Tag Archives: Coal

Companies blocked from using West Coast ports to export fossil fuels keep seeking workarounds

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One of the many would-be sites for fossil fuel exports in Washington state. AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Shawn Olson-Hazboun, Evergreen State College and Hilary Boudet, Oregon State University

A year after Washington state denied key permits for a coal-export terminal in the port city of Longview, the Army Corps of Engineers announced it would proceed with its review – essentially ignoring the state’s decision.

This dispute pits federal authorities against local and state governments. It’s also part of a larger and long-running battle over fossil fuel shipments to foreign countries that stretches up the entire American West Coast. Continue reading

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In ‘Historic Moment’ for Climate Action, Wales Pledges to Leave Its Remaining Coal in the Ground

“More countries must rapidly follow the path of Wales in leaving fossil fuels in the ground and transitioning to renewables.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-22-2018

Breaking with its past as one of the world’s top coal users, Wales announced it would end its use of all fossil fuels following the IPCC’s report on the climate crisis. (Photo: Walt Jabsco/Flickr/cc)

Climate action groups on Monday applauded the government of Wales for demonstrating that it is taking seriously the existential and planetary threat posed by fossil fuels by announcing that the country would end its extraction of coal.

Wales’ new proposed plan to reject all future coal mining applications is set to be finalized by the end of the year, a government spokesperson told the BBC last week, as part of the country’s new energy strategy which will aim to ensure that 70 percent of Wales’ energy is derived from renewable sources by 2030. Continue reading

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Fifty-Thousand Come Together in Germany to Defend Ancient Forest and Fight Coal

“This rally is about demanding that the German government break the deadlock of a climate policy that has failed to reduce carbon emissions for nearly a decade now, but it also is about showing governments everywhere that a growing climate movement is demanding an end to dirty and outdated fossil fuels.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 10-6-2018

50 000 people participate in the demonstration at the Hambacher Wald near Koeln-Buir for a quick coal phase-out and for the rescue of the Hambacher Forest. The demonstration “Save forest-stop coal” near the forest is the largest of its kind so far. The initiative Buirer for Buir, the German Federal Association for the Environment and Nature Conservation (BUND), Campact, Greenpeace and the nature friends of Germany are calling for a fast exit from coal. They demand energy group RWE to definitively stop logging in the Hambach Forest. The banner reads: “We will end coal. #hambibleibt.” (Photo: Bernd Arnold/Greenpeace)

More than 50,000 people from across Europe gathered near the Hambacher Forest in western Germany on Saturday to defend the area from the expansion of coal-fired energy and demand much more ambitious climate action.

According to Greenpeace, one of the organizers behind the demonstration, the enormous crowd made up of local farmers, environmental activists, church groups, local residents and supporters from other countries, including Italy, France and the Netherlands. It was the largest-ever anti-coal demonstration in the Rhineland. Continue reading

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Global Climate Movement Celebrates as Ireland Set to Become First Country to Fully Divest From Fossil Fuels

“Countries the world over must now urgently follow Ireland’s lead.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-12-2018

Fossil fuel divestment activists displayed a sign outside the lower house of Ireland’s legislature. (Photo: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland/Trócaire/350.org)

Climate activists across the globe celebrated Thursday after the lower house of the Irish legislature passed a divestment bill with support from all parties, effectively ensuring that Ireland will become the first nation in the world to fully divest public money from the fossil fuel industry.


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Scott Pruitt, Courtside Seats, Corruption, and—Oh, Yeah—the Destruction of the Planet

“True, our planet is being wrecked by climate change, but at least Scott Pruitt got good seats to a basketball game.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-2-2018

At the University of Kentucky, Mr. Pruitt attended one of the biggest games of the season last December, sitting in seats belonging to Mr. Craft. (Photo: Michael Huang/with overlay)

Trump’s EPA chief Scott Pruitt is once more facing accusations of bald-faced corruption and ethics violations after the New York Times reported that he and his son enjoyed a courtside experience at a high-profile college basketball game last year—sitting in the VIP seats of a billionaire coal company executive Joseph W. Craft III who was actively lobbying the Trump administration to loosen restrictions on the industry.

“Because his seat was so close to the court, he was visible during the telecast,” the Times reports. “A video clip on Twitter and Instagram showed Mr. Pruitt and his college-age son, Cade, standing in the players’ entrance as the team walked to the court.” Continue reading

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What We Found in Trump’s Drained Swamp: Hundreds of Ex-Lobbyists and D.C. Insiders

 

By Derek KravitzAl Shaw and Isaac Arnsdorf. Published 3-7-2018 by ProPublica

When the Trump administration took office early last year, hundreds of staffers from lobbying firms, conservative think tanks and Trump campaign groups began pouring into the very agencies they once lobbied or whose work they once opposed.

Today we’re making available, for the first time, an authoritative searchable database of 2,475 political appointees, including Trump’s Cabinet, staffers in the White House and senior officials within the government, along with their federal lobbying and financial records. Trump Town is the result of a year spent filing hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests; collecting and organizing staffing lists; and compiling, sifting through and publishing thousands of financial disclosure reports. Continue reading

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Chanting ‘Keep It In the Ground,’ Thousands Descend on German Coalfields

“We want to fulfill our historic responsibility. That’s why we go to the coal mines, to protect the climate there.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-5-2017

“Germany’s lignite mines are among the biggest coal mines in the world,” Zane Sikulu, a Climate Warrior from Tonga, said in a statement. (Photo: Code Rood/Twitter)

Demanding an end to coal and all forms of dirty energy extraction, over 4,000 activists descended on the Rhineland coalfields in Germany early Sunday in a mass demonstration just a day before COP23 climate talks are set to kick off.

“On the international stage, politicians and corporations present themselves as climate saviors, while a few miles away, the climate is literally being burned,” Janna Aljets, a spokesperson for the environmental alliance Ende Gelände, which helped organize the action, said in a statement. “We do not want to be world champions in extracting and burning lignite anymore. We want to fulfill our historic responsibility. That’s why we go to the coal mines, to protect the climate there.” Continue reading

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Trump’s Mine-Safety Nominee Ran Coal Firm Cited for Illegal Employment Practices

Records show the coal mining company formerly run by David Zatezalo retaliated against a foreman who complained of harassment and unsafe conditions.

Written by  Robert Faturechi and published 10-17-2017 in Pro-Publica.

Fox in the Coal Mine: President Trump nominated David Zatezalo, the former chairman of Rhino Resources, to be an assistant secretary of Labor in charge of the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA). Zatezalo’s company was issued two “pattern of violations” letters from MSHA over safety issues at their mines in 2010 and 2011. Photo credit: OSMRE. Published by WhoWhatWhy.org

The coal mining company run by President Donald Trump’s nominee to be the nation’s top mining regulator has already come under criticism for weaknesses in its safety record. It turns out the company was also found by the government to have illegally retaliated against a foreman who complained about sexual and ethnic harassment from supervisors, unsafe conditions and drug use at one of its mines.

The little-noticed case involved a foreman at a mine operated by Rhino Energy WV. At the time, the president of the mine’s parent company, Rhino Resource Partners, was David Zatezalo, who is now Trump’s nominee to run the Mine Safety and Health Administration. A Senate committee is scheduled to vote on his nomination Wednesday.

In the West Virginia case, Michael Jagodzinski, a foreman at the mine located near the town of Bolt, complained in 2011 that he was the target of ethnic and gay slurs. The company illegally retaliated against him, falsely accusing him of sexual harassment, and then fired him, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found. As a result, Rhino Energy WV entered into a five-year consent decree last year, agreeing to pay $62,500 to Jagodzinski and implement reforms, including a policy against harassment and training for all managers and employees on prohibitions against discrimination and retaliation. The company also agreed to report how it handles any internal complaints of discrimination to federal regulators, and post notices about the settlement at all mine sites.

Zatezalo retired from Rhino in 2014. If confirmed to his new post, he would run an agency that is part of the Labor Department. It conducts regular inspections, trains the industry on best practices and levies penalties against mining companies for violations.

Democratic senators have questioned Zatezalo’s record in the industry, citing safety issues at mines he oversaw in West Virginia and Kentucky. One of his mines received two consecutive “pattern of violations” citations from the mining safety agency — a rare sanction used for repeat offenders.

Based on those citations, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who often throws his support behind the mining industry’s priorities, announced he would oppose Zatezalo’s confirmation, saying he is “not convinced” the former coal executive “is suited to oversee the federal agency that implements and enforces mine safety laws and standards.”

Zatezalo did not respond to a request for an interview about the harassment case. A spokeswoman for the mine safety administration declined to comment about the allegations.

The problems at the Bolt mine were brought to the attention of federal authorities by Jagodzinski. The EEOC ultimately found that the company engaged in “unlawful employment practices” starting in May 2011.

According to the government’s complaint, Jagodzinski faced a hostile work environment based on his Polish ancestry, including a barrage of insults and false allegations of workplace violations. The company allegedly allowed graffiti on the walls of the mine Jagodzinski supervised, with messages such as “Jag the fag.” Both supervisors and rank-and-file mine employees referred to Jagodzinski using that slur and “stupid Polack,” the EEOC said.

“Supervisory personnel failed to take action to stop the harassment or prevent it from recurring,” the government’s complaint reads. “Instead, supervisors participated in the harassment.”

A poster hung in the workplace likening Jagodzinski to a caveman, with the message: “JAG IS A FAG.” At one point, according to federal authorities, another employee took Jagodzinski’s phone and used it to take a photo of his own testicles.

“The harassment was open and obvious to supervisory personnel,” federal authorities found, “and supervisory personnel participated in the harassment.”

In a sworn deposition, Jagodzinski said managers used drugs on the job. In one case, he said managers tipped off the mine’s employees about an imminent drug test.

Jagodzinski said in an interview with ProPublica that the harassment started because he was trying to enforce workplace safety rules. “I was against them breaking rules and doing drugs and stealing,” Jagodzinski said. “Oxy, nerve pills, synthetic weed, smoking underground, snorting pills underground. This place was the absolute worst place I’d worked in my entire life.”

In a sworn deposition, a company executive said Zatezalo approved the termination, but denied that the company harassed Jagodzinski or fired him as retaliation. The company, he said, had strict policies against drug use.

“These people work in a confined space, underground in a confined space where large equipment moves. Any impairment to judgment is a very, very high risk, so we tolerate — we tolerated zero,” the executive said.

Court filings show Zatezalo was also scheduled to be deposed, but it appears the company agreed to settle with the government before he was interviewed under oath.

The consent decree followed other documented problems at Rhino, which at the end of 2011 operated 11 mines in four states, with a total of more than 1,000 workers. One mine, also near Bolt, was hit in 2010 with a “pattern of violations” letter from the mining agency, a sanction that according to the agency’s website is “reserved for mines that pose the greatest risk to the health and safety of miners, particularly those with chronic violation records.”

A few months later, rock from a wall in the same mine pinned and killed a miner. The mine was given a second “pattern of violations” letter, with the safety agency finding that the company had not maintained the safety improvements it made after the first letter.

In another instance, government regulators accused the company of alerting miners underground of an imminent agency inspection, which would have allowed workers to clean up any potential violations.

A review of regulatory filings by The Charleston Gazette-Mail found that during his career Zatezalo was listed as director of mining operations or as mine general manager during accidents that resulted in three mining deaths. He was a top officer at the time of a fourth death.

During a Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month, Zatezalo acknowledged that at times his local managers were “not doing what they should have been doing” and that in those cases, he replaced them. He said that if he was confirmed he wouldn’t weaken mine regulation.

“Inspections in the mines in the United States are a necessity,” he said.

Zatezalo began his mining career as a union laborer, before rising in the ranks to hold top positions at American Electric Power Coal and Rhino. He also helped lead coal advocacy associations in Ohio and Kentucky.

Zatezalo was not widely known nationally before he was nominated. In an interview with his hometown newspaper in Wheeling, West Virginia, Zatezalo said that industry contacts had urged him to come out of retirement and put his name in the running for the post. Among his backers, he said, were Robert Murray, the influential chairman of mining giant Murray Energy.

“There aren’t a lot of people in the industry I don’t know, and people said, ‘You’d be great for that position. I’m going to call Sen. (Mitch) McConnell and tell him he needs to support you for this,’” Zatezalo recalled.

Zatezalo later clarified and said he was not sure if Murray had lobbied on his behalf.

Jagodzinski, the mine foreman at the center of the government’s discrimination suit, said he has been stigmatized after being falsely fired for sexual harassment, and has had difficulty finding steady employment since.

“They ruined me, dude. I’ve lost everything,” he said in an interview. “And now I see Zatezalo’s going to run MSHA. I cannot believe it.”

This article is republished under a Creative Commons Share A-like License.

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‘Mind-bogglingly Dangerous’: Trump EPA Rolls Back Water Pollution Limits for Coal Plants

“A bold-faced gift to the coal industry at the expense of the health of families everywhere”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-14-2017

The EPA placed a delay on a rule that would have limited wastewater pollution from coal-fired plants. (Photo: pennjohnson/Flickr/cc)

In a move that critics are calling “deeply disturbing,” the Trump administration announced on Wednesday a two-year delay to an Obama-era rule limiting wastewater pollution at coal plants.

In 2015 the Obama administration developed new limits on metals including lead, mercury, and arsenic in coal-fired plants’ wastewater, set to go into effect in 2018. The pollutants in question “can cause severe health problems, including cancer and lowered I.Q. among children, as well as deformities and reproductive harm in fish and wildlife,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity, which fought against the rollback of the limits. Continue reading

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World Worries as Trump Set to Dump Paris Climate Deal

Trump has called climate change a “hoax.” Tweeted: “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop.”

By Common Dreams. Published 5-7-2017

Heads of state cheer after the Paris Climate Change Agreement was signed at COP21, 2015, by 197 parties. (cc/Wikipedia)

The world is worried as Decision Day nears.

At a April 29th rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Trump said he would make a “big decision” on Paris within the next two weeks and vowed to end “a broken system of global plunder at American expense.”

Now the Trump administration has a meeting scheduled this Tuesday to decide whether to drop out of the Paris Agreement. Continue reading

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