July 12, 2018
Issue 237  |  View Past Issues

Editor's Note

Pollution from coal and coal power plants continues to drive political and legal challenges to the industry. In India, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board has shut down coal imports through Okha Port for failing to cover stockpiles to reduce air pollution. In Vietnam, a proposed 1200 megawatt (MW) plant has been further delayed.In Taiwan, civil society groups have launched an appeal against a proposed 1200 MW plant. In the US, government officials have accused the Canadian government of covering up data on pollution from Teck’s coal mines in British Columbia which flows across the border into Montana.

Coal industry scandals keep unfolding around the world. In the US a senior executive of Drummond Coal is on trial for allegedly bribing a state MP to oppose an extension of a designated environmental clean-up zone. In South Africa, the son of former President Jacob Zuma has been charged with corruption over an alleged attempted bribe of the then Deputy Finance Minister. Zuma’s son was a minor shareholder in a coal mining company supplying Eskom. In Australia, Adani is facing a legal challenge from an Aboriginal group for trying to rely on a cultural heritage assessment undertaken by another group which was not authorised to do it.

The economic winds continue to shift against coal power. In Norway, the country’s sovereign wealth fund has sold off investments in Warren Buffet’s PacificCorp and a western US utility and put two other Buffet companies on notice over their coal connections. The Church of England has also set a 2023 divestment deadline for companies with significant coal and other fossil fuels interests.

CoalWire will take a break next week and return on July 26.

Bob Burton


India: Something short of an ‘amazing opportunity’ for US coal

The shift to renewables and ongoing challenges for existing coal power plants in India indicate that coal exporters’ hopes of an ever-growing seaborne market appear doomed, writes Simon Nicholas from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis.

Adani: No customers, no finance, but still a threat

Adani’s Carmichael coal project in Australia looks increasingly unlikely, but until the project is stopped by an act of government or Adani finally abandons it, the campaign against it will continue, argues the campaign group Market Forces.

Top News

Indian coal port closed due to uncovered coal stockpiles: After complaints from residents the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has directed the Gujarat Maritime Board (GMB) to suspend imports through Okha Port due to the failure to comply with an earlier direction that coal and bauxite were not to be stored uncovered in the open. The GPCB cited National Green Tribunal guidelines to ensure all ports that handle cargoes such as coal implement measures to suppress dust emissions. The port operator is hoping to persuade the GPCB to allow the port, which handled an estimated five million tonnes of a range of commodities including coal, to reopen in the near future. Gujarat Coastal Zone Management Authority found “unsafe coal handling at GMB ports cause pollution in the marine water of Marine National Park and Sanctuary area.” (Times of India, Times of India)

Administrative appeal against Taiwanese plant: An administrative appeal has been lodged against Taipower’s proposed 1200 MW Shenao Power Plant in New Taipei City on the grounds that pollution from the project would damage public health. The appeal also argues the proposed coal terminal and breakwaters would cause damage to marine life in a conservation area. A Greenpeace petition opposing the project has gathered 90,000 signatures. (Taipei Times)

Adani faces legal challenge over Aboriginal assessment for port work: Aboriginal traditional owners have lodged an application with the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships for a stop work order to prevent Adani from proceeding with any work near the Abbot Point Coal Terminal and part of the proposed railway corridor. The Federal Court of Australia recently ruled that Juru Enterprises was the appropriate body to undertake cultural assessments of any proposed works near the terminal and part of the railway for the Carmichael coal project. However, Adani has flagged it may proceed with work by relying on a cultural assessment undertaken by another group and potentially even outside the surveyed area. (Guardian, Guardian)

US officials accuse Canada of covering up coal pollution data: US officials on a joint commission overseeing transboundary US–Canada water issues have accused Canadian officials of covering up data on pollution from five coal mines operated by Teck Resources in the Elk River catchment. In June Canadian officials refused to endorse a report which revealed selenium levels in five rivers were at or above the British Columbia drinking water guideline. Two samples revealed pollution at four times the recommended level. Selenium levels in the Elk and Fording Rivers are 70 times higher than in the nearby Flathead River catchment which does not have mine runoff. High levels of selenium are damaging to both human health and aquatic life. (Vancouver Sun, The Province)

US Attorney General a potential witness in Drummond corruption case: The US Attorney General and former Alabama Senator, Jeff Sessions, sitting Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby and Republican Representative Gary Palmer have been mentioned as possible witnesses in the trial of a Drummond Coal executive and two of the company lawyers. They have been charged with bribing a Democratic state politician, Oliver Robinson. Robinson has pleaded guilty to accepting funds from Drummond Coal to oppose the extension of the boundaries of a designated pollution clean-up zone. The Drummond Coal executive and two attorneys at Balch & Bingham have pleaded not guilty. One witness in the case was Trey Glenn, who worked for Drummond’s lawyers to oppose the Environment Protection Agency’s move to expand the boundaries of the area to be cleaned up. In August 2017 Glenn was appointed as Administrator of the US Environment Protection Agency Region 4. (Mother Jones, AL.com)

Ex-South African President’s son charged over alleged bribe offer: Duduzane Zuma, the son of South Africa's former President Jacob Zuma, has been charged with corruption over allegations that in 2015 he offered a bribe of 600 million rand (US$44 million) to former Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas to help further the business interests of the Gupta family companies. One of the Gupta family companies, in which Duduzane Zuma was a minority shareholder, bought the Optimum coal mine which had a coal supply contract with Eskom. In a separate development, the accountancy firm McKinsey has repaid 902 million rand (US$67 million) to Eskom from a contract it was awarded in 2016. McKinsey issued a public apology over the deal but has not paid interest on the funds it received. Nor has it refunded the balance of the R1.6 billion (US$120 million) amount which it asked Eskom pay to the Gupta-linked company Trillian Capital. (Business Live, BBC)


Colombia: UK owner of La Luna mine pitches plan for 1125 MW mine-mouth plant if successful at power auction.

Germany: In the first half of 2018, for the first time ever, wind and solar power generated more electricity than coal and lignite.

India: Central Electricity Authority directs closure of 62 MW unit of Ramagundam B plant.

Indonesia: An estimated 40 coal ships blocked from export trade over unpaid duties and taxes.

Pakistan: Residents protest open air stockpiling of coal imported from Port Qasim.

Spain: Minister for Ecological Transition in new government says “I don´t believe coal has much future”.

Philippines: Catholic priest leads protest against proposed 1200 MW coal plant in Atimonan, Quezon province.

UK: World Coal Association CEO, Benjamin Sporton, to leave coal lobby group in September.

US: Ex-coal industry lobbyist takes over as Administrator of US Environment Protection Agency after resignation of scandal-plagued Scott Pruitt.

US: Coal baron Governor of West Virginia and two of his coal companies are being sued for breaching coal supply contract.

Companies + Markets

Hitch for proposed Vietnamese coal plant: Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment has raised concerns over the proposed 1200 MW Vung Ang II plant, which was first mooted in 2007. Despite the project being approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in February 2015, the sponsoring company, One Energy Ltd, has yet to submit a revised environmental impact assessment as it was required to do within two years. The Ministry also flagged that there was concern that One Energy — a joint venture between the Hong Kong based CLP and Mitsubishi — is undercapitalised. The ministry’s decision could result in a further delay for the plant, (Nguoi lao dong [Google Translate], CoalSwarm)

Norwegian fund dumps Buffet US energy company: Norway’s US$1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, Norges Bank, has sold off US$129 million of bonds in Warren Buffett’s US utility PacificCorp and placed Berkshire Hathaway Energy and MidAmerican Energy “under observation” over their coal investments. At the end of 2017 Norges Bank held US$164 million in bonds in Berkshire Hathaway Energy and US$33 million in bonds in MidAmerican. Norges Bank has also dropped its investment in Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, a western US utility which operates three coal plants in Colorado and New Mexico. In 2017 Tri-State’s coal plants represented 40 per cent of the company’s generation capacity. Norges Bank investment criteria include reviewing all companies with over 30 per cent of their revenue or generation capacity from thermal coal operations. (Financial Times, Norges Bank Investment Management)

Church of England to divest from fossil fuel companies: The General Synod of the Church of England has agreed that withdraw investments from fossil fuel companies if by 2023 they are not “on track to meet the aims of the Paris Agreement” to limit global warming to a two degree increase. A proposal to set the deadline for divestment at 2020 for the Church’s £8 billion (US$10.6 billion) investment funds was defeated to allow more time for engagement with the affected companies. (Church Times, Church of England)

Canadian utility abandons plan for more CCS units at Boundary Dam: SaskPower, a utility owned by the Saskatchewan Government, has abandoned plans to build two further carbon capture and storage (CCS) projects at its Boundary Dam plant. The two existing 150 MW units, which were commissioned in the early 1970s, may retire as early as next year. Alternatively, if the province reaches an agreement with the federal government on reducing greenhouse gas emissions at fleet level rather than plant level, the units may close in 2021 and 2024 respectively. In late 2014 SaskPower commissioned a 110 MW CCS plant on the third unit at the Boundary Dam power station but it has suffered repeated breakdowns and prolonged outages. A feasibility study on the possibility of retrofitting CCS to SaskPower’s 267 MW Shand plant is due to be completed by the end of the year. (CBC, SaskPower)

Adani share price dives as Indian plants struggle to compete: Indian share market broker CSLA has dropped Adani Enterprises from its coverage due to lack of investor interest after the company spun off its renewables and gas business into separate companies leaving just coal mining and trading operations. In 2018 Adani Enterprises share value has dropped by 33 per cent, in part due to the continued delays with its proposed Carmichael coal project in Australia. However, the company’s stricken power division subsidiary, Adani Power, may gain relief for its stranded 4620 MW Mundra project after the Gujarat Government appointed a three-person panel to review possible mechanisms to compensate Adani Power, Essar Power and Tata for the increased costs of Indonesian coal which they failed to anticipate when entering into power purchase agreements. (Economic Times, Livemint)


Retirements and Funerals: The Emission, Mortality, and Coal-Mine Employment Effects of a Two-Year Delay in Coal and Nuclear Power Plant Retirements, Resources for the Future, July 2018. (Pdf)

This 22-page report concludes that the proposed Trump Administration bailout of coal and nuclear plants for two years would cause 353 to 815 premature deaths in 2019–2020, one death for each two to 4.5 coal-mine jobs that it supports.

Reclaim Wyoming: Prioritize Coal Mine Reclamation, Powder River Basin Resource Council, July 2018. (Pdf)

This 16-page report finds just 2.4 per cent of the over 52,000 hectares (131,573 acres) of land disturbed by 14 coal mines in Wyoming, which supplies over one-fifth of US coal, has been fully rehabilitated.