September 1, 2022
Issue 432  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

In response to a six-week campaign by Market Forces and allies, yet another insurer has backed away from insuring Adani’s controversial Carmichael coal project. While controversy has long dogged Adani, its bid to take over a major independent Indian television network has stoked alarm at the impact on the democratic debate affecting the company’s ever-widening business ambitions at home and abroad.

Another intriguing twist in the insurance industry is the move by two companies to refuse to cover the costs of climate litigation against two oil companies. While the cases aren’t directly related to coal companies, the potential implications for the sector are clear. The insurance companies argue the litigation costs, and potentially the far larger damages awards, are covered by exclusions in the policies as costs associated with “pollution”.

The impacts of water pollution from Canadian coal mines have resulted in increasing pressure from First Nations, private landowners and the US to lift the standards at Teck’s mines in British Columbia. The long-term costs associated with coal projects are also increasingly subject to legal cases. In the US, a major lawsuit against the US Environmental Protection Agency seeks to close a loophole that prevents all coal ash landfills that closed before late 2015 from being regulated.

Bob Burton


What does the growing Adani footprint on India’s media landscape mean for us?

It appears that Gautam Adani’s bid to take over the NDTV media company is a move to create a climate that ensures policymaking that favours him, whether in India or anywhere else in the world, writes Pamela Philipose in The Wire.

Investing in more renewables without phasing out coal mining is not climate action

We should not assume that coal mining companies are building renewable energy businesses as part of a science-based decarbonisation strategy. No coal company in South Africa has such a strategy, and some, like Thungela, are even planning on opening new mines, writes Emily Schuster from Just Share in Daily Maverick.

How pollution from Canadian coal mines threatens the fish at the heart of communities from BC to Idaho

Selenium from a string of Teck Resources’ mines in British Columbia is projected to contaminate the transboundary watershed connecting Canada to the US for centuries to come, writes Ainslie Cruickshank in The Narwhal.

While the legal dispute dragged, the mining company kept chasing pay dirt

New Hope Group mined hundreds of millions of dollars of coal from a pit never identified in environmental approvals for its New Acland mine. The Queensland Government did not take the matter to court but said the mining company could plant A$2 million (US$1.4 million) worth of trees instead, writes Zach Hope in the Brisbane Times.

Biomass co-firing loopholes put coal on open-ended life support in Asia

Analysts warn that using biomass at coal-fired power plants in Asia not only increases environmental impacts on forests but functions to excuse the region’s continued coal usage, writes  Annelise Giseburt in Mongabay.

Top News

US EPA sued over coal ash dams exempted from clean-up plans: A coalition of environmental groups has filed a legal action challenging the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over its failure to regulate over 500 million tons (454 million tonnes) of coal ash in nearly 300 landfills in 38 states. In 2015 the EPA exempted coal ash landfills from the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule if they stopped receiving new waste before October 19, 2015, or from coal plants that had already closed. Earthjustice argues that exempted coal ash landfills are primarily located in low-income communities and communities of colour. The suit contends that unregulated coal ash landfills are more likely to be unlined as they are older sites and are likely to release higher levels of toxic contaminants than regulated sites. The legal action is seeking a court order requiring the EPA to review and amend the exemption of the sites from regulation. (Inside Climate News, Earthjustice)

Austrian opposition keeps coal units closed for now: The proposal by Austria’s Conservative–Green government has failed to win the necessary two-thirds parliamentary support to temporarily reverse its coal power phase-out due to opposition from the Social Democratic Party (SPO) or the far-right Freedom Party of Austria. Austria is one of the three most vulnerable western European Union countries to curtail Russian gas exports. The government has proposed restarting the 246 megawatt (MW) coal unit at the Mellach power plant, which requires parliamentary support. The unit was retired in April 2020. The SPO said it is open to negotiations on the issue, with one of its conditions for supporting the plant’s restarting being that higher costs are not passed onto customers. (Euractiv)

Queensland Government approves expansion of thermal coal mine: Residents and environmental groups have condemned the decision of the Queensland Minister for Resources, Scott Stewart, to approve the proposed expansion of the New Acland thermal coal mine. The mine, which was mothballed in November 2021, could increase production from 4.8 million tonnes of coal per annum (mtpa) to 7.8 mtpa if it proceeds. The mine still requires a water licence to be granted. Residents and farmers have launched a series of protracted legal challenges against the mine expansion over the last decade. Oakey Coal Action Alliance’s secretary, Paul King, described the decision as “disturbing” but said the group “will not give up” and will continue with its campaign to protect “our precious Darling Downs farming families and all they produce.” (Guardian, Queensland Government)

Germany approves priority for coal over passengers on rail network: The German Cabinet has approved a regulation that provides priority on the country’s rail network for cargoes needed to keep coal power plants operating. The ordinance applies for six months and suspends the Railway Noise Mitigation Act, legislation intended to protect residents from excessive railway noise. Granting priority to coal and oil-related cargoes on designated rail lines is likely to result in delays to passenger services. The change comes as coal freighted by barge to two coal plants via the drought-affected Rhine River is curtailed. The rail networks are also struggling with additional grain shipments from Ukraine after exports via Black Sea ports were affected by Russia’s invasion. A Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action document warned a significant improvement in water levels in the Rhine River is not anticipated in the near future. (Deutsche Welle, Reuters)

UK suspends coal plant pollution prosecutions: The UK’s Secretary of State for Environment, George Eustice, has directed the Environment Agency to “refrain from taking enforcement action” over breaches of nitrogen oxide emissions between October 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023 without first seeking his permission. A condition of relaxing the pollution standards is that the permit holder must submit modelling on the air quality impacts of the operation of its plants by October 1 for confirmation by the Environment Agency. (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Alarm over push for new Philippines open-cut coal mine: Environmental and church groups have expressed alarm that a San Miguel Corporation (SMC) subsidiary is undertaking preparatory work to construct a new open-cut coal mine in the Daguma mountain range that straddles the provinces of South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat. SMC, one of the country’s largest power utilities, has been buying and clearing large areas of land that residents fear is part of the mining plan. In 2010 the South Cotabato province banned open-cut mining, which was initially overturned after the May 2022 election. However, after street protests against the reversal, Governor Reynaldo Tamayo vetoed the change. SMC subsidiaries have been granted mining licences by the national Department of Energy, which relegates the provincial government to a supervisory role. Noel Ben from the Marist Hope Center for Justice and Good Governance said legal action against the mine is being considered. (Rappler)

Mexican policy drives demand for coal from small-scale, unsafe mines: With hopes fading that 10 missing miners will be found alive at the Pinabete mine in Coahuila state, critics have pointed to the two-year-old policy of President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador as driving demand for unsafe coal projects. Lopez required the Federal Electricity Commission to buy two-thirds of the coal for its plants in northern Mexico from small-scale producers. The result has been the growth in small shaft coal mines with poor safety standards, ventilation and water extraction capacity. At the Pinabete mine, water from an abandoned adjoining shaft burst into the mine, trapping 10 miners. In 2012 a Senate bill proposed a ban on the small-scale shaft and pit mines, but it wasn’t adopted. Mine safety activist Cristina Auerbach wants the coal concessions in high-risk areas cancelled. (The Columbian)


Indonesia: A barge carrying 9700 tonnes of coal for the Celukan Bawang coal plant in Bali has partially sunk after being grounded.

Poland: Boiler maker blames fault that shut down the 910 MW Jaworzno plant on the use of low-quality coal by the utility Tauron.

Poland: The death of a miner in the Knurow-Szczyglowice mine brings the 2022 death toll in coal mines to 22.

Taiwan: Taipower has announced it will no longer buy coal from Russia.

US: A coalition of environmental groups has petitioned the US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the yellow-spotted woodland salamander under the Endangered Species Act. The salamanders live on shale and sandstone outcrops in central Appalachia that are targeted by mountaintop coal mines.

Companies + Markets

Another insurance firm rules out role with Adani’s Carmichael mine: Lockton, the world’s largest privately held insurance brokerage firm, has told Market Forces that it has not agreed to act as the insurance broker for Adani’s Carmichael coal mine and will never work on the project. However, Market Forces, which campaigns against companies backing fossil fuel projects, said the firm had not yet committed to rule out future work on the mine in writing. Market Forces had received a tip-off that Lockton was about to agree with Adani Australia to be the insurance broker for the Carmichael coal project. After Lockton refused to confirm or deny it was considering assisting Adani Australia, the NGO and groups in the Stop Adani coalition organised a campaign of calls, letters and protest actions outside the firm’s London office. (Market Forces)

Insurance company sued over an oil company’s climate litigation costs: AIG’s National Union Fire Insurance Company has been sued after refusing to pay for the costs of defending climate-related lawsuits filed by local governments in Hawaii against a Hawaiian-based subsidiary of Sunoco, a major oil company. In June, another insurance company, Everest, sought a ruling for a Massachusetts court to allow it to deny coverage to Gulf Oil on similar grounds. The insurance companies argue that paying for the costs of climate litigation and potential damages is covered by exclusions for “pollution” in their policies.  (Guardian)

Shareholders want BHP to support better methane measurement: The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility has filed a shareholder resolution to BHP, the world’s largest exporter of metallurgical coal, calling on the company to “proactively push” for constructive climate policies and ensure “none of its industry associations are lobbying against a 1.5°C trajectory.” The resolution also calls on the company to adopt best-practice measurement technologies for accurately measuring fugitive methane emissions from coal mining, support an end to fossil fuel subsidies and back an “enabling policy for a global green iron and steel industry.” BHP is the world’s largest exporter of metallurgical coal. (Bloomberg, Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility)

South Korea’s energy plan baulks at accelerating coal phase-out: A draft of South Korea’s energy plan by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy proposes leaving the role of coal essentially unchanged at 21.2 per cent of generation, a decline of just 0.6 per cent compared to the previous government’s long-term energy plan. The new draft proposes slashing the contribution of renewables and boosting the role of nuclear generation. The plan developed under former President Moon Jae-in proposed increasing renewable generation to 30.5 per cent by 2030. However, the conservative government led by President Yoon Suk Yeol, who was sworn in in May 2022, is proposing renewables contribute just 21.5 per cent of generation by 2030, with increased nuclear generation accounting for the difference. The South Korean climate policy NGO, Solutions for Our Climate, argues that Korea’s state and public power companies lack the financial incentives to expand renewable energy and flexible resources, preferring to favour coal, gas and nuclear projects. (Bloomberg)

Cost of Queensland coal port expansion will “go up dramatically”: The chief executive of Dalrymple Bay Infrastructure (DBI), Anthony Timbrell, has warned that the construction cost of a proposed expansion of the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal will “go up dramatically” due to the rapid increase in construction costs. The company aims to increase capacity at the port from 84 million tonnes to 99 million tonnes of primarily metallurgical coal a year. The port currently exports about 50–55 million tonnes a year but estimates major mine expansions are likely. The original estimate for the project was A$1.28 billion (US$880 million), with the final costing likely to be completed in 2023. The terminal accounts for about one-third of Queensland coal exports. In its half-yearly report to investors, DBI stated that about three-quarters of the coal exported through the terminal is to Japan, South Korea, Europe and Taiwan. (Australian Financial Review [paywall],  Dalrymple Bay Infrastructure [Pdf])

Philippines utility wants to terminate coal power contract: SMC, which operates the 330 MW Sual plant and the 1251 MW Ilijan gas plant, has issued a formal notice stating it plans to terminate two power supply agreements it has with Manila Electric Company (Meralco). SMC said it intends to terminate the agreements on October 4 if it hasn’t been approved to recover the higher-than-expected cost of imported fossil fuels. SMC is pressing the Energy Regulatory Commission to be allowed to renegotiate its 2019 power supply agreement for the Sual plant which is jointly owned by Marubeni Corporation and Tokyo Electric Power Corporation. (Manila Bulletin)

OECD estimates coal subsidies declined marginally in 2021: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimate that direct subsidies in OECD countries for coal marginally declined from US$20.6 billion in 2020 to US$19.2 billion in 2021. The calculation is based on budget transfers and tax breaks provided to support the production and use of coal in the OECD’s 51 countries. The OECD and IEA estimate that in 2021 subsidies for fossil fuels in the 51 countries almost doubled to US$697.2, up from US$362.4 billion in 2020. (OECD)

Coal price surge bypasses Indonesian exporters: The price gap between Indonesian and Australian benchmark thermal coal prices continues to widen despite the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the global coal trade and prices. The price gap is now just under 82 per cent, with Newcastle 6,000 kilocalories per kg (kcal/kg) benchmark coal trading at over US$412 per tonne. The contract price for Indonesian 4,200 kcal/kg coal is currently trading at around US$75 per tonne, marginally lower than before Russia invaded Ukraine. Indonesia’s thermal coal exports are heavily geared to supplying China and India, with Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan and the Philippines buying smaller volumes. The growing price gap indicates that Australian thermal coal exporters have benefitted from the disruption caused by reductions in demand for Russian coal. (Reuters)