Friday roundup, Oct. 29, 2010

October 29, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.

In this photo released by China’s Xinhua news agency, a worker stands outside the flooded Dapo coal mine in Anshun city, southwest China’s Guizhou province, on Thursday Oct. 28, 2010. State media says the coal mine flood in southwestern China has killed at least 12 people, adding more casualties to the thousands killed each year in mining accidents. The official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday that 50 miners were working at the Dapo mine in Anshun city in Guizhou province when it flooded Wednesday morning, killing at least 12 miners. (AP Photo/Xinhua, Liu Xu)

Twelve miners were killed earlier this week in a flood at a coal mine in southwestern China.  According to this report from Xinhua:

Dapo Mine in Puding County, Anshun City, was operating illegally when the accident occurred. It had been ordered to suspend its operations on Aug. 20, according to a statement from the rescue headquarters.

“This is a typical accident caused by breaches of production regulations and coal mine safety procedures,” said Sun Guoqiang, vice governor of Guizhou near the flooded mine.

In addition, one person was electrocuted to death in the mine on Sept. 2, about a month after the suspension order, according to the statement.

And, there was more bad news this morning from China:

At least seven miners were killed on Friday when a gas explosion hit a coal mine in southwest China, state-run media reported.

The blast at the Zhaojiahe Mine in Wanyuan City, in the country’s Sichuan Province, happened at around 11 a.m. local time when 13 miners were working down the shaft. Few details about the accident itself, except that it was a gas explosion, were not immediately available.

The state-run Xinhua news agency reported that rescuers initially saved six miners. but one of them passed away while en-route to a local hospital. The rescuers also recovered six bodies, while one is still unaccounted for.

Here in the United States, it’s quarterly earnings time … we’ve already had coverage on Coal Tattoo on the earnings statements from Massey Energy and Patriot Coal.  Other companies with recent earnings statement releases included Arch Coal Inc., CONSOL Energy Inc., International Coal Group and Peabody Energy.

Meredith Hayes uses a bullhorn to lead several groups which joined together outside the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hearing to protest TVA and dirty coal, in Knoxville, Tenn. Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. An Environmental Protection Agency panel heard from dozens of people at the agency’s eighth and final public hearing on the two regulatory proposals _ including the business favorite that would treat ash as a solid waste and largely leave related rules to individual states. (AP Photo/The Commercial Appeal, Michael Patrick)

Down in Knoxville, Tenn., the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this week held its 8th and final public hearing on proposals to regulate the handling and disposal of coal ash. There’s coverage from the Knoxville News, and a piece on Reuters.com about a study outlining inadequate coal-ash regulation by the state of Tennessee. Meanwhile, The Huffington Post had a commentary about dozens of secretive meetings between Obama administration officials and industry officials who advocate weaker regulation of coal ash, an issue highlighted before by the Center for Progressive Reform.

Also this week, the great Sue Sturgis over at Facing South explains why there’s a disconnect between the science and public opinion about global warming:

A big reason is a long-lived and generously funded public relations campaign by corporations, business leaders and others — many with a financial interest in fossil-fuel industries — to make it seem like there’s less of a consensus about human-caused climate change than there really is.

Two key players in this well-funded campaign have been David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers behind Koch Industries, a Kansas-based oil conglomerate and the second-largest privately held company in the United States. The Kochs have landed in the public spotlight lately thanks to a New Yorker profile that detailed their efforts to sow doubt about global warming as well as reports by the New York Times and Think Progress about the brothers’ efforts to coordinate conservative political initiatives, including an assault on what they call “climate change alarmism.”

But as Sue explains, the Koch brothers aren’t the only ones:

An investigation by Facing South finds that they have a valuable ally in North Carolina: the lesser-known but influential conservative benefactor Art Pope.

Pope has close ties to the Kochs as one of four national directors of the Koch-founded political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity; he is also the second-largest institutional funder of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

In addition, Pope is a director and board chair of a family foundation that has steered millions to conservative thinks tanks in North Carolina and nationally that have worked closely with the Koch network to manufacture doubt about global warming.

In North Carolina, the climate skeptics that benefit from Pope’s fortune haven’t gained much traction in the state legislature. But that could change if Pope’s strategy pays off this election year: He has begun funneling money to ostensibly nonpartisan nonprofits that use it to run attack ads, and among the targeted politicians are two long-time legislative leaders who’ve played a key role in addressing climate change in the state.

And several Coal Tattoo readers pointed out the New York Times story headlined, Navajos hope to shift from coal to wind and sun:

For decades, coal has been an economic lifeline for the Navajos, even as mining and power plant emissions dulled the blue skies and sullied the waters of their sprawling reservation.

But today there are stirrings of rebellion. Seeking to reverse years of environmental degradation and return to their traditional values, many Navajos are calling for a future built instead on solar farms, ecotourism and microbusinesses.

“At some point we have to wean ourselves,” Earl Tulley, a Navajo housing official, said of coal as he sat on the dirt floor of his family’s hogan, a traditional circular dwelling.

Mr. Tulley, who is running for vice president of the Navajo Nation in the Nov. 2 election, represents a growing movement among Navajos that embraces environmental healing and greater reliance on the sun and wind, abundant resources on a 17 million-acre reservation spanning Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

“We need to look at the bigger picture of sustainable development,” said Mr. Tulley, the first environmentalist to run on a Navajo presidential ticket.

The story continues:

In Navajo culture, some spiritual guides say, digging up the earth to retrieve resources like coal and uranium (which the reservation also produced until health issues led to a ban in 2005) is tantamount to cutting skin and represents a betrayal of a duty to protect the land.

“As medicine people, we don’t extract resources,” said Anthony Lee Sr., president of the Diné Hataalii Association, a group of about 100 healers known as medicine men and women.

But the shift is also prompted by economic realities. Tribal leaders say the Navajo Nation’s income from coal has dwindled 15 percent to 20 percent in recent years as federal and state pollution regulations have imposed costly restrictions and lessened the demand for mining.

Two coal mines on the reservation have shut down in the last five years. One of them, the Black Mesa mine, ceased operations because the owners of the power plant it fed in Laughlin, Nev., chose to close the plant in 2005 rather than spend $1.2 billion on retrofitting it to meet pollution controls required by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Early this month, the E.P.A. signaled that it would require an Arizona utility to install $717 million in emission controls at another site on the reservation, the Four Corners Power Plant in New Mexico, describing it as the highest emitter of nitrous oxide of any power plant in the nation. It is also weighing costly new rules for the Navajo Generating Station in Arizona.

And states that rely on Navajo coal, like California, are increasingly imposing greenhouse gas emissions standards and requiring renewable energy purchases, banning or restricting the use of coal for electricity.

It concludes:

But many Navajos see the waning of coal as inevitable and are already looking ahead. Some residents and communities are joining together or pairing with outside companies to pursue small-scale renewable energy projects on their own.

Wahleah Johns, a member of the new Navajo Green Economy Commission, is studying the feasibility of a small solar project on reclaimed mining lands with two associates. In the meantime, she uses solar panels as a consciousness-raising tool.

“How can we utilize reclamation lands?” she said to Mr. Yazzie during a recent visit as they held their young daughters in his living room. “Maybe we can use them for solar panels to generate electricity for Los Angeles, to transform something that’s been devastating for our land and water into something that can generate revenue for your family, for your kids.”

Mr. Yazzie, who lives with his wife, three children and two brothers, said he liked the idea. “Once Peabody takes all the coal out, it’ll be gone,” he said. “Solar would be long-term. Solar and wind, we don’t have a problem with. It’s pretty windy out here.”

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