August 11, 2022
Issue 429  |  View Past Issues
Published by Global Energy Monitor

Editor's Note

The newly sworn-in President of Colombia, Gustavo Petro, the country’s first left-wing leader, has highlighted social and environmental justice as key issues and proposed a gradual transition away from reliance on fossil fuels. One of the first announcements of the administration is a proposed 10 per cent coal export levy to fund anti-poverty programs. In the US, the compromise climate bill has passed Congress. Broadly supported by climate action advocates for its support of renewables and a wide range of other measures, it includes substantial funding support for carbon capture and storage projects. Conservative Senator Joe Manchin also won in-principle approval for a separate bill to weaken permitting procedures for fossil fuel and other projects.

In Australia, the new Minister for Environment, Tanya Plibersek, has indicated she intends to reject approval for the Central Queensland Coal Project due to the risk of impact on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. In the Philippines, the new Secretary of Energy, Raphael Perpetuo Lotilla, has confirmed the continuation of the country’s moratorium on new coal power plants, a policy instituted by the previous administration. In China, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has unveiled a steel sector plan which requires a peak in greenhouse gas emissions before 2025 and a decline of 30 per cent by 2030. The steel industry is China’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitting sector.

Bob Burton


Can President Petro crack Colombia’s reliance on oil and coal?

Colombia’s new President, Gustavo Petro, and Vice President Francia Marquez — Colombia’s first black vice president and a leading environmentalist — have promised to focus on peace, social justice and the environment, with a transition away from reliance on coal and oil, writes Anastasia Moloney in Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The Taliban’s black gold: militants seize on coal to reboot the economy

To reboot the economy, the Taliban have aggressively increased coal exports, brushing aside environmental and ethical concerns to boost, control and tax trade in the commodity, write Benjamin Parkin and Fazelminallah Qazizai in the Financial Times.

Regulators’ foot-dragging on public records hides the whole story behind the FirstEnergy scandal

Documents produced at the end of July shed light on Sam Randazzo’s role at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio with the coal and nuclear plants bailout law. But more documents from before and after his tenure still haven’t been produced, writes Kathiann M. Kowalski in the Eye on Ohio.

Top News

Australian minister flags rejection of billionaire’s coal mine plan: The Australian Minister for Environment, Tanya Plibersek, has indicated she plans to reject the proposed Central Queensland Coal Project as it would be “likely to have unacceptable impacts to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park”. In April 2021, the Queensland Government said the mine was “not suitable to proceed”, but the project also required federal approval. The minister’s initial position is open for public comment until 18 August. Environmental groups have welcomed the minister’s statement. Central Queensland Coal is a company owned by billionaire Clive Palmer who spent an estimated A$100 million on his United Australia Party campaign in the May 2022 federal election. The party won only one Senate seat. (Guardian, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water [Pdf])

US climate bill passed by Senate: The US Senate has passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a compromise package negotiated between Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and conservative West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Manchin. The bill approved US$369 billion in spending on energy transition technologies, including renewables, electric vehicles, carbon capture and storage (CCS), and various other measures. A Princeton University analysis of the bill suggested the incentives could result in 6000 megawatts (MW) of existing coal plants retrofitted with CCS by 2030. As part of the deal to win Manchin’s support for the climate bill, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Biden agreed to support environmental permitting changes for fossil fuel, carbon capture, renewables and other energy projects. Manchin’s wish list includes time limits on environmental reviews, amendments to the Clean Water Act and limiting the scope for legal appeals. The bill’s passage was welcomed by the national and many other NGOs, with caveats, but others were alarmed at the lock-in of subsidies for CCS and other measures to support fossil fuels. (Princeton University [Pdf], E & E Daily, Senator Joe Manchin [Pdf], Sierra Club, Center for International Environmental Law)

New Philippines government retains moratorium on new coal plants: The Philippines Secretary of Energy, Raphael Perpetuo Lotilla, has confirmed that the moratorium on new coal power plants announced in October 2020 by the Duterte administration will remain in place under the Marcos administration. The moratorium excluded coal plant proposals that did not have permits or that had contracts in place. Lotilla said insurers do not want to support new coal projects and investors are “finding it difficult”. He warned that a policy change would adversely affect investors that had made plans based on the previous administration’s policy. The Philippines’ power sector, which is largely reliant on coal imports, has been hit by the surge in global coal prices. The Global Coal Plant Tracker notes that the Philippines has 1403 MW of new coal plants under construction with an additional 270 MW capacity with permits. (Manila Bulletin)

US judge criticises federal agency for ignoring court rulings: US District Judge Brian Morris has castigated the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for failing to consider possible environmental damage from coal mining when developing 20-year resource management plans for the Powder River Basin in Montana and Wyoming. About 44 per cent of US coal production comes from the Powder River Basin. The BLM has been given up to a year to develop new plans that consider the impacts of fossil fuel emissions on public health from coal from public lands and to determine how much coal, if any, should be available for lease. Leases under consideration must be subject to a comprehensive environmental assessment in line with the judge’s rulings and the National Environmental Policy Act. (AP, Western Environmental Law Center)

Former regulators say coal mining made deadly Kentucky floods worse: Former mining regulators have called on federal and Kentucky regulators to investigate the role that mountaintop coal mining may have played in exacerbating floods in which 37 people died. A former national mine-safety engineer, Jack Spadaro, said in previous legal cases, hydrologists have calculated runoff after mining can be over 1000 times greater than if the area was unmined. In late July, parts of Kentucky were hit by 10.5 inches (267 millimetres) of rain in 48 hours resulting in flash flooding. Researchers have raised questions about the adequacy of rehabilitation in the state and the potential impact of dumping spoil to fill streams below coal seams. (Inside Climate News, Inside Climate News, Guardian)

Former Indian official sentenced to three years in jail over coal allocation: A former Secretary of Coal, H. C. Gupta, has been sentenced to serve three years in prison after being convicted on charges of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, cheating and corruption in the allocation of the Lohara East coal block in Maharashtra to Grace Industries. Counsel for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) described the series of scandals over coal allocations as “one of the biggest scams of the country”, resulting in private companies avoiding the Indian coal sector. Special Judge Arun Bhardwaj also sentenced the former joint Secretary in the Ministry of Coal, K. S. Kropha, and Grace Industries Director Mukesh Gupta to serve two and four years in prison, respectively. The CBI told the court that between 2005 and 2011, Grace Industries and Mukesh Gupta had conspired with H.C. Gupta and K. S. Kropha to allocate the coal block based on inaccurate information. (Mint, Economic Times)

Companies fined for breaching domestic market obligation: Indonesia’s Ministry of Finance has revealed that in the first half of the year, 240 coal mining companies have paid 1.83 trillion rupiah (US$128 million) in fines for breaching the government’s domestic market obligation (DMO) to supply 25 per cent of production to local power plants and industry. In January 2022, the government banned coal exports for all mining companies as low compliance with the DMO led the public power utility PLN to warn of the risk of blackouts due to lack of coal. Coal exporters must sell coal under the DMO at US$70 per tonne. With Indonesia’s benchmark coal export price at US$239 per tonne in early July, coal companies have opted to pay fines rather than supply the local market at the low DMO price. PLN has warned it could face a shortfall in supply again later this year. (Jakarta Post)


Australia: Residents group flags the possibility of a legal challenge over groundwater impacts of the proposed expansion of the New Acland mine in Queensland.

Australia: Hong Kong-based power utility CLP has provided A$1 billion (US$696 million) to its subsidiary EnergyAustralia to cover unrealised hedging losses and problems with its Yallourn brown coal plant in Victoria and fuel shortages at its Mt Piper plant in New South Wales.

Bangladesh: The first shipment of coal arrives at Mongla Port as the controversial Rampal coal plant nears completion.

Germany: Two coal plants remain at risk as water levels in the Rhine River keep falling, limiting coal supplies delivered by barges.

Mexico: Attempt to rescue 10 miners trapped in a flooded underground section of Minera Del Norte’s Mimosa coal mine in Sabinas.

Pakistan: The 330 MW Thar Coal Block-II based on local lignite has been commissioned.

Sri Lanka: The Public Utilities Commission of Sri Lanka has approved an immediate 75 per cent power price increase for low electricity consumers and a 200 per cent increase for customers using up to 60 kilowatt-hours per month.

Switzerland: Glencore, the world’s largest thermal coal exporter with mines in Australia, Colombia and South Africa, announces its coal division generated earnings of US$8.9 billion in the first six months of the year.

US: Oakland City Attorney said it remains committed to negotiating an “enforceable and loophole-free coal prohibition” agreement to settle the legal dispute over the 66-year lease on the proposed commodity terminal at the former Oakland Army Base.

Companies + Markets

New Colombian President unveils new tax on coal exports: Colombia’s new Finance Minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo, has unveiled a proposed tax bill that includes a tax of 15 per cent on coal exports when prices are over US$87 per tonne. Other provisions of the bill levy export taxes on oil and gold, which with coal, are the country’s most significant exports. Ocampo estimates that when the changes are fully implemented, Colombia will raise an additional US$11.53 billion annually to contribute to anti-poverty programs. The bill also ends the eligibility of royalties to be offset against income tax payments. Colombia is the world’s fifth largest exporter of thermal coal and is estimated to have sold 32 million tonnes into the seaborne coal market in 2021. (Reuters)

China sets a target for the steel sector’s greenhouse gas emissions: The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has released a plan that proposes that greenhouse gas emissions from the steel sector must peak before 2025 and decline by 30 per cent by 2030. The plan sets a target for steel production from electric arc furnaces to increase to over 15 per cent of capacity by 2025 and 20 per cent by 2030. The plan also states the steel industry continues to have excess capacity and says it must accelerate the adoption of carbon capture use and storage. China’s steel sector is the country’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter after the power sector. (Ycai Global, S & P Global)

Kazakhstan looks to ban coal exports for six months: Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development is seeking public comment on a proposed ban on coal exports by road for six months to ensure the domestic power sector and other industries have adequate supplies. With the European Union ban on Russian coal to take effect by the end of August, the European power sector has been seeking supplies from non-traditional suppliers. While a significant part of Kazakh coal production has high ash and sulphur content unsuited to European customers, higher calorific value coal from the Shubarkol Basin is potentially attractive. Of the 109 million tonnes of coal produced in 2020, 10 million tonnes of 22 million tonnes exported were metallurgical coal. (S & P Global)

Polish state buys power utilities’ share of loss-making coal company: Poland’s state assets ministry has agreed to buy out the shares held by four state-owned power utilities in the loss-making coal mining company Polska Grupa Gornicza (PGG). Energa, PGNiG, PGE and Enea have each agreed to sell their stakes in PGG for one zloty, each valuing the company at less than US$1. In mid-2021, the government said it would buy and transfer the stakes into a new state-owned company. (Reuters)

Indian Government drops requirement for utilities to import coal: The Indian Government has backed away from insisting power utilities import up to 10 per cent of the coal demand for blending with domestic coal. State governments and power and distribution utilities objected to the impact on prices that would result from the policy. The Ministry of Power said that due to increased coal stockpiles at most power plants, it would be left to the power utilities to determine the level of imported coal required. (Economic Times)

South Africa and Botswana agree to upgrade coal railway connection: Transnet Freight Rail, the South African government-owned rail operator, and Botswana Rail have decided to upgrade the 126-kilometre line between Mafikeng in Botswana and Swartruggens to facilitate coal exports through the Richards Bay coal terminal and the port of Durban. The two governments will jointly fund the costs of the upgrade to complete it within two years. They also announced they would build an extension of the Lephalale to Richards Bay rail line to Mamabula in Botswana. Access to the international market has limited coal exports from landlocked Botswana, with only small volumes shipped through Mozambique. The surge in global prices and the switch of European utilities away from Russian coal has boosted the potential viability of coal export from Botswana. (Reuters, Transnet [Pdf])


Fly Ash Disposal in Mine Voids and Low-Lying Areas: Report of a Field Visit to Bokaro (Jharkhand), Manthan Adhyayan Kendra, August 2022. (Pdf) (Executive Summary here.)

This 30-page report examines the local implications near the Indian city of Bokaro of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s plan to encourage the disposal of coal plant fly ash in the filling of abandoned mine voids, the reclamation of low-lying areas, and as a soil conditioner in agriculture.

Solving Iron Ore Quality Issues for Low-Carbon Steel, August 2022. (Pdf)

 This 14-page report looks at new technologies that could allow direct reduced iron (DRI)-based steelmaking without reliance on access to high-grade iron ore. DRI steel does not require metallurgical coal.