Two more companies - and perhaps three - have confirmed their departure from the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) this week, following the publication of our report detailing major companies’ departure from coal lobby groups.
The New York Times yesterday reported on a presentation given to a coal industry conference last year titled “Survival is Victory: Lessons from the Tobacco Wars.” The presentation was prepared by Richard Reavey, a former executive at Philip Morris and now a Vice President at Cloud Peak Energy, a coal company focused on mining taxpayer owned coal in Montana and Wyoming. From the Times:
It would be hard to find an image of a cozier relationship between a giant energy company and a regulator than the joint appearance in Philadelphia on July 28th by Southern Company's Tom Fanning and U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.
Moniz and Fanning kidded each other like old pals at a Bipartisan Policy Center energy forum as they discussed their common view that the United States needs to aggressively pursue carbon capture and sequestration for coal-fired power plants - like Southern's Kemper project in Mississippi - to keep coal in the mix as a fuel for as long as possible.
But Moniz flatly refused to answer specific questions about charges raised in a front-page New York Times investigation in early July that Southern deliberately misled investors and its customers about when the Kemper plant would enter service, allegations that the Securities and Exchange Commission is also investigating.
The Department of Energy helped Kemper get off the ground with a $270 million grant in 2008, and in April, awarded Southern another $137 million to lessen what has already been a substantial rate impact on the 23 largely poor, rural Mississippi counties that are having to pay for a substantial part of Kemper's cost, which has ballooned to $6.8 billion from an initial budget of $2.4 billion.
Former Kemper manager Brett Wingo, who first raised the issue of schedule irregularities inside the company and then became a key source for the New York Times story, has claimed, supported by others, that the project management software used to plan the building of the plant was deliberately altered to make it seem like Kemper was on schedule when in fact it was at least two years behind.
Asked by this reporter whether he thought the DOE's inspector general should investigate Kemper and DOE's relationship with Southern in light of the Times' piece and the SEC's fraud inquiry, which could result in criminal penalties for violation of federal laws on internal financial controls and financial reporting, Moniz refused to answer, saying he was appearing at the Bipartisan Policy event as a private citizen, not in his official capacity as energy secretary.
Fanning dismissed the Times story, and said Wingo's charges were investigated twice, first internally, and then by the Jones Day law firm, and found to be without merit. Southern has not released the details of either investigation.
"The New York Times chose not to include the other side of the story," said Fanning.