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Southern Company's Kemper Coal Plant Could Get Billions in Tax Credit Bail-Out

If Donald Trump really wants to get rid of federal corporate welfare, he should be frantically tweeting against a congressional plan that could send billions to the grossly mismanaged Kemper power plant by expanding tax credits for injecting carbon dioxide into oil fields.

These so-called "45Q" tax credits would get richer and could even become a permanent part of the federal tax code depending on which of three bills now being considered by Congress becomes law. 

And that could result in the so-called "clean coal" Kemper facility that utility giant Southern Company is building in eastern Mississippi getting between $789 million and $4.5 billion, according to a new report co-authored by Friends of the Earth and Taxpayers for Common Sense and released today.

"Instead of keeping CO2 out of the atmosphere through permanent underground storage, 45Q has primarily served as a subsidy for oil production," says the report. "Most of the credits have been claimed for CO2 collected at natural gas processing facilities and then used by oil producers for enhanced oil recovery. Any expansion of the provision would only serve as an additional oil subsidy on top of the billions of dollars in subsidies the industry already receives each year."

The report also notes another troubling fact - -that CO2 leaks from oil fields using enhanced oil recovery, including through carbon dioxide "blow-outs" in which the gas comes blasting out of the ground very much like an oil gusher. At least three of these incidents have taken place in Mississippi and one in Lousiana since 2007.

CO2 gas, which is heavier than air and settles in hollows and near ground level, can fatally suffocate anyone who breathes it in. The Mississippi blow-outs resulted in evacuations of residents and oil field workers. A blow-out in Tinsley Field, near Yazoo City, Mississippi, killed deer, an armadillo, a blue heron and countless birds and other wildlife, while sending one emergency responder to the hospital. 

This catastrophic event in August and September of 2011 took 37 days to bring under control at a cost of some $53 million.  Specialized equipment and crews had to be brought in from Texas to fight the blow-out, including emergency response teams from companies like Boots & Coots, which worked on the Deepwater Horizon disaster, according to documents from the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality obtained via a public records request.




Three coal companies are trying to keep secret how much federal coal they mine

Earlier this year, I looked at just how much the largest US coal mining companies depend on access to subsidized federal coal, most of it extracted from public lands in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming. The US Interior Department tracks the amount of publicly owned coal mined by each company, but doesn’t publicly report this information. As I recently learned, even a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) might not reveal just how much publicly owned coal companies are mining.




American Electric Power says “We don’t agree with or share every position” of ACCCE, yet remains a member of the coal lobby group

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American Electric Power (AEP), one of the largest utilities in the United States, distanced itself from some of the positions of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE), but made clear that it nevertheless remains a member of the coal lobby group, despite the departure from ACCCE of most other major utility companies. From National Journal: Climate Stances Put Pressure on Major Trade Groups (subscription required):

 




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