The world’s energy portfolio will get vastly cleaner by the year 2040 – but not clean enough, says a new long-term energy outlook from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF).
Why? It seems that fossil fuels will still provide 44% of our power in the projection, as new coal plants come online to provide cheap power in developing nations. The Paris-based International Energy Agency similarly reports the world is on a course to miss the widely-accepted international target of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
This is NOT the news we want to hear. But – by projecting where current trends are taking us, we can take immediate personal actions to protect ourselves, our families and our communities. That doesn’t mean we should “throw in the towel” and resign ourselves to a world filled with disruption and climate chaos. We need to continue to do the work required build a just, carbon-free, sustainable and resilient world, while adapting to an already-changing climate.
Blake Davis teaches about sustainability and facilitates undergraduate research projects the School of Applied Technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology. His students developed the aquaponics facility at The Plant, where he continues to serve as faculty adviser for one of the first vertical farms in the world, in a former meat packing plant in Chicago’s former Stockyards.
In April, 2015, Eco-Justice Collaborative led a delegation to southern Illinois to experience the beauty and magnificence of this part of the state and learn how coal mining affects communities, including the air they breathe, the water they drink and the land they have depended upon for generations. We partnered with Shawnee Hills and Hollers and the Shawnee Vinyard Indian Settlement to provide a guided tour of southern Illinois’ coalfields, that included a stop at Galatia Mine, the largest underground mine in Illinois. This mine is owned and operated by Bob Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corporation, one of the largest independent coal companies in the U.S.
Who is Bob Murray of Murray Energy?
Recently, Murray’s profile in Illinois coal dramatically has increased as Murray Energy agreed to a $1.4 billion dollar investment in St. Louis-based Foresight Energy. The combined reserves of the new company would exceed nine billion tons. By comparison, Peabody Energy, considered by many to be the number one coal company in the U.S. (and the world), recently reported 7.6 billion tons of coal reserves.
What do we know about Bob Murray, who soon will own more coal reserves in Illinois than anyone else?
Murray and his companies received national attention in August 2007 when six miners were trapped at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah, of which Murray Energy independent operating subsidiary Utah American Energy had been a part-owner for 12 months.
The collapse at Crandall Canyon was so powerful it registered as a 3.9-magnitude earthquake. It instantly entombed the miners nearly a half-mile underground. Their bodies have never been recovered. Another cave-in 10 days later killed two rescuers and a federal inspector during a frantic effort to tunnel their way to the trapped miners.
Prior to the collapse, the Crandall Canyon Mine had been cited for numerous safety violations including lacking the required number of escape routes. Murray said that the safety violations were trivial and included violations such as not having enough toilet paper in the restroom. However, some news agencies reported troubling violations at other of Murray’s operations. CNN specifically cited Murray’s Illinois Galatia mine, which had almost 3,500 safety citations in the prior two and a half years.
Bob Murray has been an outspoken critic of the science on climate change, and vehemently opposes what he believes to be the Obama administrations “war on coal”, threatening to sue the U.S. EPA in 2014 over “lying” about climate change. In a 2007 speech to the New York Coal Trade Association, Murray called Al Gore “the shaman of global gloom and doom” and added “he is more dangerous than his global warming.
Description, Galatia Mine
Owner: American Coal Parent Company: Murray Energy Mine Type: Underground Type of Coal Produced: Bituminous Production: 7,009,160 short tons Number of Employees: 700
Galatia mine, located approximately 10 miles northwest of Harrisburg, Illinois on US Route 34 is the largest underground coal mine in Illinois. Although the Energy Information Administration and the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration consider Galatia Mine to be just one mine, it operates out of two portals, which are listed on the company website as separate mines. The New Future Mine produces mid-sulfur bituminous coal. The New Era Mine operates produces high-sulfur bituminous coal. Both are operated by the American Coal Company, a subsidiary of Murray Energy. The Galatia complex also includes a third portal, the Galatia North Portal, which is inactive.
In recent years Galatia mine has incurred thousands of citations for violations at the mine and has been assessed millions of dollars in fines.
Interested in joining a delegation?
Contact EJC and we’ll set up a delegation in Illinois that suits your group’s time frame and interest.
The Legacy of King Coal Weekend Delegation to Southern Illinois
When: April 10, 11, and 12 Where: Saline and Hardin Counties Cost: $50 ($35 students)
Join Eco-Justice Collaborative as we partner with Shawnee Hills and Hollers and the Shawnee Vinyard Indian Settlement and head to southern Illinois this April for a guided tour of southern Illinois’ coalfields.
Participants will experience the beauty and magnificence of Illinois’ natural wonders, while learning about the impacts that the life cycle of coal has on the lands; waters; health; and quality of life of southern Illinois communities. During our time we together, we will:
Discover the beauty of southern Illinois and see how it is being destroyed by coal mining.
See three coal mines, and talk with a former miner.
Talk with residents directly affected by Peabody’s Wildcat Hills Cottage Grove Mine, the state’s largest strip mine.
See Peabody’s Old Will Scarlet Mine, the worst abandoned mine land in the Midwest.
Learn about the history of coal in southern Illinois, and the relationship between slavery and mining.
Learn how coal is a drain on our state budget.
Spend time each day with Shawnee Activist / Poet Barney Bush, and participate in the Shawnee Vinyard Indian Spring Onion Festival.
Close out our delegation on High Knob, one of the sacred sites of the Shawnee.
Guided tour, information packets and maps.
Donation to our hosts.
Friday dinner; all meals on Saturday; and Sunday breakfast.
Cost does not include:
Travel to and from southern Illinois. Participants must make their own travel arrangements.
Option #1 – Stay at the Quality Inn in Harrisburg (free hot breakfast) . Rooms start at $65 a night (plus tax). Share a room and save!
Option #2 – There is primitive camping available at the Shawnee Vinyard Indian Settlement. Camping is free, and they’ll provide breakfast.
Delegation Begins in Southern Illinois
The delegation begins on Friday evening at 5pm at the Shawnee Vinyard Indian Settlement:
1027 State Hwy 34 South, Herod, IL
(6 hours south of Chicago)
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate managed to stop – by just one vote – a measure that would have approved the Keystone XL pipeline. And the environmental community is claiming victory. James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies was the first to say extracting and burning the tar sands oil from Canada would mean “game over” for our climate.
But what’s next? Republicans vow to bring it back in January, when they’ll have majority control of the Senate, and passage of the bill will virtually be assured.
And while there is hope that President Obama will stop pipeline construction, he continues to dodge the question of whether he would veto the project.
Is Obama Really Serious About Climate Change?
If President Obama was serious about taking meaningful action to avert the worst effects of climate change, he would cancel any future expansion of the Keystone XL program and put in its place a full-scale, war-like response against climate change across the U.S.
It is true that many climate initiatives have taken place during Obama’s administration, but none go far enough to avert disaster:
A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory suggests that the recent negotiations with China to curb their emissions is not far from business as usual.
While the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will have some positive impacts, it keeps coal in the mix of fuels. Coal would continue to fuel 30 percent of the nation’s electricity generation by 2030, and the EPA’s Clean Power Plan would boost coal extraction in Illinois as utilities forced to install pollution control equipment in their power plants seek the less costly, higher-heat content coal found in the Illinois coal basin. The impacts of mining coal in the heartland include loss of prime farmland and forest; air pollution; contamination of water, including drinking water; sickness; and community displacement (read about the impacts of longwall mining in Illinois).
No Emergency Exits
Climate change isn’t something that “may” affect us in the future. Climate change already is beginning to transform life on Earth. Seasons are shifting, temperatures are climbing and sea levels are rising. 2013 tied for the seventh-warmest year since 1880, continuing a long-term trend of rising global temperatures. And a recent study by NASA scientists found that the planet could warm 20% more than earlier estimates.
There is much more that can be done by this administration to prevent runaway climate change through more aggressive emissions reduction targets; incentivizing clean, safe, renewable energy and increased energy efficiency, instead of moving from one fossil fuel to another (including relying upon or promoting natural gas as a bridge fuel); implementing a carbon tax; and more. We agree with the Climate Reality Project’s assertions that solutions put forward by this administration should protect low-income consumers and not create or exacerbate other environmental or socio-economic problems.
We have just one planet, upon which all life depends. And, as the Blue Man Group reminds us, there are no emergency exits.
Coal Ash Pollution Impacts Middle Fork of the Vermilion River Illinois’ Only National Scenic River
Sign Prairie Rivers Network’s petition to urge local, state and regional decision makers to support complete closure and cleanup of these ash pits to preserve the health of the Middle Fork River and protect the communities that depend on it.
Failing coal ash storage pits from the now-shuttered Dynegy Vermiion coal-fired power plant near Oakwood, Illinois are polluting the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River. The Middle Fork, the only National Scenic River in Illinois, is distinguished from most other streams in the area by its rock and gravel bed and its remarkably clean water. The river supports a great diversity of fish – from tiny, colorful darters to larger sport fish such as channel catfish and smallmouth bass – as well as mussels, crayfish and a multitude of other invertebrates. The ash pits are located along the Middle Fork just upstream from Kickapoo State Park and other protected lands where families recreate and thousands of people canoe or tube down the river each year.(1)
Coal ash is a byproduct of burning coal for electricity. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, coal ash contains high levels of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, zinc, cadmium and selenium that can poison wildlife and threaten human health. It is typically stored in pits (also called ponds) at the facility where it is generated.
Two of the three ash pits at the Dynegy Vermilion plant are unlined, and the company’s own reporting indicates they are releasing harmful pollutants into the Middle Fork.(2) The third, more recently-constructed storage pit, was built over a mine void, raising concerns that this pit could be destabilized by subsidence. All three are located in the river’s floodplain. When the river reaches flood stage, and the water backs up into the impoundments, it picks up dissolved pollutants that travel back into the river.
The natural movement of the river also is eroding the embankments of the coal ash pits, raising concerns about a potential breach, such as the one that took place near Kingston, TN in 2008 that resulted in a one billion gallon coal ash spill into the Emory River, or Duke Energy’s 2014 coal ash spill near Eden, NC, which covered 70 miles of the Dan River with gray sludge. Attempts by Dynegy to control the erosion with rock structures have failed.
With every rainfall and flood event, these ponds are leaking into adjacent groundwater and threatening a potential breach,” said Traci Barkley, Water Resources Scientist with Prairie Rivers Network. “These ash dumps should have never been built next to the river and over mine voids in the first place. They were not built to withstand the test of time.
Advocates for the Middle Fork, including area residents; Eco-Justice Collaborative; and the Prairie Rivers Network, (PRN), a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization that has been leading the push for coal ash site regulations, contend that Dynegy’s plan doesn’t go far enough. Instead, Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois EPA should force Dynegy to relocate all three coal-ash pits far from the river onto its more than 900-acre property. If that’s not done, it will just be a matter of time before the pond walls break and tons of the toxic sludge spill into the Middle Fork. Unfortunately,
Dynegy wants to leave its waste in place. As proposed, Dynegy would close the two unlined ponds by capping them with a “geosynthetic cover” and merely monitoring groundwater. No plans have been made to address concerns for the newest pond which, unlike the other two, was built with a clay liner, but is located over a mine void.
Take action today to protect the Middle Fork, and sign this petition calling on Dynegy to clean up and remove their coal ash dumps from the floodplain of the Middle Fork of the Vermilion River.
———————— (1)The Middle Fork of the Vermilion River was designated Illinois’ first state scenic river by Gov. Jim Thompson in 1986, and a national scenic river by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Manuel Lujan in 1989. What else makes it so special:
The river valley is home to 57 species of fish, mussels, turtles and salamanders; 45 different mammals; and 190 species of birds. Of this wildlife, 24 are on the state’s threatened or endangered species list.
Most of the area along the river is forested. Three areas support plants and animals so rare that they are protected as state nature preserves.
There are more than 8,400 acres of public lands adjacent to the Middle Fork.
(2)Moss, Tracy. Environmental Concerns Remain Over Coal-Ash Ponds. The News-Gazette. August 19, 2013.
Lessons from the fight to shut down Chicago’s Coal Plants Book reading and discussion with author / journalist Kari Lydersen
The closing of Chicago’s coal plants is a fascinating story on many levels, a story that continues two years after the historic shutdown.
Join EJC and other organizations who participated in the campaign to close Chicago’s coal plants to hear author / journalist Kari Lydersen reads from her latest book: Closing the Cloud Factories: Lessons from the fight to shut down Chicago’s Coal Plants (Monday June 16 , at 7:30 pm).
This book documents the stories of neighborhood activist and their years-long struggle against two of the city’s biggest polluters. A discussion will follow selected readings.
About Closing the Cloud Factories:
At the turn of the millennium, the Fisk and Crawford power plants in Chicago had declined from workhorses of the Industrial Revolution to arcane relics—more notorious for polluting the nearby Pilsen and Little Village neighborhoods than for providing electricity.
Author, journalist, and Pilsen resident Kari Lydersen tells the story of how a fragmented coalition of neighborhood activists, national environmental groups, and city leaders came together to close the coal plants down for good. Richly detailed and expertly reported, The Cloud Factories chronicles a groundbreaking victory in the environmental and social justice movements, and how neighborhood activists helped spearhead a cause that resonated worldwide.
In 2009, Eco-Justice Collaborative re-invigorated a campaign by community groups and environmental organizations that had stalled after a ten-year fight. This included building a coalition of diverse groups with representation from the faith, health and environmental communities; businesses; students; attorneys; labor; and more. By the end of the campaign over 60 groups had signed on to be part of the Chicago Clean Power Coalition. About 20 of these organizations became what was known as the coordinating committee. These groups led the way, meeting continuously to strategize in a political landscape that was unyielding.
The coordinating committee drew upon the expertise and resources of those in the coalition to carry out a vigorous campaign that included awareness-raising and education; lobbying; media work and social media networking; public meetings and hearings; and direct action. They focused their message on the impacts Fisk and Crawford had on the health and well-being of residents Pilsen and Little Village where the plants were located. After a two and one-half year fight and a change in administration, the plants were closed down and initiatives for cleaning up and reusing the sites were launched by the City of Chicago, with input by Pilsen and Little Village.
Sarah Erickson from Pekin, Illinois, has it right in her letter to the editor posted in the Pekin Daily Times:
“At every coal plant tested in Illinois, the ash contaminants are found in the groundwater. Every single one. The toxicity is not up for debate; this is based on real consequences of what happens to life when exposed to these chemicals.”
The Illinois Pollution Control Board is revising its rules proposed to regulate coal ash based on testimony received from the public and expert witnesses in Chicago this past week and in Springfield in February, 2014.
It’s not too late to submit written comments to the Illinois Pollution Control Board! Just click here to Just click here to access Sierra Club’s easy contact form. Rules will be brought back for public review in October, 2014.
Letter to the Editor
Pekin Daily Times
Posted May. 20, 2014 @ 9:12 pmTo the editor:
I live dangerously close to two coal fired power plants, and if you’re reading this you probably do, too. The toxicity is alarming. Tumors, cancer, reproductive issues, neurological damage, birth defects are all linked to communities that live near coal ash — the toxic byproduct left over after coal is burned. This coal ash is stored in unlined pits right next to the Illinois River — where our families both recreate and get our drinking water.
At every coal plant tested in Illinois, the ash contaminants are found in the groundwater. Every single one. The toxicity is not up for debate; this is based on real consequences of what happens to life when exposed to these chemicals.
This winter, a major coal ash spill on the Dan River in North Carolina dumped 39,000 tons of toxic coal ash sludge and 24 million gallons of contaminated water into the Dan River. Contamination has been measured as far as 70 miles downstream and estimates are that it might take two years to restore the river.
Currently, the Illinois Pollution Control Board is considering regulations that would impact how coal ash is cleaned up in communities like Peoria and Pekin. However, these regulations do not go far enough and must be strengthened to protect our communities’ drinking water supply, as well as our County’s budget. Legislators, please help us promote healthy community with your leadership, and think about the citizens’ needs instead of those of the corporation. Stand up for strong coal ash regulations.
And … You thought it was inexpensive!
In our modern world of electric cars, convenience appliances and instant communication, clean, reliable and inexpensive electricity is our everyday lifeline to a high functioning society.
Yet, coal continues to generate a significant amount of the electricity used by Illinois residents. In fact, coal-powered electricity is essential to meeting many of our most fundamental needs. This longstanding source of cheap energy has a dark side that is emblematic of the difficult choices ahead for energy consumers who are of faith and conscience. There are costs to society that we won’t see listed in our monthly bills, such as:
Land disturbance from mining (forest clearing, subsided farmland, loss of crop production).
Air and water pollution (mining, coal ash disposal, coal slurry, and combustion of coal).
Financial subsidies to the coal industry (grants, tax breaks, tax incentives, research and development, marketing, etc.).
Abandoned mine land reclamation (legacy costs to communities for infrastructure repairs once mine operators leave).
Public health burden (24,000 premature deaths nationwide in 2010, according Mining Coal, Mounting Costs. Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School. 2011).
Climate change (burning coal is one of the leading contributors to global warming).
Economic justice begins at home and is reflected in many of our personal decisions and public policies.
Learn more from Eco-Justice Collaborative on Wednesday, June 23 (beginning at 10:30 am), at this year’s SCUPE Congress on Urban Ministry, with its theme “Together Building a Just Economy“. The conference will take place at:
DePaul University, Student Center
2250 N. Sheffield
Chicago, IL 60614 June 23, at 7 pm, through June 26, at noon
Through a multi-media presentation and audience participation, this fast-paced session will engage attendees in the process of identifying the externalized and surprising costs of a convenient lifestyle. Participants will learn of the far reaching economic connections that our everyday decisions can have on social and eco-justice, understand their own role in the impact chain, and be able to ask key questions that will help them become advocates for more just public policies.
Vote to End Publicly-Funded Coal Curriculum for Kids Falls Short Illinois Legislators Fear “War on Coal”
HB 5660, a bill before the Illinois House that would have ended a mandate for the state to prepare and provide coal education materials for kids met sharp resistance this week from downstate legislators fearful that it represented the first step in a “War on Coal”.
Showing the powerful grip of the coal lobby on Illinois lawmakers, floor debate quickly moved from the merits of lifting the requirement for the state to educate school children on coal, to a series of oratories linking the measure to an effort to undermine the Illinois’ coal industry and ultimately lead to a loss of jobs. The bill failed to pass by a vote of 61-54.
The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity is required by law to prepare, market and distribute education materials targeted for grades K-12. The initiative is taxpayer funded through utility user fees, and has been highly criticized by environmental groups for being a thinly veiled marketing program for the coal industry. The program consists of a compre-hensive teaching curriculum; a kids website; an annual coal calendar coloring contest; and a four-day, all-expense paid retreat for teachers wishing to earn professional development credits while learning about coal.
In 2013 an independent consultant hired by IDCEO to evaluate the coal education program acknowledged that “science content experts, teachers and stakeholders found the scientific content to be outdated, biased toward a positive image of coal, light on natural science content, and lacking discussion of potential environmental and social impacts of coal use”. The report rec-ommended that the current Coal Curriculum be retired.
The bill’s sponsor Rep. Deborah Conroy (D-Elmhurst) has requested postponed consideration of the measure pending possible amendment.