You are here

coal

How to Support Clean Energy and Not Be a Jerk; As the nation turns away from coal, what do we owe coal workers?

By Jonathan Tasini - Sierra, July-August 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Michael Phillippi makes $28.50 per hour working as a mechanic at Murray Energy's Monongalia County coal mine in West Virginia. That's almost double what he made as a crane operator before snagging this coveted job four years ago. With healthcare and pension, that figure is close to $60 per hour, all because he's a member of the United Mine Workers of America (UMW). That's a hefty paycheck in a state where the minimum wage is $8 per hour and the poverty rate is one of the highest in the nation.

The amiable, broad-shouldered Phillippi brings home more than twice what his wife makes as a teacher's assistant. He puts 10 percent of his paycheck into a 401(k) and invests another chunk in education savings for his three kids. He pays the bills and still has enough left over for a boat and a little camp where his family spends time in the summer. "I know guys making eighteen, twenty thousand," he says. "We had a banker start a few months ago—he was in charge of loans at a bank. He makes more money and has better benefits as a coal miner."

If the mine closed, Phillippi says, he'd have to learn to live off $15 an hour or less. To find a salary comparable to his current job's, he'd have to drive 75 miles north to Pittsburgh. But he probably wouldn't. "I won't move," he says. "I am from here. My family is from here. My grandparents are from here. My wife and her family. This is our community. I want to raise my children here. I plan on dying here. It's the sad truth that the good jobs aren't here."

Phillippi's paycheck also matters to the small businesses he sprinkles money on, like the mom-and-pops he stops at on his 35-minute drive from his home in Morgantown to the mine. Sitting in a small conference room in the UMW regional office in Fairmont, Phillippi points across the table to Mark Dorsey, who worked underground for 34 years before retiring in 2010: "For every hour I work, I'm helping to pay his pension." 

There are hundreds of thousands of Michael Phillippis spread out across the nation, from the coalfields of West Virginia and Kentucky to the more than 500 coal-generating power stations located in virtually every state. These workers now face the loss of their good-paying jobs due to the declining competitiveness of coal compared to other energy sources and new Environmental Protection Agency regulations intended to address air pollution and climate change. 

Those regulations, of course, have clear benefits for Phillippi, Dorsey, and everyone who breathes. Stronger soot standards alone would prevent 35,700 premature deaths per year and 1.4 million cases of aggravated asthma. Shifting to renewable energy, says the Union of Concerned Scientists, would create three times as many jobs—although likely not as well paid—as an equivalent investment in fossil fuels. And the value of avoiding catastrophic climate change is incalculable. 

But it won't pay the mortgage. As the coal industry withers, what will happen to Phillippi, Dorsey, and the communities they live in? The classic free market answer: That's life. Economies change, so suck it up. When the car replaced the horse and cart, buggy manufacturers moved on. 

That is not the only answer. Slowly, tentatively, unions and environmentalists are beginning to talk about an entirely different option called Just Transition, a guarantee that the cost of bringing down the curtain on the coal industry will not be paid by coal workers alone, but will be spread across society. It would be a huge undertaking, ideally encompassing the tens of thousands of workers directly employed in coal, from mining to electric-power generation, plus the communities that depend on their spending and taxes.

The EPA’s Clean Power Plan: How Unions and Allies Can Protect Affected Workers

By Joe Uehlein, et. al. - Labor Network for Sustainability, August 5, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just issued the final text of the Clean Power Plan (CPP), a regulation whose purpose is to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) that climate scientists say are causing global warming. EPA and independent studies indicate that the CPP will create far more jobs than it eliminates. However, some jobs will be lost as a result of the plan, almost entirely concentrated in coal mining and electrical utilities. Affected workers and their communities should not have to bear the burden of environmental protection that benefits all. Public policy can and should provide a “just transition” that protects their wellbeing.

The EPA has released a “regulatory impact analysis” of job and other effects of the CPP. Dr. Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) conducted a further analysis to evaluate and extend the EPA findings and has produced the recently-released study “A Comprehensive Analysis of the Employment Impacts of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan.”

Between now and 2020, the CPP will require large investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. It will also reduce jobs in power plants and mining. The new “direct” jobs created by 2020 will outnumber the jobs lost by 96,000 jobs.

EcoUnionist News #59

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, August 4, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Ongoing Mobilizations:

Bread and Roses:

EcoUnionist News #58

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 27, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

EcoUnionist News #57

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, July 23, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

Caterpilliar Steals More Mining Jobs

By Nick Mullins - The Thoughtful Coal Miner, July 17, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Web editor's note: - Caterpillar are also known union busters.

(Caption from Coal Age Magazine image, pictured right):  Alpha Coal West Works with Cat to Develop a Better Dipper

The cut line for the (image) from Coal Age should read…

“Alpha Coal West Works with Cat to Eliminate More Coal Mining Jobs Through Increased Mechanization”

Tell me again why everyone still believes coal companies are job creators?

At various times through my blogging, I have pointed out that coal companies are legally bound to make a profit for their shareholders. Even staunch conservatives argue “What’s the point of a business that isn’t out to make money?” So why do people’s understanding of the coal business fall short of overhead reduction in the form of job elimination?

Coal miner’s must realize that there is a difference between a “War on Coal” and a “War on Coal Miners.” The companies, who miners believe to be their closest ally, are continuously trying to gain more productivity from their workers while cutting as much overhead as possible. Perhaps it’s time coal miners and their families realized the truth behind coal’s motivations and began fighting for themselves and the future of their children.

I for one would love to see what Appalachians can do on their own without the coal industry telling everyone what they should be doing.

EcoUnionist News #54

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 30, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Green Bans:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism #IWW

EcoUnionist News #53

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 23, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism

EcoUnionist News #52

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 16, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Stories:

Fracking the EPA:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

1267-Watch:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism

Replace Hazelwood Primer

By David Spratt - Climate Action Moreland, June 2015

Hazelwood Power Station (HPS) was built between 1964 and 1971, and comprises 1542 megawatt (MW) of capacity over eight generators. It was privatised by the Victorian Liberal Party Kennett government in 1996 for $2.35 billion.If HPS had stayed in public hands, it would likely have been decommissioned in 2005, but in 2004 the Bracks Labor government extended its operations till 2031, allowing Hazelwood to move a road and a river to access 43 million tonnes of brown coal deposits in a realignment of the mining licence boundaries. The owners have a 30-year mining licence due for renewal in 2026.HPS and the land on which it operates are owned by the Hazelwood Power Partnership. Since 7 June 2013, the four partners have been subsidiaries of International Power (Australia) Holdings Pty Ltd. This company is in turn jointly owned by subsidiaries of Engie (formerly GDF Suez SA) (72 per cent ownership) and Mitsui & Co Ltd (28 per cent ownership). Engie is a global energy company with corporate headquarters in France. Mitsui & Co Ltd is a global trading company with corporate headquarters in Japan.Currently HPS produces more than 10,000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy annually and is supplied with up to 18 million tonnes of coal each year from the adjacent Hazelwood mine, releasing around 16 million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually. Today HPS provides approximately 21 per cent of Victoria’s baseline electricity supply.

The Victorian Government has expressed a desire (though it does not yet have a policy) for a significant expansion of renewable energy in Victoria. This has widespread community support and must be done quickly and at a large scale because climate change is already dangerous. Scientists warn that two degrees Celsius of warming could occur in just two decades, so preserving a safe climate and a healthy future requires rapid de-carbonisation.

Expanding renewable energy requires coal-generating capacity to be removed from the market because oversupply is crowding out and preventing new investment. The Australian energy market operator says there are about eight gigawatts of surplus generating capacity across the national market, equivalent to five Hazelwood power stations. This includes up to 2.2 gigawatts of brown coal generation that is no longer required in Victoria in 2015, which is greater than Hazelwood’s capacity. Power companies have been lobbying government for capacity to be reduced, and senior Victorian energy department bureaucrats are aware of the need to close coal power stations in order to roll out renewables.

The Victorian Government has committed to being a leader on climate change. Closing down excess coal generation is a key test of the government’s climate credentials. Coal-fired power stations are the world’s largest source of planet-warming carbon dioxide emissions. Victoria cannot make the necessary emissions reductions without addressing the operations of Hazelwood and/or Yallourn power stations.

Hazelwood power station is old, unsafe and dirty. Based on emissions intensity, it is the third-dirtiest coal power station in the world and the dirtiest in Australia, releasing around 16 million tonnes of greenhouse gases annually, almost three per cent of total Australian greenhouse emissions. The Hazelwood majority owner, Engie (formerly GDF Suez), owns the third-most polluting coal-power station fleet in the world. The full – health and carbon pollution – social costs of Hazelwood totalling $900 million per year are borne by the community, rather than the plant’s owners.

A steady stream of local jobs can be created in the Latrobe Valley with the rehabilitation of mines and decommissioning of plant, which will require a significant workforce stretching well over a decade. The Latrobe Valley needs a strong jobs package and an economic transition plan and new industries because the move from coal to clean wind and solar renewable energy is now both urgent and inevitable.

Hazelwood power station and mine are a health hazard to local residents, exemplified by the autumn 2014 mine fire. The owners of Hazelwood have abused their social licence and forfeited the right to profit from a power station that is now a major health hazard – both to local people and to all peoples who face the uncertainties of living in a hotter and more extreme climate.

In July 2010, the Victorian Labor government promised to start shutting Hazelwood and passed climate legislation providing the reserve power to regulate emissions from existing brown coal-fired generators. Restoring the government’s capacity to regulate emissions would be complementary to actions being taken by other governments, including in the United States and Europe.

Read the report (PDF).

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.