May 25, 2023
Issue 467  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed closing a loophole that left hundreds of old coal ash landfills outside federal regulatory oversight. The proposed rule goes a long way to close the loophole, but environmental groups have highlighted how important gaps remain. The legal settlement between hundreds of workers and Jacobs Solutions over the health effects of cleaning up coal ash from a 2008 dam failure underscores the importance of greater regulatory oversight.

Following increased scrutiny of coal use in the steel sector, some major companies are embracing alternatives. In New Zealand, the government has announced a public subsidy to cut coal use at the country’s only steel mill by installing an electric arc furnace to run on scrap metal. In Sweden, the development of a hydrogen-based steel mill is proceeding apace. This week H2 Green Steel announced an agreement to install one of the world’s largest electrolyser plants to produce hydrogen. In the UK, the High Court has agreed to hear a legal challenge by two NGOs later this year against the decision to approve West Cumbria Mining’s proposed Whitehaven metallurgical coal mine.

As the coal industry faces increasing resistance, some executives want to swim against the tide. Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky is one. His power company EPH has bought coal and gas plants and is now one of the top three greenhouse gas emitters in the power sector in the European Union. Gautam Adani is another, with India’s Securities and Exchange Board of India struggling to discover who owns shares held in Adani Group companies by owners registered in tax havens.

Bob Burton


The US is expanding carbon dioxide pipelines. One poisoned town wants you to know its story

The rupture of a carbon dioxide pipeline in Mississippi, which resulted in 45 people being hospitalised, underscores growing concerns about pipeline safety and gaps in US federal regulation, writes Julia Simon in NPR.

For locals, India’s coal rush means a black future

For many front-line communities in India’s coal belts, a boom in coal production brings with it the infringement of community rights, destruction of forests and pollution, writes Vidya Dinker in The Diplomat.

The Czech tycoon building a European business empire on the back of coal

The Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky aims to use the profits from his coal and gas company, EPH, to create a media and retail conglomerate, write Adrienne Klasa, Arash Massoudi and Raphael Minder in the Financial Times.

Top News

US moves to regulate most coal ash sites, but loopholes remain: In response to legal action by a coalition of environmental groups, the US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed to extend federal oversight to include previously unregulated coal ash disposal sites at closed coal power plants and landfills. Earthjustice estimates the exemption of closed coal power plants and coal ash disposal sites under the 2015 Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rule left 566 landfills and ponds at 242 coal plants unregulated. Earthjustice welcomed the extension of the rule to many exempted sites but expressed alarm that loopholes in the proposed rule could result in up to 97 coal ash landfills remaining unregulated. The group also expressed concern that the proposed rule excludes consideration of coal ash used as construction fill at playgrounds, schools and neighbourhoods. The proposed rule will be open for public comment for 60 days. (Inside Climate News, Earthjustice, Environmental Protection Agency)

US engineering firm settles with workers over coal ash clean-up impacts: After suffering a series of legal setbacks, Jacobs Solutions has agreed to settle the class action lawsuit of over 220 former workers and more than 100 spouses of former workers who suffered health effects from cleaning up a major coal ash spill. It is estimated that over 50 workers have died since legal cases were first filed alleging they were required to clean up the coal ash without proper protective equipment. Lawyers for the workers argued they were exposed to arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury and radium in the ash. Jacobs Solutions was contracted by the Tennessee Valley Authority to clean up after an estimated 1 billion gallons (4.2 million cubic metres) of coal ash split from a failed tailings dam at the Kingston coal plant in Tennessee. The dam collapsed in late December 2008. The settlement terms are confidential. (Tennessee Lookout, Knoxville News Sentinel)

US utility names former top regulator in deposition on Ohio scandal: In a sworn May 19 court deposition FirstEnergy’s assistant controller, Tracy Ashton, named Ohio’s former top utility regulator Sam Randazzo and former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder as two of those who ex-CEO of FirstEnergy, Chuck Jones, conspired with to break federal laws. FBI agents raided Randazzo’s home in 2020, but he has not been charged with any offences. Ashton was deposed as part of a class action lawsuit against FirstEnergy by the Los Angeles County Employees Retirement Association and others. They argue that the US$64 million House Bill 6 (HB6) bribery scandal resulted in investors losing billions of dollars when the company’s stock price fell. HB6 resulted in a US$1.3 billion subsidy to two nuclear plants and subsidies to two coal plants, gutting the state’s renewable energy target and weakening the energy efficiency target. The nuclear bailout was revoked, but the subsidies remain in place for the coal plants, one in Ohio and one in Indiana. (Cleveland, Cleveland)

Study finds legal cases cost carbon emitters: A review of 108 climate change-related legal cases against US and European companies listed on the stock exchange found an impact on the valuation of the companies was evident. The study by the London School of Economics and Political Science found cases filed between 2005 and 2021 resulted in an average 0.41 per cent fall in the companies’ value after the legal actions were filed or unfavourable judgements were issued. The study found that where the case was against one of the major greenhouse gas emitters, the average decline in value was 0.57 per cent and an unfavourable judgement against a company caused a fall of 1.50 per cent fall in value. (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Study finds almost one-third of India’s coal plants could face water stress: A study published in the journal Energy found that about 30 per cent of India’s 174 coal power plants are in regions of declining freshwater availability. The study found that the western power grid in Maharashtra and Gujarat has the highest number of plants vulnerable to water stress. The study also found that almost 20 per cent of coal plants in the northern grid are exposed to water shortages, with any new projects in water-scarce Rajasthan, Punjab, and Haryana set to add further stress to water supplies. The Center for Science and Environment (CSE) estimates that coal power plants account for about 70 per cent of the industrial water used in India. CSE noted that even though one of the study’s co-authors worked for the Ministry of Power, they could not access plant-level data on water consumption, even though this information is submitted to the agency each quarter. (Down to Earth, Energy)

Japan blocks G7 from adopting tougher stance to set coal end date: The final communique of the leaders of the G7 leaders stated that they were committed to ensuring the power sector is “fully or predominantly” decarbonised by 2035 and supported “accelerating” the closure of coal plants that did not incorporate carbon capture and storage units. However, no deadline was agreed upon for the closure of unabated coal plants, and they only agreed to “work towards” ending the construction of new coal plants. The G7 group of counties comprises the UK, the US, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and the European Union. E3G, a UK-based think tank, said the final communique was the first time that the G7 leaders had acknowledged the need to end the construction of new unabated coal plants and hopes more ambitious commitments will be made at the G20 meeting, the United Nations Ambition Summit in September 2023 and the next international climate negotiations conference in November. Alden Meyer from E3G said opposition to phasing out unabated coal power came from Japan. (Financial Times, G7 [Pdf],  E3G)

Teck Coal sued over Canadian selenium pollution: A coalition of environmental groups led by the Montana Environmental Information Center has launched legal action against the Montana Board of Environmental Review which has attempted to overturn water quality standards to protect Lake Koocanusa from high levels of selenium from Teck Coal’s mining operations in British Columbia. The board initially set a selenium standard in 2020 of 0.8 parts per million but reversed the rule under pressure from Teck Coal. In April, 12 First Nations and Tribes wrote to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Columbian Premier David Eby, calling on them to protect their territories from pollution from the existing and proposed mines in British Columbia. (, Earthjustice)

Challenge against UK coal mine cleared for High Court hearing: Lawyers for Friends of the Earth and South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) successfully persuaded the High Court to hear their appeal against the decision by Levelling Up Secretary, Michael Gove, to approve West Cumbria Mining’s proposed Whitehaven metallurgical coal mine. An earlier application to appeal the decision had been rejected, but the groups had the right to make an oral presentation to the court on why their case should be heard. The groups argue the minister should have considered the climate impacts of burning the coal before planning permission was granted in December 2022. The proposed underground coal mine would produce 2.8 million tonnes of metallurgical coal a year. A three-day hearing on the case is likely to occur later this year. (Friends of the Earth UK)


Australia: The West Australian government will grant an “interim” one-year extension for the taxpayer-subsidised Griffin coal mine.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske is proposing to co-fire its 300 MW Gacko plant with municipal waste.

Czech Republic: The government has proposed amending the Air Protection Act to ban the installation of new coal stoves in houses from January 1, 2025.

Russia: The Office of the Russian Federation Prosecutor General has declared Greenpeace an “undesirable organisation” and banned the group from operating in Russia.

South Africa: Eskom has spent 250 million rand (US$13 million) to date on constructing temporary flue gas ducts for three 800 MW units at the Kusile coal plant. In October 2022, a duct shared by the three units collapsed due to the build-up of cement-like sludge.

US: Judge finds that coal companies owned by the family of West Virginia Governor Jim Justice are liable for about US$130,000 for six years of premiums under a coal mining union retiree health benefit plan. Justice has filed to run as a Republican candidate for the US Senate.

Companies + Markets

New furnace for New Zealand steelworks will halve met coal demand: The New Zealand Government has agreed to contribute NZ$140 million (US$87 million) of the NZ$300 million (US$186 million) cost of building an electric arc furnace at NZ Steel’s Glenbrook steel mill. The new furnace, which will rely on scrap steel, will cut coal consumption at the steel mill by about 45 per cent or 360,000 tonnes of metallurgical coal annually. The project will replace an existing blast furnace and two of the four coal-based kilns at the plant. The government noted that the new furnace would cut emissions at about NZ$16.20 per tonne compared to the carbon price of NZ$50 per tonne. The announcement has been welcomed by Coal Action Network Aotearoa (CANA), which has long advocated the shift. But CANA noted that the government support for the project was a much more effective way to cut emissions than awarding free emission reduction credits to NZ Steel under the Emissions Trading Scheme. NZ Steel has received more free allocations than any other company. (NewsHub, Coal Action Network)

Swedish coal-free steel project orders electrolysers for hydrogen: H2 Green Steel, a Swedish company founded by Vargas, has contracted ThyssenKrupp Nucera to install more than 700MW of water electrolysis capacity at its Boden steel plant. The electrolysers will produce hydrogen to reduce iron ore to sponge iron, which will then be used as feedstock for green steelmaking. The plant  is currently under construction with the company aiming to produce 5 million tonnes of steel a year by 2030. H2 Green Steel has negotiated several steel offtake agreements with other producers and processors. (Power Technology)

Three utilities dominated European Union greenhouse gas emissions: Three utilities – RWE, PGE and EPH – accounted for 30 per cent of the 739 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the European Union (EU) power sector in 2022. In its latest annual review, climate policy think tank Ember notes that the power sector accounts for half of all EU emissions. Hard coal and lignite plants accounted for 62 per cent of power sector emissions. Germany and Poland accounted for two-thirds of greenhouse emissions from coal plants. All top 10 individual plant emitters are coal plants, with seven being amongst the largest emitters yearly for the last decade. (Ember)

Russian coal exports losing ground in the Asia-Pacific market: Coal exports from Russia’s Far East could decline in 2023 as cargoes from Colombia and South Africa gain a price advantage. South African exports to China, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan have increased in the last few months. South Korean thermal coal buyers will only buy Russian coal when it is US$15-20 per tonne cheaper than alternatives after allowing for freight costs. Argus reported South Korean buyers wanted a significant discount to offset the geopolitical risks of buying from Russian exporters. In April, 6000 kilocalories per kilogram of Russian coal from the port of Vostochny was US$2 per tonne higher than the South African price and is now over US$17 per tonne more expensive. A Swiss trading firm has reported shifting Colombian cargoes from the European market to China. (Argus)

Coal India agrees to wage increase for staff: Coal India and its subsidiary Singareni Collieries Company have agreed with five trade unions to provide a 19 per cent increase for the minimum guaranteed benefit for the 281,000 employees. Employees will also receive a 25 per cent increase in allowances. The agreement covers five years from July 1, 2021. The deal may increase Coal India’s wage bill by about 15 per cent to about US$5.6 billion a year. In 2021 Coal India announced it planned to cut employee numbers by about 5 per cent a year for the next five to ten years to cut costs, but a recent surge in production to meet increasing power demand has seen the number of people on the payroll increase. (LiveMint)

Court appointed struggles to find owners of Adani investors: The committee tasked by the Supreme Court with investigating the actions of the Securities and Exchange Board of India oversight of Adani Group’s compliance with corporate disclosure standards has made limited progress. A 173-page report by the committee, which was appointed in the wake of the damning Hindenburg Research report released in January, notes that since October 2020, SEBI has been investigating 13 investors that have invested 200 billion rupees (US$2.4 billion) in Adani Group companies registered in Cyprus and Mauritius. SEBI obtained information on only 24 of the 42 controlling stakeholders and investors registered in other tax havens, including the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Malta, Curacao, and Bermuda. However, the committee argues there is no basis to find against SEBI because the regulator hasn’t finished its investigation. The report also notes the disclosure requirement changed in 2018 to no longer require disclosure of the natural person holding an investment. Central to the inquiry is whether Adani met compliance requirements for disclosure of related-party transactions and whether listed subsidiaries had a minimum of 25 per cent of their shares held by the public. (NewsClick, Indian Express, Adani Watch)

Adani executives fined over failure to disclose related-party transactions: The Gujurat office of the Registrar of Companies has fined Gautam Adani and two other Adani Power officials 75,000 rupees (US$905) each for breaching the provisions of the Companies Act that requires related-party contracts and transactions to be disclosed. The registrar ruled that Adani Power, India’s largest private power generator, had entered into related-party contracts and transactions in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 financial years but failed to disclose the information in the register of contracts. Adani and the two other executives are appealing the decision. (Economic Times)


“Fossil fuel racism in the United States: How phasing out coal, oil, and gas can protect communities”, Energy Research & Social Science, June 2023.

This paper draws on US studies and argues that public health hazards from air and water pollution from fossil fuel production and burning, along with risks associated with climate change, fall disproportionately on Black, Brown, Indigenous, and poor communities.

“Time to pay the piper: Fossil fuel companies’ reparations for climate damages”, One Earth, May 19, 2023.

This paper estimates the cost of climate reparations for the top twenty-one fossil fuel companies globally, including major coal producers such as BHP and Peabody Energy.

Two billion reasons: How Indonesia can get ahead of the net zero curve, Transition Zero, May 24, 2023. (Pdf)

This 39-page report details the assumptions and outcomes of modelling an accelerated transition away from coal power in Indonesia.