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Alameda County Central Labor Council

Labor Unions Rally Behind California’s Zero-Emissions Climate Plan

Robert Pollin interviewed by C.J. Polychroniou - Truthout, June 10, 2021

Robert Pollin, distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has been spearheading national and international efforts to tackle the climate crisis for more than a decade. Over the past few years, he and a group of his colleagues at PERI have produced green economy transition programs for numerous states. The latest such program is for California, and it is being released today.

The massive study — nearly 200 pages long — shows how California can become a zero emissions economy by 2045 while expanding good job opportunities throughout the state. Nineteen unions have already endorsed the green transition plan, making clear that they reject frameworks that falsely pit labor priorities and the environment against each other, and more are expected to do so in the days and weeks ahead.

In this interview for Truthout, Pollin, co-author with Noam Chomsky of Climate Crisis and the Global Green New Deal: The Political Economy of Saving the Planet (Verso 2020), talks about the climate stabilization project for California and the national implications of union support for a green economy transition.

C.J. Polychroniou: California has been at the forefront of the climate fight for years now, but the truth of the matter is that its efforts have fallen short. Now, you and some colleagues of yours at PERI have just completed a commissioned climate stabilization project for California. How does the project envision the clean energy transition to take place in a manner consistent with the emission targets set out by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018, and how will it be financed?

Robert Pollin: This study presents a recovery program for California that will also build a durable foundation for an economically robust and ecologically sustainable longer-term growth trajectory. California has long been a national and global leader in implementing robust climate stabilization policies. This includes the 2018 Executive Order B-55-18 by then Gov. Jerry Brown. This measure committed the state to cut CO2 emissions by 50 percent as of 2030, to become carbon neutral no later than 2045, and to produce net negative emissions thereafter. These goals are somewhat more ambitious than those set out by the IPCC in 2018. Our study outlines a program through which the state can achieve its own established goals.

Our study shows how these 2030 and 2045 emissions reduction targets can be accomplished in California through phasing out the consumption of oil, coal and natural gas to generate energy in the state, since burning fossil fuels to produce energy is, by far, the primary source of CO2 emissions, and thereby, the single greatest factor causing climate change. The project we propose is to build a clean energy infrastructure to replace the existing fossil fuel-dominant infrastructure. The clean energy infrastructure will require large-scale investments to, first, dramatically raise energy efficiency standards in the state and, second, to equally dramatically expand the supply of clean renewable energy supplies, including solar and wind primarily, with supplemental supplies from low-emissions bioenergy, geothermal and small-scale hydro power. We show how this climate stabilization program for California can also serve as a major new engine of job creation and economic well-being throughout the state, both in the short- and longer run.

A Program for Economic Recovery and Clean Energy Transition in California

By Robert Pollin, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Shouvik Chakraborty,Caitlin Kline, and Gregor Semieniuk - Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI); University of Massachusetts-Amherst, June 10, 2021

This study presents a robust climate stabilization project for California. It demonstrates that achieving the state’s official CO2 emissions reduction targets—a 50 percent emissions cut by 2030 and reaching zero emissions by 2045—is a realistic prospect. This climate stabilization project can also serve as a major engine of economic recovery and expanding economic opportunities throughout the state. This includes an increase of over 1 million jobs in the state through investment programs in energy efficiency, clean renewable energy, public infrastructure, land restoration and agriculture. The study also develops a detailed just transition program for workers and communities in California that are currently dependent on the state’s fossil fuel industries for their livelihoods. In particular, we focus here on condi­tions in Kern, Contra Costa, and Los Angeles counties.

The study is divided into nine sections:

  1. Pandemic, Economic Collapse, and Conditions for Recovery
  2. California’s Clean Energy Transition Project
  3. Clean Energy Investments and Job Creation
  4. Investment Programs for Manufacturing, Infrastructure, Land Restoration and Agri­culture
  5. Total Job Creation in California through Combined Investment Programs
  6. Contraction of California’s Fossil Fuel Industries and Just Transition for Fossil Fuel Workers
  7. County-level Job Creation, Job Displacement, and Just Transition
  8. Achieving a Zero Emissions California Economy by 2045
  9. Financing California’s Recovery and Sustainable Transition Programs

Nineteen labor unions throughout California have endorsed this study and its findings.

Read the text (PDF).

Suds and Socialism Forum: Workers and the Environment

Worker Wisdom in a Changing Climate: Al Marshall - SEIU 1021, Oakland Chapter President

Interview and Image by Brooke Anderson - Climate Workers, November 13, 2015, reprinted by permission.

On September 21st, hundreds of people packed the Oakland City Hall to oppose developer Phil Tagami’s proposal to build a coal export terminal in Oakland. Among them were dozens of union members whose locals were opposing coal as anti-union, a major source of carbon emissions, and a risk to public health in working class neighborhoods through which coal trains would pass and deposit toxic coal dust. One of those union members was Al Marshall, SEIU 1021 City of Oakland Chapter President, who told the council that coal dust would only exacerbate his son’s asthma. We later interviewed Al. Here’s his story.

Brooke Anderson, Climate Workers: Thanks for talking to me, Al. You’re a union member. How did you get involved in the union?

Al Marshall, SEIU 1021: I’ve worked as a construction inspector for the City of Oakland for 15 years, and a city employee for 26 years total. One day I showed up to a union meeting, learned that our contract was being violated and that other people were frustrated too. I’ve been involved in the union ever since. I was elected City of Oakland Chapter President two years ago.

BA: So you live in Oakland then?

AM: I used to live in Oakland. But I lost my family home as a result of the furloughs during the financial crisis. My wife was laid off with reinstatement rights up to three years. She was called back with 45 days left, but by that time, the damage had been done. We now live on the other side of the tube in Alameda.

BA: You recently spoke against coal at Oakland City Council. Why do you oppose coal?

AM: My son DeVon is 7. He’s had asthma since he was 1.5 years old. He also has bad allergies. Most nights we have to hook him up to a ventilator to breathe. It’s a 20 minute process, and I lay there with him to help him find a breathing pattern that will calm his cough. As a parent, having a child with asthma is hell. It means many sleepless nights.

Depending on how hot it is and which way the wind is blowing, what’s in the atmosphere triggers my son’s allergies and asthma. So to me, it doesn’t make any sense to transport coal through Oakland. And if we know coal will cause health problems here, why we would send it elsewhere? We are the gatekeeper to the planet. What we do has impacts on the other side of the planet and vice versa. We are all responsible.

BA: At the hearing, we heard the coal lobbyists say we need coal because it will bring jobs.

AM: I find it interesting that all these people are coming out of the woodwork now to say how it important it is to have coal in Oakland to bring jobs. There is enough other things to put on that Army Base to bring good paying jobs to those who need them. We don’t need coal for that. It’s the people who are financially well off who have the money to push coal on the less fortunate neighborhoods. They don’t have to worry about it because they don’t live here. But if they did, they would oppose coal too.

BA: Any last words for the coal industry?

AM: We all have a duty here while we are here on earth. We need to recognize what our calling is and do our best to serve whatever that calling is in the amount of time that we have here. We need to preserve something for those who come after us. It’s called passing the baton, and we have to make sure the baton doesn’t get dropped.

Unprecedented? Unions and community unite to halt plans to build coal export terminal in Oakland, California

By Elena Mora - Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, October 9, 2015

A short but well-organized campaign to stop plans to build a coal export terminal in the Oakland Port resulted in a packed Oakland City Council meeting on September 21, and a vote requiring a public health impact study to guide the Council’s action, up to and including a moratorium on coal.

Screenshot 2015-09-26 10.47.56The campaign, “Coal Free Oakland,” led by the Sierra Club and others, brought together a very broad coalition (more than 80 organizations), with significant union participation, including the Alameda Labor Council, which passed a resolution calling on the city to reject the coal export plan.

Among those coordinating the labor outreach was Climate Workers, a project of Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project.

Labor and climate justice organizer Brooke Anderson, who heads up Climate Workers, called it “hugely significant — precedent setting — that labor came out in this way and opposed coal coming through the neighborhoods where their members live.” Unions signing on to the petition against the coal facility include the California Nurses Association; SEIU 1021 and United Service Workers West; the American Postal Workers Union (Oakland’s largest post office is next to the port); ILWU Local 10, Local 6 and Northern California District Council; UniteHERE Local 2850; the Peralta Federation of Teachers; the Oakland Education Association; UAW Local 2865; the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192; and AFSCME District Council 57.

Alameda County Central Labor Council resolution on climate for the AFL-CIO convention

Submitted for consideration at the September meeting of the Alameda Labor Council and referral to the AFL-CIO Convention by Michael Eisenscher, Delegate, Peralta Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1603 - Adopted unanimously by the Alameda Labor Council, September 11, 2017

WHEREAS, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that the climate warming trend over the past century is due to human activities, primarily due to our reliance on carbon-based fuels and deforestation that have caused a dramatic increase in the global level of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; and

WHEREAS, burning most of the known fossil fuel reserves will cause global warming to reach catastrophic proportions resulting in sea level rise that will inundate major coastal cities, more severe prolonged droughts, frequent intense wildfires, destructive hurricanes, tornadoes and other “superstorms”, frequent destructive floods, reduced agricultural productivity resulting in food shortages and famine, the spread of vector-born and other diseases, and ever greater numbers of climate migrants and refugees; and

WHEREAS, the Trump Administration has promoted climate change denial, and has stated that the U.S. will “tear up” the Paris Climate Agreement and not implement the Obama Administration’s National Commitment to reduce emissions submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), making it the only nation to withdraw among nearly two hundred that signed on; and

WHEREAS, the AFL-CIO opposes the Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, on grounds that, “Pulling out of the Paris climate agreement is a decision to abandon a cleaner future powered by good jobs,” and has affirmed that, “The U.S. labor movement will continue to urge the United States to stay in the agreement so we can achieve the best outcomes for America’s workers”; and

WHEREAS, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) was successful in ensuring that “just transition of the workforce” was addressed in the preface to the Paris Agreement, which recognizes that the burden of climate-protecting policies and the transition to a sustainable energy economy should not be borne by workers and communities; and

WHEREAS, moving rapidly toward a sustainable economy and society, can—with the right policies in place—also be the source of large numbers of new, well-paid union jobs that will also reinvigorate local economies; and

WHEREAS, proliferation of fracking and the transportation of shale oil and gas have inflicted serious harm on the health and quality of life of communities located close to blasting and drilling sites, “petcoke” piles and other toxic residues and pollutants, particularly First Nations whose sovereignty rights have been routinely violated, and other communities of color, low-income and other working class communities historically dependent on and exposed to the impacts of fossil fuel extraction; and

WHEREAS, we will solve the climate crisis and the inequality crisis only when we put unions and working people at the center of the movements for economic justice and climate justice; and

WHEREAS, the market will not produce the transformation to renewable energy in a short enough time period to prevent the catastrophic effects of global warming and climate change; and

WHEREAS, the chaotic state of liberalized for-profit energy markets has pitted utilities against renewable energy concerns, produced a situation that is unsustainable and untenable, and led to the loss of thousands of jobs in the power generation sector (particularly in coal) without provisions made to protect impacted workers and communities; and

WHEREAS, the scale of the energy transition that is needed requires an approach comparable to that pursued by the Rural Electrification Administration launched in1935 during the New Deal, where publicly-driven electrification generated jobs, public utilities, and distribution cooperatives on a mass scale; and

WHEREAS, public transit systems are under attack, public health services lack sufficient resources, and public infrastructure has been neglected and is in need of comprehensive upgrades, repairs and replacement; and

WHEREAS, a variety of policy tools should be available to move rapidly toward renewable energy while providing well-paid stable jobs, income protection, and retraining for workers and communities adversely affected; these policy tools should include but are not limited to:

  • (a) a progressive tax on carbon pollution with the revenue used to support the income, retraining, and provision of new jobs for workers and communities hurt by the transition and those that have historically borne the brunt of pollution from these facilities;
  • (b) policies referenced in the Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act, and the “100 By 50” Act which seeks to move towards 100% renewable energy by 2050 while providing for protection for workers and communities affected by the transition, and also providing for card check and first contract arbitration, lowering barriers that make it difficult to organize workers into unions;
  • (c) expansion of public and social ownership of and control over power generation, transmission and distribution;
  • THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO reaffirms its support for the Paris Agreement as an important, though non-binding contribution to driving a rapid and managed just transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy that leaves most of the known fossil fuel reserves in the ground; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will continue to work with the ITUC and the international labor movement as a whole to raise the level of ambition of the National Contributions to the Paris Agreement, including the U.S. contribution, in order to be consistent with the temperature threshold target agreed in Paris of “well below 2 degrees Celsius”; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will develop an energy transition policy that recognizes the imperative of a massive scale up of renewable power, upgrading grid systems, promoting energy conservation and efficiency, in a manner that is also consistent with “well below 2 degrees Celsius” and which provides a just transition for affected workers and communities; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will publicly campaign to re-regulate and/or reclaim to the public the electricity sector in order both to facilitate the creation of good stable family wage jobs in the U.S., and to carry out the transition to renewable energy generation at the speed and scale required to at least achieve the Paris targets; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will campaign for domestic content requirements for all commitments of public funds to renewable power generation, electricity grid upgrades, efficiency retrofits, and other elements of a transition to renewable energy; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will support legislation that provides strong protection for workers and communities that are adversely affected by the transition away from fossil fuels, including such examples as the “Clean Energy Worker Just Transition Act” and the “100 By 50 Act”; and

RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO supports the demands of frontline communities for environmental justice, including access to newly created jobs in the renewable energy sector; and

FINALLY RESOLVED, that the AFL-CIO will work to inform and mobilize union members and their families with other social forces in support of legislation that furthers these goals, and will support candidates for office who are committed to them.

Alameda Labor Council Resolution: Resolution in Protest of the Inauguration of President Donald Trump

By Alameda County Central Labor Council - Wisconsin Bail Out the People Movement, December 5, 2016

WHEREAS, the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States has sparked fear and anger in our community, especially among those most marginalized, including immigrants, Muslims, people of color, women, the disabled, and LGBTQ populations.

WHEREAS, the President Elect has publicly supported and endorsed anti-union policies including federal Right to Work laws and is considering appointing to his cabinet people with a track record of promoting such policies

WHEREAS, newly appointed Supreme Court Justices will swing the court to be more consistently anti-union

WHEREAS, the privatization of Social Security and Medicare is likely to be pushed early in the Trump administration

WHEREAS, the diverse membership of the working class and of our unions includes populations that candidate Trump threatened with bigoted policies and hateful rhetoric

WHEREAS, that hateful rhetoric has already been seen in the form of an increase of hate crimes and violence against marginalized communities which overlap with our membership

WHEREAS, it is the obligation of organized labor to defend our members from attacks and promote an elevated and equal quality of life for all workers

Whereas, spontaneous demonstrations have erupted across the country immediately following the election of Donald Trump.  Many organizations of students, labor, women, and various communities are continuing to plan massive protests including on Martin Luther King, Jr Day and culminating in action on the day of the inauguration of Donald Trump, January 20, 2017

WHEREAS, the day on which we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr who fought against racism and bigotry and championed the issues of the working class is just four days before the inauguration of Donald Trump.

WHEREAS, the power of organized labor is not reliant upon the occupant of any government office up to and including the office of President of the United States

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Alameda County Labor Council endorses and encourages all members to participate in the nationwide call for protest and actions beginning with those honoring and continuing the struggle of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr on his day, Monday, January 16 and culminating in a national day of action and protest and a reassertion of the power of organized labor on Friday January, 20, the day of the Inauguration of President Donald Trump

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Alameda County Labor Council encourages each of its affiliates to use the day of action on Friday, January 20 to display our power, unity and solidarity by planning an action around an existing labor dispute and inviting all of its members to participate as well as support their members who want to participate in inauguration protests.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that we urge all affiliates to pass similar resolutions.

Alameda County Central Labor Council Climate and Environmental Justice Caucus Mission Statement

Resolution Adopted June 13, 2016

Note: the IWW is not affiliated with the Alameda County AFL-CIO Central Labor Council.

Due to the alarming advance of scientifically-confirmed, human-caused climate change, the Alameda Labor Council's historical support of strong economic, environmental and health protections for working families and their communities, and the urgency to take action to transition to a more sustainable, just and clean economy now, this Council affirms that:

  • The labor movement plays a major role as a force for progressive change and for social and economic justice,
  • Labor has a vested interest in addressing the challenge of climate change, and
  • We are stronger when we act together as Labor, and with frontline communities, environmental organizations and community allies.

This Council recognizes the impact that historical discriminatory industrial and housing development policies and resulting environmental degradation have had on the lives and health of workers and their families, noting that these negative effects disproportionally impact those communities with the least power.

We believe that the reliance on market-based solutions to the current climate crisis will only deepen social, racial, environmental and economic inequities, and is a central obstacle to achieving a sustainable and just economy. We know from experience that the labor movement must help shape the conversation if we are to affect positive change for working people.

The Alameda Labor Council rejects the myth that we must choose between good jobs and a clean environment, and is committed to vigorously promoting a just transition to a sustainable energy economy, steadily diminishing our reliance on fossil fuels as we support smart, inclusive and just development that provides opportunities for family-sustaining jobs to all workers. We will also promote equitable mitigation of the impacts of climate change, for example, flooding caused by sea level rise that will flood low-lying working-class residential areas, e.g., "the flats".

Therefore, the Alameda Labor Council hereby establishes a Climate and Environmental Justice Caucus to:

  • Educate and engage our members and communities about the urgency of this crisis and our role in tangible solutions to avoid dire consequences for our children, grandchildren and future generations
  • Provide political advocacy to support the creation and protection of good local jobs related to reducing greenhouse gases and mitigating the impacts of climate change in the building maintenance and operations of renewable energy, water, public transit, transportation, healthcare, and other sectors 
  • Demand that workers who might be displaced be retrained for the new economy jobs, offered early retirement without loss of benefits, and otherwise protected from having to bear the social cost of making this essential transition 
  • Advocate that a just transition not only protect those whose present employment is affected but must also open opportunities for those who have historically been denied those opportunities as a consequence of racial, ethnic, gender and other barriers to entry and ensure that the clean economy is creating local union career opportunities for all working people 
  • Encourage Labor to examine our own practices, such as how pension funds could be better invested to promote the transition to clean energy while ensuring retirement security 
  • Actively build working partnerships with local environmental and social justice groups

With these commitments, it is incumbent on the caucus to serve as a policy advisory body to the Council to assure that Labor's agenda consistently includes a mindful climate and environmental justice focus. Labor's concerns must also be present in larger community and regional discussions of environmental and climate issues.

More Green versus Yellow Unionism in Oakland

By Steve Ongerth - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 26, 2016

Author's note: this article is an update to an earlier piece, titled Green versus Yellow Unionism in Oakland.

Update: The City of Oakland voted 7-0, with one member absent, to ban coal handling, storage, and exports in the Port of Oakland on Monday, June 27, 2016. Over 50 union members supporting the ban on coal were present, and many spoke in favor of the ban.

As the No Coal in Oakland campaign comes to its climax, a vote by the Oakland City Council on whether or not to ban the storage and handling of coal exports (originating from coal mined in Utah) through the Port of Oakland, the developers who had hoped to sneak this plan through unnoticed by all, are pulling out all of the stops to try and salvage their failing schemes that have, thus far, blown up in their faces.

(Rather than recap all of the numerous details of this campaign here, readers are encouraged to visit the official No Coal in Oakland site as well as the No Coal in Oakland archives, maintained by members of the Sunflower Alliance, one of the No Coal in Oakland coalition members.)

One of the persistent lies, regurgitated again and again by the developers, is the claim that those of us who oppose coal exports are anti-jobs, anti-worker, and anti-union. This is complete nonsense.

For the record, many of the principal organizers with No Coal in Oakland are current or retired union members themselves. Additionally, a total of twenty-one Bay Area unions have gone on record opposing coal exports through this proposed facility (but these same unions are not opposed to an export terminal itself, or the exports of non-fossil fuel commodities, of which there are several tens of thousand potential options, all of which would create just as many jobs, if not more so, than coal exports).

These 21 unions include two unions to which this author belongs (the Bay Area General Membership Branch of the IWW and the San Francisco Region of the Inland Boatman's Union (IBU), an affiliate of the ILWU).

They also include unions representing workers in the port of Oakland, including the aforementioned IBU as well as ILWU Locals 6, 10, and 34, and SEIU 1021. (For a complete list of those that have pledged their opposition to coal exports, see this page, but note that some of the unions are listed in categories other than "Labor Unions"), and many more.

Furthermore, in September of 2015, the Alameda County Central Labor Council passed a resolution opposing coal exports.

Various union members and officials--in coalition with residents, environmentalists, public health providers, faith leaders, community leaders, small business owners, educators, and students--have spoken out against coal at City Council meeting after City Council meeting. They've lead canvassing efforts to raise awareness about the environmental and public health dangers of coal among Oakland's neighborhoods. They've organized several events to drum up support for the No Coal campaign, including a very successful and well attended picnic and community forum at a neighborhood park on May 21, 2016.

The coalition has demonstrated its dedication to intersectionality by supporting Black Lives Matter, the Anti-displacement coalition, and the Fight For $15 campaigns. The No Coal in Oakland campaign is composed predominantly of working people and working class retirees (though there are some small business people involved in the campaign as well). The coalition members share a commitment to a clean, livable, affordable, multi-ethnic and inclusive Oakland with good paying union jobs.

In fact, the No Coal in Oakland campaign has been nothing short of exemplary in the matter of green unionism.

It is the height of hypocrisy and cynicism for the project developers to claim that the No Coal in Oakland campaign is anti-jobs.

Meanwhile, the supposed "union" and "worker" support for coal exports, in classic yellow unionism fashion, is nothing more than an astroturf front group for the capitalist developers profiteering ambitions. The few unions whose officials support the project (namely the Teamsters and Building Trades) are hardly bastions of democratic, rank and file driven unionism. The Teamsters remain highly divided, with the local leadership (which is largely aligned with Jimmy Hoffa Jr's faction) opposed by a sizable Teamsters for a Democratic Union opposition faction (though this faction has not taken a stand on the matter of coal).

As detailed in the previous installment in this series, Green versus Yellow Unionism in Oakland, the developer has already attempted to create the illusion of grassroots rank and file union member "support" (mostly from non-English speaking Laborers' Union members) for coal exports at a City Council meeting on September 21, 2015, timed deliberately to undermine the Alameda County Central Labor Council's resolution against coal exports, but the attempt failed miserably, as the rank and file workers admitted to the assembled media reporters that they were being used. (The pro-coal developers later also tried the same stunt with a small group of faith leaders--who, as it turns out, has essentially taken bribes from the developer to support coal exports--when a much larger group of faith leaders spoke out against coal).

None of the developer's subterfuge should be surprising, given the amount of dirt and conflicts of interest the No Coal in Oakland campaign has been able to dig up--including the fact that the developer has a direct financial connection to Bowie Resources, the (non union) mining company that will be extracting the coal in the first place, or that California Governor Jerry Brown, himself, has a deeply entwined financial relationship with Phil Tagami, the speculator driving this project. (again, for the sake of brevity, all of these details are left to the readers to explore for themselves on the No Coal in Oakland site).

Furthermore, it's not surprising that the developer is still trying to create the illusion of community and worker support for coal exports.

Communities Unite to Fight Coal in Oakland

By Eric K. Arnold - Reimagine, March 2016

Coal, once the staple of American industrial production, may be on its last legs. With domestic production showing a long-term decline, the fossil fuel’s days appear to be numbered.

According to the most recent annual report [1] of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2013, U.S. coal production fell below two billion short tons for the first time in two decades; coal mining capacity decreased, as did the average number of coal mine employees, the average sales price of coal, and total U.S. coal stocks. In April of 2015, the EIA projected coal would hit a 28-year low, reflecting significant drops in domestic demand and exports. In August, Goldman Sachs divested itself of its coal holdings; a month later, it issued a gloomy forecast[2] for coal’s future, stating, “the industry does not require new investment,” dashing hopes for a miraculous upturn in the coal market. A report[3] by the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI) noted that 26 domestic coal companies have recently gone into bankruptcy proceedings; and coal’s value on the Dow Jones index dropped by 76 percent between 2009-14 (a period when the overall Dow index went up 69 percent).

According to CTI, domestic energy generation has remained flat for the past decade but energy sources have shifted: coal and oil are down, but natural gas and renewable energy are up. America’s largest coal producers are recording annual losses in the billions of dollars, while Chinese coal demand has slumped and new environmental regulations[4] aimed at significantly reducing air pollution and increasing wind and solar consumption are being phased in by the Chinese government. Additionally, all federal coal leasing is currently under moratorium until a comprehensive review can be completed. As the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) noted[5] in its online magazine, OnEarth, “it would be difficult to overstate the industry’s current distress.”

This is scary news for the coal industry, yet a welcome announcement for environmentalists who have waged national campaigns against coal for decades. These desperate times for coal producers have led to desperate measures. Their last hope, it would seem, is to increase coal’s export capacity by transporting the black gunk through West Coast ports. But even there the pro-coal forces have met with unexpected resistance, as city after city in Oregon and Washington have mounted grassroots campaigns to deliver an emphatic message: “Say no to coal.”

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