battle over plans to build a new coal plant in that county.

Clearly, the next four years presents us with an incredible, historic opportunity. We can halt the runaway global warming, restore clean air across America, and swiftly end mountaintop removal mining, by moving America beyond coal.  This is a challenge that America is ready to face with creativity and ingenuity, and we will need the help of each and every one of you to ensure we create a truly independent, clean energy future for our nation and our planet. Please join us and sign up here to support the Sierra Club's campaign to move America beyond coal.

How the Government Is Helping Mining Companies Destroy Our Water

And then there were none...The Stream Buffer Zone Rule, the last remaining legal impediment to devastating mountaintop removal coal mining is now just one step away from being abolished, thanks to an Office of Surface Mining decision announced late last week.

On Friday, the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) released its assessment of stream buffer zones - basically giving mining companies the environmental green light to dump mining waste in or near streams.

For years the OSM has failed to enforce the Stream Buffer Zone Rule, which prevents mining within 100 feet of streams, in communities across Appalachia. So instead of enforcing the current law, the OSM decided to just get rid of it - saying this is best possible protection for the environment. In fact, OSM failed even to consider the concept of enforcing the current rule to protect streams and limit the size of mining waste disposal areas in its decision making.  All the alternatives considered involved mining in and around streams.

This decision seems to only aim for expediting mining without regard to environmental damage. And considering how frequently the Sierra Club and others keep finding coal mining companies conducting illegal mining (see Ison Rock, VA; Jellico, TN; and Fish Trap Lake, KY) and releasing unsafe amounts of toxic selenium (see Zeb Mountain, TN; and Hobet and Fola, WV) - you can see how this is just another excuse for these companies to avoid environmental regulations.

There is no doubt that mountaintop removal coal mining is devastating to water quality - one Environmental Protection Agency study found that 93 percent of streams downstream from mountaintop mining waste sites were unfit to support aquatic life.

The Environmental Protection Agency is now the only one standing between the mining companies and our waters. The Stream Buffer Zone cannot be repealed without EPA approval. A poll released today shows that two out of three people opposed repealing the rule, so contact the EPA today and demand that they to side with the American public.
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