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Resources for Coal Fighters

by Ted Nace

Web exclusive to the January/February 2008 issue of Orion magazine



Perhaps the best way to learn more about the No New Coal Plants movement is simply to dive right in. Locate a proposed coal-fired power plant in your state, check out the web sites of the groups opposing it, and get involved. A complete state-by-state list of proposed plants (including canceled projects and proposals defeated by opponents) can be found at http://tinyurl.com/2gwcpz. If your state doesn’t have any active proposals, you can still help out by contacting groups in areas where plants are on the drawing board. The following is a list of ten proposed plants, among scores across the country, that face determined grassroots opposition:

Alaska: Sponsored by the Matanuska Electrical Association, The Matanuska Power Plant would be located northeast of Anchorage, Alaska. It is opposed by Cook Inletkeeper and Castle Mountain Coalition.

Georgia: Longleaf, a pair of 600 MW plants, is under development in Georgia by LS Power/Dynegy, one of the largest independent power producers in the country. The proposal is being opposed by GreenLaw, No New Coal for Georgia, Friends of Chattahoochee, and others.

Indiana: The 630 MW Edwardsport IGCC plant is planned for Knox County, Indiana, by Duke Energy/Vectren. It is being opposed by Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Save the Valley, Sierra Club Hoosier Chapter, and Valley Watch.

Michigan: One of several coal-fired power plants under study in Michigan, the Wolverine Clean Energy Venture has already sparked local organizing, including a new group, Citizens for Environmental Inquiry as well as Environment Michigan and the Michigan Environmental Council.

Montana: The Highwood Generating Station would be built with the aid of federal Rural Utilities Service financing by the Southern Montana Generation and Transmission cooperative. Opponents include the Montana Environmental Information Center and Citizens for Clean Energy.

New Mexico: The huge (1500 MW) Desert Rock plant proposed for Farmington, New Mexico, has drawn fire from groups throughout the Four Corners region including Black Mesa Indigenous Support, Diné CARE, and San Juan Citizens Alliance.

South Carolina: Located along the Pee Dee River in Florence County, South Carolina, the Pee Dee Generating Facility is a pair of 600 MW power plants proposed by Santee Cooper, a state-owned utility. The project is opposed by the Southern Environmental Law Center, Coastal Conservation League, and Appalachian Voices.

South Dakota: An array of utilities joined to propose the Big Stone II plant, and an even broader array of environmental and agricultural groups has mobilized to stop it. Opponents celebrated when two of the sponsors recently pulled out. Groups opposing Big Stone II include South Dakota Clean Water Action, Beyond Big Stone II, Sierra Club Northstar Chapter, Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and Dakota Resource Council.

Washington: Energy Northwest’s proposed Pacific Mountain Energy Center, an IGCC coal plant on the Columbia River near Longview, Washington, is being opposed by NW Energy Coalition, a combination of over 100 groups.

Wyoming: Although the Northern Great Plains area it serves is blessed with the most extensive wind resources in the country, rural electric cooperative giant Basin Electric persists in building coal-fired power plants. Dry Fork, a 385 MW project, is slated for Gillette, Wyoming, the heart of the coal-rich Powder River Basin. The plant, which would use federal Rural Utilities Service financing, is opposed by the Powder River Basin Resource Council.


Local and Statewide Efforts
Across the country, scores of local and statewide groups are focusing on proposed coal-fired power plants, synthetic fuels plants, and the accompanying mining, water, and air impacts. To find a group in your area, see Coal Moratorium Now or the Citizens Coal Council.


Regional, National, and Campus Groups
Taking a cue from climate change activists in the United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia, anti-coal activists in the United States have over the past year placed increasing emphasis on direct action such as blockades and hunger strikes. Rainforest Action Network’s Dirty Money campaign targets Citibank and Bank of America for financing coal mines and power plants. Rising Tide North America, a decentralized group with several locations across the country, also organizes direct action against coal mines and power companies. In fall of 2007, a fast organized by the U.S. Climate Emergency Council brought national attention to the need for a national moratorium on new coal plants. A new effort, 1Sky, has combined demands for a moratorium on new coal with innovative proposals for five million green jobs in solar and efficiency retrofitting.

Focusing on blocking coal plants through regulatory channels such as state air and siting permits, the Sierra Club’s “Stop the Coal Rush” campaign combines the heavy-hitting litigation resources of a Big Green organization with the on-the-ground strengths of its numerous local chapters. The club maintains a up-to-date state-by-state inventory of coal projects.

Energy Justice Network works closely on low-income communities and communities of color, advocating a complete phase out of fossil and nuclear energy and focusing on low-income communities and communities of color. Energy Action Coalition is a coalition of more than forty groups working on global warming issues.

On campuses, an array of groups have participated in mobilization such as PowerShift2007, a gathering of thousands of students in Washington, D.C., and Step It Up, which made “no new coal” one of the three themes of its November 2007 nationwide actions to highlight global warming. To catch up on the rapidly evolving student movement against climate change, check out Student Environmental Action Coalition or the online magazine It’s Getting Hot in Here.


Background Reading

Jeff Goodell, Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future (Houghton Mifflin, 2006) http://tinyurl.com/3378g4. To report this story, Goodell rode coal trains out of Wyoming, visited precarious cabins in spoil-choked Appalachian Valleys, descended into mile-deep mines, and interviewed the power brokers who make up the Coal Lobby. Especially fascinating is his rags-to-riches tale of Don Blankenship, the coal baron whose machinations in West Virginia arguably tipped the 2000 White House to George Bush.

Barbara Freese, Coal: A Human History (Penguin, 2004) http://tinyurl.com/2mbhab.  Coal lifted medieval Europe into the industrial era, but it also inflicted misery: brutal working conditions in mines and mills, choking city pollution, labor wars. That mixed history has been repeated whereever coal appeared—from England to China to Pennsylvania. Barbara Freese’s account is as readable as it is relevant to today’s climate crisis.

Erik Reese, Lost Mountain: A Year in the Vanishing Wilderness (Riverhead Books, 2006) http://tinyurl.com/2l4sd5. Global warming is not the only reason to oppose new coal plants. In this remarkable report on coal mining in Kentucky, Erik Reece describes how only ten men and an array of heavy equipment can entirely destroy a mountain in a single season, filling adjacent valleys with dangerous spoil.

K. Ross Toole, The Rape of the Great Plains: Northwestern America, Cattle and Coal (Little Brown and Company, 1976) http://tinyurl.com/2o5n8b. A generation ago, Montana historian K. Ross Toole wrote this classic account of the fight against the Colstrip power plant. The rural organizing that brought ranchers and environmentalists into an effective alliance remains a lasting model.

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