June 23, 2022
Issue 422  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The election of left-wing Gustavo Petro as Colombia’s President is something of a world first. Petro has pledged to gradually phase out fossil fuel production by one of the world’s largest coal exporters. An essential element in Petro’s campaign was the selection of Francia Marquez as his vice-presidential running mate. Marquez, an Afro-Colombian social movement activist, was awarded a Goldman Environmental Prize in 2018.

In disturbing news, another Goldman Prize winner, Vietnamese clean-energy advocate Nguy Thi Khanh, has just been sentenced to two years in jail. Khanh has become the latest in a growing list of NGO leaders, journalists and bloggers imprisoned in Vietnam.

Perhaps one of the most significant shifts in climate advocacy in the last five years has been the international spread of legal actions challenging coal projects every step of the way, from mine permits to coal plant closures. In Indonesia this week, the Jakarta provincial government – prodded by the legal advocacy of a local community group – has suspended the environmental permit for a coal handling facility polluting a neighbouring residential district. In Europe, legal actions have been launched against a dozen countries, arguing that the Energy Charter Treaty, which allows investors to sue governments over policy changes, breaches the European Convention on Human Rights.

Bob Burton


Hasdeo tribal peoples’ efforts rewarded as three Adani coal mines are put ‘on hold’

The recent decision to suspend the development of three Adani mines in India’s Hasdeo forests followed dissent against the mining by a high-profile member of the ruling Congress party in the state of Chhattisgarh, writes a special correspondent for Adani Watch.

Top News

Colombia backs candidate committed to coal phase-out for President: Colombia has elected its first left-wing President, with Gustavo Petro winning 50.6 per cent of the vote, defeating construction industry billionaire Rodolfo Hernandez. Petro’s vice-presidential running mate, Francia Marquez, an Afro-Colombian social movement activist, was awarded a Goldman Environmental Prize in 2018. Petro has pledged not to grant more coal and oil permits, opposes coal seam fracking and plans to phase out fossil fuel production. Colombia has been a major exporter of thermal coal. Coal sales plummeted from 70 million tonnes in 2020 to 32 million tonnes in 2021 due to the decline of European markets and the closure of major mines. The reshaping of the global energy market due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February has rekindled demand for Colombian coal, but data is not yet available. (Climate Change News, Bloomberg)

Permit for Indonesian coal port revoked over coal dust pollution: The Jakarta provincial government has revoked the environmental permit for the port of Karya Citra Nusantara (PT KCN) in North Jakarta to load and unload coal cargoes due to the impact of dust pollution on residential areas. In March 2022, the provincial government imposed 32 conditions on the coal operation. The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute, representing the Marunda Rusunawa Community Forum, said PT KCN had complied with four of the conditions, but this did little to reduce coal dust pollution experienced by residents. The Jakarta Legal Aid Institute said Jakarta’s Governor, Anies Baswedan, should freeze the business licenses to PT KCN. (Tempo, VOI English)

Leading Vietnamese energy advocate sentenced to two years jail: A Vietnamese court has sentenced Nguy Thi Khanh, the clean-energy advocate and founder of the NGO GreenID, to two years in prison over tax charges. In 2018, Khanh became the first Vietnamese to be awarded a Goldman Environmental Prize for her efforts in persuading government officials to drop 20,000 megawatts (MW) of proposed coal plants from the national energy plan. In a 2020 interview, she said, “when we got global recognition, vested interest groups recognised who their enemy is, and they are very powerful.” Khanh is the latest instance of NGO advocates and journalists being charged and imprisoned over tax charges. The US Government has called for Khanh to be released. (Al Jazeera, Guardian, The Diplomat)

Legal challenge launched against European energy treaty: Five victims of climate-related disasters have launched a legal challenge in the European Court of Human Rights against twelve member states of the Energy Charter Treaty. The five plaintiffs, aged between 17 and 31, argue that the treaty, which allows investors to sue governments for restrictions on their business, violates the European Convention on Human Rights provision that includes the right to life and the right to respect for private and family life. The plaintiffs argue the treaty has been used to protect the interests of fossil fuel companies at the expense of Europe’s citizens. One current case under the treaty has been brought by RWE, a major German energy utility. RWE is suing the Netherlands Government for €1.4 billion (US1.5 billion) over its legislation requiring all coal plants to close by 2030. (Guardian)

Montana regulator rejects Teck's petition over selenium pollution: A petition by Teck Resources, a Canadian coal company, for the Montana Government to overturn limits on selenium pollution has been rejected by the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) which said the standard adopted in December 2020 is legal and necessary. The DEQ set the standard to protect fish, including concentration limits of 0.8 micrograms per litre (μg/L) in Lake Koocanusa, which straddles the US and Canadian border, and 3.1 μg/L in the Kootenai River. They also set specific concentrations in fish eggs, ovaries and bodies. Selenium concentrations in the lake already exceed the DEQ standard due to pollution from Teck’s metallurgical coal mines in British Columbia’s Elk River Valley. The DEQ noted that Canadian data indicated selenium concentrations had increased from 1 μg/L in 1985 in the Elk River upstream of the lake to 8 μg/L in 2020. (Montana Public Radio, Montana Department of Environmental Quality [Pdf])

Australian coal company fined for fracturing ancient rock formations: Centennial Coal has been fined A$150,000 (US$104,000) by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment for damaging sandstone pagoda rock formations in the Mugii Murrum-Ban State Conservation Area. The company’s environmental impact statement for its Mount Airly underground thermal coal mine claimed surface cracking was not expected. The company’s licence set a subsidence limit of 125 millimetres. A survey by the company has revealed subsidence in some locations has exceeded 700 mm with fifteen surface cracks, including one running for 250 metres. It is estimated the sandstone pagodas are between six and 10 million years old. The company, a subsidiary of the Thailand-based Banpu, has been ordered to repair the surface cracks. However, the Blue Mountain Conservation Society fears the damage to the pagodas is irreversible. (ABC News)

Germany and Netherlands boost coal in response to gas cuts: Germany’s Economic Minister Robert Habeck said the use of gas for power generation would be curtailed to fill the country’s storage tanks ahead of winter. The announcement followed the decision of the Russian gas company Gazprom to curtail gas exports via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany. Habeck said that to offset reduced gas generation “coal-fired power plants will have to be used more”. Habeck, a member of the Greens, described the decision to increase coal generation in the short term as “bitter” but necessary to allow reduced gas usage. The target of ending coal generation by 2030 remains. Germany’s gas stores are currently 57 per cent full. Gas is used in a range of key industries and for home heating and hot water. The Netherlands has also dropped its limit on coal plants operating at 35 per cent of capacity, a measure introduced in response to a court ruling mandating deeper greenhouse gas emissions reductions. (Deutsche Welle, Economy Minister Robert Habeck, Reuters)

US mining company didn’t evacuate miners from mine despite fire: The US Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has proposed M-Class Mining be fined almost US$1.2 million for failing to evacuate miners after a fire broke out in a section of the mine. MSHA said it received an anonymous tip-off on August 14, 2021 that a fire had broken out in an underground longwall section of the mine the day before. Despite this, miners continued to work in the mine. MSHA said M-Class Mining had failed to notify the regulator of the fire within 15 minutes and evacuate the mine. The MSHA said the company also “failed to fully comply” with orders to evacuate workers from the mine. (Kansas City Star, US Department of Labor)

“For decades, the fossil fuel industry has invested in pseudo-science & public relations, with a false narrative to minimise their responsibility for climate change & undermine ambitious climate policies. They exploited the same scandalous tactics as Big Tobacco decades before,”

Tweeted Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General.


Australia: Mitsui begins [paywall] process to sell its 20 per cent stakes in the South Walker Creek and Poitrel mines in Queensland.

Australia: Queensland increases coal royalties to 20 per cent for prices above A$175 (US$121), 30 per cent for prices above A$225 (US$156), and 40 per cent on amounts over A$300 (US$208) per tonne.

Austria: The government will reopen the 246 MW of coal unit at the Mellach power plant to offset reduced gas availability. The unit was retired in 2020.

Canada: CN Rail coal train derails and starts minor fire near Lytton in British Columbia.

India: The Minister for Power says the government aims to have 40 million tonnes of coal stockpiled at power plants before the monsoon season hits and disrupts mining.

Lithuania: Government blocks the transhipment of Russian coal to Kaliningrad.

Morocco: State-owned power firm ONEE will commission the Jorf Lasfar Coal Park later this year. The site will be capable of storing 410,000 cubic metres of coal.

South Korea: Finance Minister criticises KEPCO’s pitch for a power price increase, accusing the state-owned utility of mismanagement.

Vietnam: The Chairman of the National Assembly, Vuong Hue, told a delegation of Mozambican political leaders that Vietnam is willing to import coal.

Companies + Markets

Steel industry’s coal-based expansions out of line with climate goals: A report by Global Energy Monitor (GEM) estimates investment in new electric arc furnace (EAF) technology for steel production is falling well behind the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) net-zero by 2050 pathway. The IEA estimates that EAF capacity should reach 37 per cent of steel production by 2030 and 53 per cent by 2050. Reaching the target will require an additional 576 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) EAF capacity and the retirement or cancellation of 419 mtpa of coal-based blast furnace capacity. The current trend is for EAF capacity to only increase by one per cent to 32 per cent in 2030. The report estimates that 80 per cent of new coal-based steel capacity is proposed in China and India, with a further 14 per cent in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Malaysia. GEM estimates that achieving the net-zero target could result in US$345 to US$518 billion in write-offs if coal-based capacity is required to retire early to meet climate targets. (Financial Times, Global Energy Monitor)

Nippon Steel signals interest in investing in more met coal mines: The head of Nippon Steel’s raw material division, Kiichi Yamada, said the company is considering investing in more metallurgical coal mines to offset the company’s exposure to increased coal prices. Japanese steel producers, which imported about 70 million tonnes of metallurgical coal last year, have been hit by the doubling of seaborne metallurgical coal prices and the devaluation of the yen. Nippon Steel currently has minority stakes in six operating metallurgical coal mines, five in Australia and one in Canada. It also has a 23 per cent stake in the Revuboe coal project in Mozambique. Yamada said that with limited scope for new coal projects, “it’s structurally difficult for coking coal prices to fall.” (Bloomberg)

BHP to close Mt Arthur mine in 2030: BHP, the world’s largest private mining company, will close the Mr Arthur thermal coal mine in the New South Wales Hunter Valley by 2030 after failing to attract a “viable offer” from interested buyers. The mine is projected to produce between 13 and 15 million tonnes of thermal coal in 2021. The company currently has approvals for the mine to 2026 and had considered an extension to operate it until 2045. The company said, “commercial viability was limited beyond the 2030s”, so it plans to seek approvals to extend the operation of the mine until June 2030. It said it currently has US$700 million allocated for the site’s rehabilitation, which it expects could take between 10 and 15 years. BHP’s decision to close the mine has been welcomed by Carmel Flint from Lock the Gate but she said the mine should close in 2026: “the world can’t afford to keep delaying climate action”. BHP is proposing a new metallurgical coal mine in Queensland, Blackwater South, to operate for 90 years. (Guardian, The Conversation, BHP)

Russian exports could fall by 30 per cent in 2022: Russia’s Ministry of Energy estimates coal production could fall by 17 per cent to 365 million tonnes in 2022, with exports declining by 30 per cent to 156 million tonnes, reports Interfax, a Russian news agency. The agency said the estimates are based on the ministry’s worst-case scenario. The European Union’s ban on Russian coal imports will come into effect in August. In 2021 Russia was estimated to have exported 204 million tonnes of coal, including 172 million tonnes of thermal coal. Reuters reports that Indian imports of Russian thermal coal have surged in June, with traders offering discounts of 25 per cent to 30 per cent on the seaborne market price. (Reuters, Reuters)

Savings for Tamil Nadu in converting old coal plants to new energy sites: A report argues significant financial benefits would flow from retiring four old Tamil Nadu coal plants and replacing them with solar and batteries, and repurposing the turbogenerator from the coal plant as a synchronous condenser. The report examines the opportunities with retiring the 1050 MW Tuticorin, 840 MW Mettur, 630 MW North Chennai, and 1470 MW Neyveli plants. The plants, which are no longer cost-competitive, need to be retrofitted with pollution control upgrades by 2024 or close. The report estimates the financial benefits of repurposing the plants would be about two to three times greater than the costs of decommissioning the plants. The authors estimate that, depending on the repurposing option chosen, the financial benefits will cover between 60 and 300 per cent of the capital expenditures of the new plant. (Climate Risk Horizons [Pdf])

US power auction puts coal plants under pressure: The results of the annual power capacity auction for the PJM Interconnection, a major eastern US regional transmission operator spanning thirteen states, will increase pressure on utilities to retire old coal plants. PJM pays generators to be available to provide additional capacity, if required, with these payments keeping some old coal plants financially viable. Contracted coal capacity for the next year declined by 7186 MW to 27,682 MW. For 2023 the auction price was US$34.13 per megawatt-day, a 32 per cent decline on the US$50 per megawatt-day in 2022. Generous subsidies for existing nuclear plants in Illinois saw nuclear plants gain 5315 MW of contracts in the auction with solar up 356 MW and wind down 434 MW. Coal has been in long-term decline in the PJM Interconnection, plummeting from 55 per cent of capacity in 2008 to 22 per cent in 2021. (Bloomberg, Bloomberg, PJM Interconnection)


Pedal to the Metal: It’s not too late to abate emissions from the global steel sector, Global Energy Monitor, June 2022. (Pdf)

This 27-page report provides an overview of the global fleet of iron and steel plants, projects under development and the widening gap between current investment patterns and emissions reduction targets to be on track to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Comply or close: How Western Balkan coal plants breach air pollution laws and what governments must do about it, CEE BankWatch, June 2022. (Pdf)

This 36-page report details how sulphur dioxide emissions from coal power plants in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia are five times higher than emission limits which came into force on January 1, 2018.