Australian pro-CCS institute one of many lobby groups hit by Arch Coal bankruptcy

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Arch Coal, the bankrupt second largest US coal company, has revealed the Melbourne-headquartered Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute is one of the numerous coal industry lobby groups it owes money to.

Arch Coal’s recent 579-page filing (large pdf) with the US Bankruptcy Court lists some its creditors – those who have provided a service which has not yet been paid for. It includes a US libertarian think tank, a Washington DC group which takes legal action to get access to climate scientists emails and a US group which brokers corporate-sponsored bills with conservative legislators.

The Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute promotes carbon capture and storage (CCS) as a ‘solution’ to greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants. While it is listed as a creditor, no details are provided on how much Arch Coal has paid the CCS lobby group or when any payments were last made.

Arch Coal operates 11 mines in seven US states. On January 11 Arch Coal filed for ‘Chapter 11’ bankruptcy protection in the US which allows the company to restructure its debt while continuing to trade. Arch Coal estimates that in 2015 it produced 118 million tonnes of coal for both the US and export markets.

Numerous other coal industry lobby groups are at risk of losing the company’s financial support too, including the international coal industry’s lobby group, the London-headquartered World Coal Association.

A collection of US coal lobby groups are also listed as creditors including the Washington DC-headquartered National Mining Association, the National Coal Council and the American Coal Council. State-based US coal industry lobby groups on the creditors list include the Illinois Coal Association, the Kentucky Coal Association, the Montana Coal Council, the West Virginia Coal Alliance, the Western Virginia Coal Association and the Western Fuels Association in Colorado.

The climate connection

Arch Coal’s bankruptcy filing also reveals it has been a secret funder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a self-proclaimed “libertarian” think tank which has been a part of the global echo chamber of groups opposing action on climate change.

On its website, the Alabama-headquartered institute states it champions a “free-market capitalist economy and a private-property order that rejects taxation, monetary debasement, and a coercive state monopoly of protective services.” The institute obliquely notes on its website it receives funding from businesses but provides no details on which companies support it.

In 2014 the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s annual return to the US Internal Revenue Service revealed it had total revenue of US$3.8 million. While the institute has been a part of the US conservative echo chamber railing against regulations to tackle climate change, it has at best been a bit-part player.

Arch Coal’s bankruptcy filing (p. 17) also reveals the coal company was a behind-the-scenes funder of the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC).

ALEC has controversially carved out a niche in the US as a production house for corporate-sponsored ‘model legislation’ which the group brokers with a network of supportive politicians from a range of US legislatures. As controversy has grown over ALEC’s role in promoting legislation sought by sponsoring companies, an estimated 108 companies have cut their ties with the group.

Another recipient of funding from Arch Coal has been the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) which Nick Surgey noted in PR Watch is “best known for filing lawsuits seeking climate scientists’ personal emails.”

No details are provided on how much Arch Coal has paid the three groups or when any payments were made.

A hearing for Arch Coal creditors is scheduled to be held on March 10 in Missouri.

Minor creditors – such as lobby groups like the World Coal Association and groups like the Ludwig von Mises Institute – are likely to be very low in the financial pecking order and unlikely to be considered sufficiently important to warrant continued support.

Bob Burton is the Hobart-based Editor of CoalWire, a weekly bulletin on global coal industry developments. (You can sign up for it here.) Bob Burton’s Twitter feed is here.

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