Big Coal In the Hot Seat

Photo by Duncan Harris, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/duncharris/4209526040/">via Flickr</a>.


Top executives from three of the country’s largest coal companies will testify before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming on Wednesday, where they will address, among other things, what they think about climate change.

 Peabody Energy, Arch Coal and Rio Tinto have significantly different takes on climate legislation. Rio Tinto is a member of the US Climate Action Partnership, which advocates for putting a price on carbon. Peabody and Arch, however, both oppose climate legislation. 

The committee doesn’t oversee mine safety policy, and Massey Energy won’t be among the witnesses, but it’s inevitable that the hearing will cover the recent tragedy in West Virginia that led to the deaths of 29 miners. The House Education and Labor Committee is also expected to look more closely at the disaster, and senators have pledged to examine it as well.

With concerns mounting about both safety issues and carbon pollution, the coal industry is coming under heavy fire. The Environmental Protection Agency recently issued tough new guidelines on the controversial practice of mountaintop removal mining. And it’s not so long since the the coal industry’s front group, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, found itself mired in scandal after it hired a contractor that forged letters from citizens’ groups protesting the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill and sent them to members of Congress.

Wednesday’s hearing aims to delve deeper into all these questions about the industry’s future. “Whether it’s climate science, the viability of ‘clean coal,’ or safety concerns, I believe Congress requires answers from the coal industry on their ability to be a part of our clean energy future,” said committee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

I’ll have more from the hearing this week.

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.