Peabody Energy filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2016.

Peabody Energy filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April 2016.

Over the past few weeks, analysis of Peabody Energy’s bankruptcy documents has revealed that the world’s largest private-sector coal company has financial ties dozens of trade associations, corporate lobbying groups, and industry-backed front groups all promoting disinformation around climate change science and renewable energy.

According to both the Center for Media and Democracy and the Union of Concerned Scientists, who reviewed the current list of creditors and then a bankruptcy filing with some amounts listed to the creditors, it is now known that Peabody Energy’s involvement in efforts to deceive the public and policy makers about the reality and risks of climate change, obstruct action to limit greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and undermine the renewable energy market has been significant.

The breadth of the groups with financial ties to Peabody is extraordinary. Thinktanks, litigation groups, climate scientists, political organizations, dozens of organizations blocking action on climate all receiving funding from the coal industry,” said Nick Surgey, director of research for the Center for Media and Democracy, in the Guardian.

Roy Spencer is listed in Peabody Energy bankruptcy documents as a creditor.

Roy Spencer is listed in Peabody Energy bankruptcy documents as a creditor.

A full list of creditors can be found on the Center for Media and Democracy’s website. These groups and people include Willie Soon, who has said the CO2 is not a major driver of global warming (Soon has also received money from Southern Company); Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, who has disputed climate models; James Taylor of the Heartland Institute; Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow; Energy & Environment Legal Institute (which also received money from coal companies: Alpha Natural Resources and Arch Coal); George C. Marshall Institute, which became the CO2 Coalition; the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change.

Yet in addition to funding groups and people that have deceived the public and government officials about the reality and risks of climate change, the documents also reveal extensive funding to organizations and lobbying groups that not only doubt climate change but also actively work to prevent the development of renewable energy and fight against the Clean Power Plan.

From 2014 through 2015, Peabody Energy contributed the following amounts of money to these organizations:

  • American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) received $375,000 in just a two-month span this year. ACCCE is one of many trade associations involved with the Clean Power Plan lawsuit. The association has also released flawed reports dealing with the EPA standard.
  • American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) received $133,500. ALEC has pushed model legislation to legislatures across the country that weaken or repeal state renewable energy standards, end net metering policies, withdraw states from regional carbon trading initiatives, and urge attorneys general to sue the EPA over the Clean Power Plan and Ozone standard.
  • Harvard Law Professor Larry Tribe is set to receive $435,000 this year. Tribe was hired by Peabody in 2014 and has since testified in Congress and in the courts regarding the Clean Power Plan saying the rule is unconstitutional.
    Larry Tribe is listed in Peabody Energy bankruptcy documents as a creditor.

    Larry Tribe is listed in Peabody Energy bankruptcy documents as a creditor.

    Two of his Harvard colleagues have refuted Tribe’s arguments saying they are “baseless” and that if his name weren’t attached to these arguments, no one would take them seriously.

  • Hunton & Williams received $94,675.37. This lobbying shop and law firm has many fossil fuel companies as clients but is currently in the news since it is representing the Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) in the lawsuit against the EPA over the Clean Power Plan. UARG is mostly made up of investor-owned utility companies but its membership is private and the law firm will not disclose the list.
  • Independence Institute, an SPN affiliated organization in Colorado, received $15,000. The Independence Institute’s Energy Policy Center staff includes Amy Oliver Cooke, Michael Sandoval, and Simon Lomax. The center is currently fighting an Xcel Energy proposed 600 megawatt wind farm, the state’s implementation plan for the Clean Power Plan, and has fought against the Ozone rule, and the state’s renewable energy standard.
    Amy Oliver Cooke, Executive Vice President and Director of the Energy Policy Center for the Independence Institute, which has received $15,000 from Peabody Energy.

    Amy Oliver Cooke, Executive Vice President and Director of the Energy Policy Center for the Independence Institute, which has received $15,000 from Peabody Energy.

  • Institute for Energy Research (IER) received $50,000. IER has unsuccessfully worked to prevent extensions of the federal government production tax credit and investment tax credit for wind and solar energy. IER also echoes flawed industry-funded reports attacking the EPA’ Clean Power Plan.
  • National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC) received $25,000. NBCC’s president Harry Alford has not only testified against the Clean Power Plan in Congress, but also got involved with the Florida solar ballot initiative. NBCC contributed $100,000 to the utility-backed campaign.
  • State Policy Network (SPN) received $46,000. SPN coordinates state level think tanks across the country to undermine renewable energy standards and net metering laws in conjunction with ALEC. Recently, it was reported by E&E News that SPN worked to block funding for several state agencies tasked with developing state implementation plans for the Clean Power Plan.
    Harry Alford, President and CEO of NBCC, which has received $25,000 from Peabody Energy.

    Harry Alford, President and CEO of NBCC, which has received $25,000 from Peabody Energy.

  • Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF) received $40,000. TPPF works to undermine renewable energy at the state level by working to repeal the state renewable energy standard, attacked EPA’s Ozone rule, and recently joined the lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan.
  • Troutman Sanders received $65,429. This law firm is representing the National Mining Association in the lawsuit against the Clean Power Plan. One of the attorneys involved in the litigation is Peter Glaser – infamous for calling for “guerrilla warfare” against the EPA over the co2 standard while speaking at ALEC. Additionally, it was reported by the New York Times, that Glaser has been holding meetings at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with Roger Martella Jr. of Sidley Austin to devise the legal strategy with a “vast network of lawyers” to block the standards.

It remains to be seen how much money Peabody has given to other organizations doubting global warming, fighting the Clean Power Plan, and working to undermine the deployment of renewable energy. The following organizations are listed as current creditors but without the amounts received from Peabody:

  • Berman and Company, which is a public relations firm that is currently spreading disinformation about the Clean Power Plan.
  • Edison Electric Institute
  • PACE, a line item with a redacted mailing address that possibly might refer to the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy, which is a front group tied to Southern Company and works to undermine renewable energy, and helped fund the utility-blacked solar initiative in Florida.
  • Sidley Austin LLP
  • Southern States Energy Board

Posted by Matt Kasper

Matt Kasper is the Research Director at the Energy & Policy Institute. He focuses on defending policies that further the development of clean energy sources. He also frequently focuses on the companies and their front groups that obstruct policy solutions to global warming. His work has appeared in The Guardian, the Huffington Post, the Washington Post, and other outlets.

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