Green Groups Blast U.S. Financing for Massive Coal Project

Green groups blasted the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank) for its expected final approval of hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidized federal financing for the massive 4,000 megawatts (MW) Sasan coal power plant and mine in India, one of the world’s largest coal power projects. 

The groups also accused the Bank of falsely linking renegotiation of the coal financing to a renewable energy project.

Ex-Im Bank’s decision stands in stark contrast to its initial June 17 decision to deny financing for the project based on climate change impacts. Less than a week later, Ex-Im Bank reversed its position under political pressure from the White House, the groups said. This week’s decision finalizes the reversal.

“Ex-Im Bank flip flopped on this massive climate-damaging project–and belly flopped on the first major test of the agency’s carbon policy,” said Michelle Chan, director of the economic policy program at Friends of the Earth.

Green groups excoriated Ex-Im Bank Chairman Fred Hochberg for falsely asserting that the agency’s renegotiated financing for Sasan will result in a new 250-MW renewable energy project.

A July 14 Ex-Im Bank press release states: “[S]ubsequent to that [renegotiated] vote, Reliance Power has executed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Ex-Im indicating Reliance’s intent to develop a new 250 megawatt renewable energy facility, which when built will rank among the largest renewable energy projects in India.” 

Hochberg later echoed this claim in sworn testimony to Congress, saying that following the renegotiation, the Sasan project sponsor, Reliance Power Ltd., “executed a Memorandum of Understanding agreeing to supply 250 MW of renewable energy sourced from the United States.”

However, Friends of the Earth says it obtained a copy of the MOU through the Freedom of Information Act, and the MOU exposes Hochberg’s statements as false. The MOU refers to potential Ex-Im Bank support for “current planned investments to build 250 megawatts of renewable energy power plants,” hence the renewable energy projects are not a new undertaking resulting from the Sasan renegotiation. The renewable projects were slated to take place regardless. Moreover, the MOU isn’t obligatory, since it is “only a statement of interest and sets forth no legally binding duties or obligations.” And this so-called “mutual understanding” is signed just by Hochberg–not by Reliance Power, the project sponsor.

“Now we see that the supposedly new renewable energy project was not a result of the Sasan renegotiation—it’s just Hochberg’s hokum,” said Doug Norlen, Policy Director for Pacific Environment.

“Ex-Im’s attempt to paint this as a positive outcome makes a mockery of the agencies carbon and environmental policies,” added John Coequyt, Director of International Climate Programs, Sierra Club.

Meanwhile, the Sasan project’s climate-destabilizing emissions–more than 26 million tons of carbon dioxide annually–will exceed emissions from all projects financed by Ex-Im in 2009 combined. In addition, Sasan will emit other pollutants that are extremely harmful to human health, such as lead, arsenic, mercury, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide.

“Sasan is only the latest episode in Ex-Im Bank’s worsening fossil fuel binge,” said Sunita Dubey, Coordinator, groundWork in South Africa.

Ex-Im Bank is now considering an even bigger coal-fired power project, the 4,800 megawatt coal fired power Kusile project in South Africa.

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