Coal-fired electricity being killed in the US — the war on coal is being won


This photo is from Sweden – from a worldwide series on coal

The war on coal is not just political rhetoric, or a paranoid fantasy concocted by rapacious polluters. It’s real and it’s relentless. Over the past five years, it has killed a coal-fired power plant every 10 days. It has quietly transformed the US electric grid and the global climate debate.

The industry and its supporters use “war on coal” as shorthand for a ferocious assault by a hostile White House, but the real war on coal is not primarily an Obama war, or even a Washington war. It’s a guerrilla war. The front lines are not at the Environmental Protection Agency or the Supreme Court. If you want to see how the fossil fuel that once powered most of the country is being battered by enemy forces, you have to watch state and local hearings where utility commissions and other obscure governing bodies debate individual coal plants. You probably won’t find much drama. You’ll definitely find lawyers from the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, the boots on the ground in the war on coal.

Beyond Coal is the most extensive, expensive and effective campaign in the Club’s 123-year history, and maybe the history of the environmental movement. It’s gone largely unnoticed amid the furor over the Keystone pipeline and President Barack Obama’s efforts to regulate carbon, but it’s helped retire more than one third of America’s coal plants since its launch in 2010, one dull hearing at a time. With a vast war chest donated by Michael Bloomberg, unlikely allies from the business world, and a strategy that relies more on economics than ecology, its team of nearly 200 litigators and organizers has won battles in the Midwestern and Appalachian coal belts, in the reddest of red states, in almost every state that burns coal…

Coal still helps keep our lights on, generating nearly 40 percent of US power. But it generated more than 50 percent just over a decade ago, and the big question now is how rapidly its decline will continue. Almost every watt of new generating capacity is coming from natural gas, wind or solar; the coal industry now employs fewer workers than the solar industry, which barely existed in 2010. Utilities no longer even bother to propose new coal plants to replace the old ones they retire. Coal industry stocks are tanking, and analysts are predicting a new wave of coal bankruptcies…

This is a big deal, because coal is America’s top source of greenhouse gases, and coal retirements are the main reason US carbon emissions have declined 10 percent in a decade. Coal is also America’s top source of mercury, sulfur dioxide and other toxic air pollutants, so fewer coal plants also means less asthma and lung disease — not to mention fewer coal-ash spills and coal-mining disasters. The shift toward cleaner-burning gas and zero-emissions renewables is the most important change in our electricity mix in decades, and while Obama has been an ally in the war on coal — not always as aggressive an ally as the industry claims — the Sierra Club is in the trenches. The US had 523 coal-fired power plants when Beyond Coal began targeting them; just last week, it celebrated the 190th retirement of its campaign in Asheville, N.C., culminating a three-year fight that had been featured in the climate documentary “Years of Living Dangerously.”

RTFA. Long, detailed, about as close to neutral as Politico ever gets. You won’t find any greedy, corporate Republicans; but, they shy away from defining the Sierra Club as the radical organization the Koch Bros think it is.

Recognition of success [and continuing] you’ll rarely see inside the Beltway.

Attention Grayheads — Congressional Voting Records


Workingclass men and women built this land. We deserve the fruits of our labor.

This week, the Alliance for Retired Americans released its annual report detailing the voting record of every U.S. Representative and Senator on issues important to current and future retirees. The voting record looks at ten key votes in both the Senate and the House and assigns a “Pro-Retiree” score for each member of Congress. Scores reflect a member’s level of support for retirees and older Americans.

This year, votes examined include whether to:

Privatize Medicare and create a voucher-like system in its place;

Turn Medicaid into a block grant system, which would undercut its ability to provide care for millions of older Americans;

Raise the minimum wage; and

Increase the debt ceiling and keep the government open…

In total, 49 members of the Senate and 135 members of the House received perfect scores of 100 percent. 34 Senators and 122 House members received zeros. Of those members of the Senate who have declared their candidacy for President, Ted Cruz (R-TX), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rand Paul (R-KY) scored zero while Bernie Sanders (I-VT) scored 100%.

I hope my peers break the mold of American ignorance and vote in their own general interest instead of believing what politicians say – versus what they actually do.

There’s an interactive map at the ARA site so you can check up on your own state.

Accidental anthrax shipments no danger — treating 26 people just to be sure, eh?


Click to enlargeJim Urquhart/AP
Where the anthrax was shipped from – just in case folks in Utah didn’t notice.

At least 26 people are being treated for potential exposure to deadly anthrax after an Army bio-defense facility in Utah mistakenly sent live samples to private and military laboratories in as many as nine states, including California, and South Korea…

No confirmed infections were reported, and Pentagon officials insisted the accidental shipments of live Bacillus anthracis spores around the country and halfway around the world posed no risk to the general public.

The Pentagon said the 26 affected, including at least four civilians at U.S. commercial laboratories, are being given antibiotics and in some cases, vaccinations, as a safeguard.

The 22 others being treated are at a U.S. military laboratory at Osan Air Base in South Korea, where emergency response teams destroyed the anthrax sample. A joint U.S.-Korean program at Osan aims to boost bio-surveillance capabilities on the Korean Peninsula.

Sounds like the joint US-Korean program should be under surveillance.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was working with state and federal agencies to investigate how the anthrax samples were sent from the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground, a vast facility in southwest Utah where researchers try to build and test defenses against chemical and biological agents, including viruses and bacteria.

The CDC said it had launched its inquiry last weekend after it was contacted by a private commercial lab in Maryland that had received live spores. Normally, the anthrax is exposed to gamma radiation to render it inert.

The CDC said it had sent investigators to all the labs and was trying to determine if they all had received live samples. Officials said the facilities are in California, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. They did not identify the specific labs.

Always heartwarming to know our government is doing all it can to keep us safe. After the fact.

Arrest warrant out for nuclear powerplant developer


“Don, honey, we can put the executive swimming pool over there”

Don Gillispie — who pitched a plan to build a nuclear power plant in Southwest Idaho until federal investigators accused his company of fraudulent activity — didn’t show up for two arraignment hearings this week in an ongoing criminal case.

The first time, on Tuesday, U.S. Magistrate Larry M. Boyle rescheduled the arraignment for Thursday, court documents state. When Gillispie also missed that hearing, prosecutors asked the judge to issue a warrant for Gillispie’s arrest, the U.S. Attorney’s Office confirmed.

Gillispie is accused of duping investors to buy stock in Alternate Energy Holdings Inc. (AEHI) at an artificially inflated price and then funnelling the money to himself and his company’s former vice president, Jennifer Ransom. Prosecutors could now charge him with failure to appear in the case. For one count, wire fraud, that could mean up to 10 additional years in prison if he is convicted…

Also, U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge reissued a judgment against Gillispie and AEHI in a several-year-old civil case brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission…

From the $14.6 million in investor money received, Gillispie and Ransom “received significant salaries and other compensation that they did not report as income to the Internal Revenue Service,” according to court files.

Do your due diligence, folks, before you invest a penny of your hard-earned income. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably ain’t.