Does This Surprise You?! Coal Companies Lie

If you wonder whether coal companies actually believe their products stoke climate change or even if it is occurring, the difference between their public commentary and SEC disclosures puts it to rest.

While coal companies repeatedly question the validity of climate science in the press and in responding to regulations that would lower their emissions, they acknowledge the connection between fossil fuel emissions and global warming in mandatory SEC disclosures, says Greenwire.

Because if they didn’t, they would be open to lawsuits from investors.

In other words, coal companies lie – endangering the long-term health and security of Americans, says Greenwire.

Take Peabody Energy, the world’s largest privately owned coal company. In its comments to the Environmental Protection Agency on its proposed Clean Power Plan – which would cut carbon emissions from power plants for the first time – the company says in a 145-page rebuke:

"The climate science upon which EPA relies cannot sustain this dramatic step to remake a significant sector of the American economy." 

"Even if the IPCC report were taken at face value (and it is deeply flawed and should not be accepted at face value), the IPCC has steadily downgraded its projections since 2007. It now predicts a slow and moderate warming trend that the IPCC’s own data and own scientists have indicated will be net beneficial to the world," noting that carbon promotes plant growth and reduces heating costs and cold-related health problems.

Existing climate models are "fatally flawed," Peabody says, because warming has plateaued, not risen in recent years.

Yet, its SEC filing tells a different story:

On risks that "could materially and adversely affect our business," Peabody says IPCC reports have "engendered concern about the impacts of human activity, especially fossil fuel combustion, on global climate." Notice there is no mention of IPCC’s "unreliable science."

Peabody continues: "Increasing government attention is being paid to global climate issues and to emissions of what are commonly referred to as greenhouse gases, including emissions of carbon dioxide from coal combustion by power plants." Then it downplays the impact of potential climate laws and regulations on its bottom line.

And while coal companies publicly blame regulations for closed mines or power plants, they change their tune when talking to investors – saying closures are due to cheap natural gas and more use of renewable energy.

"While companies have a right to vocally oppose regulations they believe could harm shareholders, they do not have a right to misrepresent scientific facts," Gretchen Goldman, lead analyst at the Center for Science and Democracy, told Greenwire. Spreading misinformation or otherwise supporting misrepresentations of climate science is immoral," she adds.

Like this ad, for example:

Climate Radio Ad

That’s Not All!

John Sheldon faces up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine for falsifying water quality tests for his employer, Appalachian Labs and its coal company clients, reports The Charleston Gazette.

He pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Clean Water Act by diluting and/or substituting clean water samples from 2008-2013.

The lab is certified by West Virginia’s Environment Department to sample and analyze water discharges from coal mining operations under the Clean Water Act.

No matter what coal companies dumped in the water, their tests were squeaky clean on reports to the state’s environment department and the EPA.

The charges state, "The objects of the conspiracy were to increase the profitability of Appalachian by avoiding certain costs associated with full compliance with the Clean Water Act and to maintain and increase its revenue by providing its customers and the agencies regulating those customers with reports purporting to show that those customers were operating their sites in compliance with the Clean Water Act (CWA) and thereby allow those customers to avoid fines and other costs associated with bringing their operations into compliance with the CWA and thus encourage and maintain for Appalachian the patronage of those customers." 

"Each time Shelton and others at Appalachian diluted the sample water or replaced it with water that would pass, they allowed water they believed exceeded permit limits to discharge into the waters of the United States."

"The whole Clean Water Act system relies on self-reporting," Derek Teaney, senior staff attorney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates, told The Charleston Gazette. "If that self-reporting can’t be trusted, then the system just falls apart."

Speaking about last year’s chemical spill in West Virginia’s Elk River, author Jeff Biggers  told The Guardian, "Our president and nation must get beyond a crisis management approach to the coal industry, and come to grips with the double-headed source of these disasters – lax and unenforced regulations for coal mining and chemical operations, and the stranglehold of industry lobbies over public officials in charge of regulation." Jeff wrote two books: The United States of Appalachia and Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland.

One reason coal companies are getting away with violations is because of the Sequester,  litigation positions have been cut. Three offices that have been litigating 10,700 mine safety cases have been downsized or shut down. 

Read our articles, $27 Million Fine for 6000 Mining Violations, C’mon! and After 4 Years, Coal Linchpin Indicted for Miner Deaths.

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