September 28, 2017
Issue 201  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

The rejection of a key permit for the proposed Millennium coal export terminal in Washington state means that all seven proposed coal ports on the US west coast have been rejected due to public pressure or been abandoned.

In South Korea, the government has announced four coal plants at the early stage of construction will be converted to liquified natural gas. In Indonesia, the head of the public utility, PLN, has announced there will be a moratorium on new power purchase agreements for coal plants in the main Java grid until 2025.

As a result of the German election, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union will need to negotiate over an acceleration of coal plant closures if they want the support of the Greens in Parliament. In Australia, pressure by BHP has resulted in the departure of the CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia due to concerns over the lobby group’s advocacy on coal and climate issues.

In South Africa, yet another scandal has erupted with a coal company admitting to paying the youth wing of the governing African National Congress to try and persuade Eskom not to terminate its coal supply contract. In Vietnam, there is opposition to a push to exempt existing coal plants from coal ash pollution standards. In India, the Ministry of Environment and Forests has been reprimanded for not implementing new pollution and water standards for coal plants.

Bob Burton


Environmental assessment report understates pollution from Kenya’s proposed coal plant

The environmental assessment of Kenya’s first proposed coal plant glosses over the impacts of the pollution from the proposed plant, writes David Obura from the University of Queensland in The Conversation Africa.

Trump's hypocrisy on coal mining

While President Trump claims to support the interests of coal communities, he is not interested in knowing about the health effects of coal mining on those who live nearby, writes Vivian E. Thomson in Scientific American.


Proposed US coal export terminal denied crucial permit

The Washington state Department of Ecology has rejected a vital water quality permit for the Millennium Bulk Terminals coal terminal which was planned to export 44 million tonnes of thermal coal a year from the US West Coast. The department found the proposed project would have “caused significant and unavoidable harm” including due to increased air and noise pollution, vehicle traffic and impact on tribal resources. During the assessment process tens of thousands of people publicly opposed the project. The rejection of the permit means all seven proposed coal export terminal proposals on the US West Coast have now either been rejected or abandoned. Millennium has announced it will appeal the decision. (Sierra Club, Washington Department of Ecology [pdf])

Top News

South Korean Cabinet approves clean air plan:  South Korea’s Cabinet has approved a five year plan to cut fine particle air pollution by 30 per cent by 2022, including the closure of seven coal plants over 30 years old. A further four coal plants which are in the planning stages will be converted to liquified natural gas. However, five plants which are part-built will be allowed to be completed subject to tougher emission controls. The government will also impose a new levy on nitrogen oxide emissions, which are a major contributor to fine particle pollution. (The Korea Herald, Yonhap News)

Coal at centre of negotiations over German coalition government: Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek to negotiate a coalition government between her Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union parties, the pro-business Free Democrats and the Greens. The Greens want Germany’s over 50,000 megawatts (MW) of coal and lignite plants closed by 2030. While the Free Democrats support the Paris Agreement, they claim it is not possible to “quit fossil fuels in the foreseeable future” and prefer a transition to clean energy to be left to market forces. It is expected negotiations over the formation of a coalition government may take several months to complete. (Clean Energy Wire, Carbon Brief)

New coal payment scandal hits South Africa’s ANC: The South African coal company, Just Coal, made a US$37,400 “donation” to the President of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL), Collen Maine, in the expectation that he could persuade Eskom not to terminate the company’s coal supply contract. The ANCYL claim they had been promised US$74,800 donation but only received half that. Any lobbying by the ANCYL had no effect as Just Coal’s Eskom contract was cancelled. The billionaire owner of Just Coal, Joe Singh, also claimed in a document submitted to parliament that he has been “forced” to pay “donations” to South African politicians and Eskom executives. (TimesLive, EWN)

Duke Energy backtracks on coal ash dam disaster maps: After environmental groups flagged they would sue Duke Energy for failing to publicly disclose potential flood zones in the event of the failure of their coal ash dams, the company backtracked and has promised to release the information. While a federal rule requires the information to be published online, Duke Energy was the only utility to black out the maps of the at-risk areas. (Charlotte Observer, Earthjustice)

Queensland opens door to Great Barrier Reef Marine Park coal trans-shipment: The Queensland Government has released a draft policy which would allow the trans-shipping of coal in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, including near the Hay Point coal terminal and Adani’s Abbot Point coal port. After UNESCO criticised the practice in 2014 the Labor Party promised ahead of the 2015 state election that it would “prohibit trans-shipping operations within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.” (Guardian)

Indian ministry criticised for “misleading” court over pollution: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has criticised the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) for failing to comply with a court direction to implement air pollution emission and water consumption standards for coal plants. The NGT has directed MoEF Director, Sunamani Kereketta, to appear before the court on October 4, describing the agency’s claim that it had complied with the court order as “misleading.” (Economic Times)

Debate fires up over Vietnam’s power plant pollution standards:  The Thermal Science & Technology Association, a power industry advisory body to the Vietnamese Government, is pressing for existing coal plants to be exempted from coal ash pollution standards. The move is opposed by Le Huy Ba from Ho Chi Minh City University of Industry, who said coal ash and slag from power stations is dangerous and poses a threat to air quality. “Standards are something that all plants must follow,” he said. (VietnamNet)


Canada: Mine managers from now defunct company fined US$8,100 over pollution of stream with 60,000 litres of mine waste.

Russia: Two injured in huge coal dust explosion at 3070 MW Ryazanskaya GRES power station.

South Africa: Court grants temporary injunction freezing rehabilitation funds held in Gupta company accounts.

Thailand: Five hundred villagers seek court order to suspend permit for coal and biomass plant proposed in Bamnet Narong district.

US: Department of Energy allocates US$36 million for Carbon Capture and Storage research grants.

US: Clean up begins one month after train derailment spilled coal into Clark Fork River in Montana.

Companies + Markets

Indonesian utility hits brakes on new plants as demand growth slides: Indonesia’s public utility, PLN, recorded power demand growth of 1.17 per cent in the first half of 2017 compared to the 7.85 per cent increase the year before. Indonesia’s Finance Minister, Sri Mulyani Indrawati, recently warned PLN’s financial position is worsening with an increased risk of loan default, in part due to the financial commitments taken on with new projects. With a looming surplus of 5-8000 MW the Director of PLN, Sofyan Basir, announced that, after consulting with the Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources, no new Power Purchase Agreements for the main Java grid will be signed - beyond those already near completion - until after 2024. (Jakarta Post [paywall], [Indonesian], Katadata)

Upheaval at peak Australian coal lobby group: The CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, Brendan Pearson, will finish at the peak mining lobby group in mid-October after BHP, the world’s largest private mining company, expressed its dissatisfaction with the direction of the group’s advocacy on coal and climate issues. Under Pearson the MCA has pushed for public subsidies for Adani’s Carmichael coal project, new unabated coal plants and opposition to the adoption of a new clean energy target. (RenewEconomy)

European coal lobby presses for funding lifeline: Eurelectric, representing European power generators, is lobbying the European Union to use capacity payments to extend the life of 29,000 MW of old coal plants from 40 years to 60 years. This would keep the plants operating until the 2040’s. A study released by the lobby group has been criticised as substantially overestimating the cost of renewables and underestimating the potential of demand response measures. (EU Business)

Israel Ministry for Energy backs 2025 coal phase-out: Israel’s Minister of Energy, Yuval Steinitz, has requested advice from the Public Utilities Authority (Electricity) on phasing out coal power by 2025 or alternatively either restricting them to less than 20 per cent of generation or running only as a backup supply. The four coal units at the Hadera plant are scheduled to close by 2022. However, the Minister is also seeking to close the 2250 MW Rutenberg plant at Ashkelon by 2025 at the latest. (Platts)

Sasol says coal-to-liquids plants not viable: The South African company Sasol, which developed coal to liquids projects during the apartheid era, has revealed it will not pursue any new projects, including possible plants in China. “The carbon footprint is too big, the capital investment is just extremely large, and there are better options for us in terms of return on investment,” said Sasol CEO Stephen Cornell. Despite Sasol’s aversion to new projects, state-owned Botswana Oil aims to decide by December on which bidder will win the right to build a US$4 billion coal-to-oil project. (Financial Times, Bloomberg)