Coal Action Network Newsletter July 2013

The last month or so has seen a number of revelations on several of our coal fronts.

Kia Ora all
From Solid Energy walking away from the briquetting plant in Southland to ongoing developments for Bathurst Resources’ efforts to start mining the beautiful Denniston plateau, it’s been hard to keep up with it all. Yet still, none of them are digging up any more coal. Let’s try and keep it that way.

What’s in this update?

  1. Lignite briquetting plant
  2. Denniston update
  3. Bathurst, new neighbour in a small town
  4. Bill McKibben tour and divestment
  5. Auckland Coal Action’s fight against Fonterra’s coalmine
  6. Coming up: Generation Zero’s “What’s the Holdup” Tour
  7. Film about “Bidder 70” coming to NZ
  8. International – and climate science catchup
  9. Other news and resources 
    
  10. Lignite briquetting plant

The trials of the Solid Energy/GTL briquetting plant continue at Mataura, with Solid Energy announcing late last month that it will walk away from the plant. The media covered little of this announcement, but you can find out a lot more about what’s been going on there from our press release on the day.

Given our network includes locals living near to the plant, we have been able to get a lot more information about what’s been going on there – a lot more than what the media’s been covering. And none of it’s good.

We also managed to get, through the Official Information Act, a document showing us what we suspected: the GTL plant in North Dakota had a massive explosion and is now being dismantled. So this technology remains experimental. Why should beautiful Southland farmland be dug up so that GTL can continue to try out its dirty technology to sell it on to Indonesia?

Solid Energy sponsorship under scrutiny: You may also have missed this article about the millions Solid Energy spent on sponsorship. We call it buying out criticism and it’s something that most coal and oil companies do to stop local protest about their activities.

  1. Denniston update

The ins and outs of Forest & Bird’s legal wrangles with Bathurst have been very complicated. But now Debs Martin has set it all out in an update. Tim wrote a blog about it, but you might want to go directly to Debs’ update. Suffice to say, the process continues – there are still Forest & Bird appeals in the pipeline and the company continues to struggle financially.

  1. Bathurst, new neighbour in a small town

Meanwhile, down in Southland, Rosemary Penwarden went to see Bathurst’s mine at Nightcaps. This is her account of what she found.

“Open cast mining explicitly turns the soil, it's a bit like farming, the difference is once mining's finished you put it back.” – Hamish Bohannan, CEO of Bathurst Resources
Bathurst Resources CEO Hamish Bohannan has never actually worked in the mining industry. He’s been around minerals extraction in Australia. But Bathurst, his so-called “New Zealand” company that wants to destroy the Denniston Plateau, is actually his first ever coal company. Trust us, he says to Coasters. We know what we’re doing. For example, see how well we are going in Southland.

Last week CANA members went to Nightcaps to see Bathurst’s Southland operation for ourselves. The first thing we noticed, apart from the acrid coal smell that sits in the back of your throat, was that the little historic art deco butcher’s shop on Nightcaps’ main road has disappeared, so mine trucks can turn more easily. At a glance, a few more houses have had a coat of paint this past year. The art deco hotel has been repainted, and is still for sale. The Four Square store is doing a roaring trade, as apparently is the local contractor, Transport Services Ltd, though trucks were all lined up and shiny with nowhere to go at this time of year. Bathurst gives the local school free coal.

Down at the mine, things are not going quite to plan. Last year the hillside above the main pit fell in, sending about four million tonnes of overburden onto the coal. Bathurst paid the farmer about $14 million (one neighbour thought it was $40 million plus payouts) for the $1.1 million property.

The land is on a fault line, so is prone to slipping. That also makes the seams variable in size and the coal variable in quality. As local miners know, the best coal is already long gone. One miner said he prefers lignite to Takitimu coal. (When Mataura briquettes were mentioned, we only got chuckles.)

That has not stopped Bathurst opening a new pit, Coaldale, along the western side of the town, doubling the size of their operation. This is also prone to slipping. When we were there the same sticky mud that foiled 19th century miners was still foiling Bathurst and their contractors, Stevensons. Operations stopped completely the previous week because of snow, and wet weather was slowing work while we were there. “Smoko” appeared to last the whole hour and a half of our visit. What looked like a small waterfall was described as “just runoff” into the pit.
A new and very expensive coal sorter is supposedly arriving soon from Germany to replace the current dangerous (but still in action) old one. Where does Bathurst get the money to pay for this? It didn’t look like they were making much while we were there.

The next phase of Bathurst’s expansion plans would be “hilltop removal” of currently forested land even further to the west, near the town’s beautifully preserved and meticulously kept cemetery. A walk around this cemetery is a peek into a history, common to all mining towns, of tragedies, young men’s lives lost to coal.

  1. Bill McKibben tour: Divestment discussions begin – and campaign takes off internationally

In the wake of Bill McKibben’s tour of the country last month, many people are beginning to discuss divestment campaigns. It’s what Bill was encouraging, and we at CANA are also getting to grips with it. Standby for updates to come soon.

Meanwhile, Jenny Campbell of Coal Action Murihiku and member of the Dunedin Climate Justice Group, has this news:

Divestment begins in Anglican Church. Good news!

People from Auckland’s St Paul’s Cathedral Climate Change Action group have organised a motion to be presented at their Diocesan Synod (decision making body) in September about encouraging those involved in investing funds on behalf of the church, to be required to divest from companies involved in extraction and/ or production of fossil fuels within 2 years, and not to invest in any new fossil fuel initiatives as part of their commitment through their present ethical investments policies. Their accompanying notes help explain the imperative for this action.

They have plans to spin it around all the other New Zealand Dioceses to get them to action this policy as well. They intend to get the Bishops involved and think there will be a keen interest in doing this because of Anglican’s commitment to ‘Care of Creation’ as one of the guiding principles of the Anglicans internationally. We have a special responsibility here in Aotearoa/ NZ because ours is a 3 tikanga church involving not only Maori and Pakeha but also Pasifika peoples who are already seeing the effects of climate change on their people, other living things, their way of life and their economy.

It is hoped to appeal to other peoples of faith in our country to join us with this decision and ensure divestments in the places we have influence.
Rangimarie, kia kaha
Jenny.

But there are also very good signs coming out of the US, where President Obama made his first big climate change speech. Along with talking about needing to stop emissions from coal, both at home and with international US investment banks, Obama specifically called on people to “divest” from fossil fuels to bring about social change.

The campaign is beginning to take hold. The massive United Church of Christ has adopted a resolution to divest from fossil fuels. Dutch bank Rabobank has announced it will not invest in shale gas (will this policy be repeated by Rabobank in NZ?), and a huge Financial group in Norway, Storebrand, has pulled its investments out of 19 companies associated with Canada’s filthy tarsands.

  1. Auckland Coal Action support fight against Mangatawhiri coal mine

The main focus of ACA's work this year is opposing the new coal mine planned for Mangatawhiri near Auckland. The mine will be owned by Fonterra and is intended to supply its factories for drying milk powder.

Last month we stood along state highway 2, near the proposed mine site in protest as a long line of cars filed back to Auckland after the holiday weekend.

Locals weren't keen to get out with us in front of their friends and neighbours, but were happy for us to be there. And, make no mistake, they are strong in their opposition to the mine. Last month they held the inaugural meeting of the Coal Free Mangatawhiri group with around 20 founding members.

This week we are busy painting anti-coal signs to go up on Mangatawhiri properties, as requested by some of the locals. For next month we will be organising to get as big a contingent as possible to attend the consent hearings for the mine.

To get in touch with us, or, if you would like to help, please email aucklandcoalaction@gmail.com

Our next meeting will be on Saturday 4 August, 1-4 pm at the Quaker House 113 Mt Eden Rd, Auckland. New members welcome.

  1. Coming up: Generation Zero’s “What’s the Holdup” Tour

Coming to a town near you, from next week, is Generation Zero’s “What’s the holdup tour”. It’ll be a great opportunity to talk transport solutions, obstacles to climate action and showcase Aotearoa’s opportunities to move beyond fossil fuels. They’ll have high level experts – and young Kiwis who are working on solutions.

This very positive-sounding tour will be at 13 different towns up and down the country, with the first in Dunedin on Monday 15th.

Find out more here. Or their facebook page.

  1. Bidder 70 film coming to NZ

Tim de Christopher, a young US climate activist, was recently released from two years in federal prison for bidding at a US oil and gas auction as an act of civil disobedience. Bidder 70, a documentary just released in the United States, tells the story.

Of the film, Tim says: “At this point of unimaginable threats on the horizon, this is what hope looks like.” He says that his actions of civil disobedience are appropriate to the scale of the crisis we face.

Of the environmental movement, Tim says:

“The way the environmental movement has been, it’s like a football game. And our team is getting slaughtered. The refs have been paid off and the other side is playing with dirty tricks. And so, it’s no longer acceptable for us to stay in the stands. It’s time to rush the field. It’s time to stop the game.”

Climate groups around Aotearoa, including CANA and with the support of Greenpeace NZ, have banded together to bring Bidder 70 to New Zealand, beginning with a first screening in Wellington later this month. We hope to have a local Coal Action presence at each screening, and we want as many people as possible to see this film.

Watch the trailer And Watch Tim on the David Letterman show

Share these! Keen to help? Email Rosemary rose.p@ihug.co.nz for details.

  1. International – and climate science catchup

Arctic melt picks up
This year’s Arctic melt is starting to take a nosedive. While it isn’t yet at the same low levels at this time last year, it’s worth keeping an eye on. This page gives you daily updates. Also worth noting that the Arctic tundra is suffering unprecedented fires from a heatwave up there.

Climate consensus
In case you missed it, this new study was released, showing that more than 97% of scientists agree that global warming’s man made, caused by the burning of fossil fuels. On the back of the study they launched the Consensus Project – do check it out, as it has great graphics you can use in your own work and send to friends.

400ppm milestone reached
Since our last newsletter, the atmosphere reached a scary milestone – of 400ppm of C02 in the atmosphere. This is not something we were aiming for, unfortunately, indeed even 350ppm is considered not very safe, especially for our Pacific Island neighbours. This is the highest it’s been since humans walked the planet. Since the Pleistocene, 3-5million years ago. Of course the NZ media pretty much ignored it. Scientist Jim Salinger wrote a great piece in the NZ Herald, who then went and “balanced” it with a piece by climate denier Chris de Freitas two days later that was riddled with basic scientific errors. The sooner our media stops treating climate denial as having equal standing with our climate scientists, the better.

NZ and global warming
The wild weather we’ve been having is not going to be an unusual event in the future, warns Victoria University’s Dave Frame. Indeed, this is the same message delivered by James Renwick after the Wellington storm. While that storm couldn’t be put down to climate change, Dr Renwick noted to Radio New Zealand that actually every storm we get now “has a little bit of climate change in the background” as our warming world loads extra moisture into the atmosphere.

Australia lignite fight: There’s another fight going on around lignite vs farmland – in Australia’s state of Victoria, where the Government wants to dig up all the lignite (brown coal) under some of the state’s most fertile farmland. This great feature covers it all.

Also, on Australia, Kristin Gillies and Jenny Campbell were lucky enough to spend three days with a bunch of coal activists from across the country. Read their account of the meeting.

  1. news and resources

RMA "reforms"
We’re all very worried about the impact of the proposed RMA reforms. The Greens have got an open letter to Amy Adams calling on her to save the RMA. If you want to support the campaign and sign this, go here.

Coal for Steel
You may have missed Jeanette Fitzsimon’s great editorial in the Nelson Mail about the alternatives to coal for making steel.

Coromandel Watchdog closes down drillrig for 30 hours
While this isn’t about coal, it’s about inspiration – congratulations to our brave colleagues in the Coromandel who shut down a Newmont Gold drilling rig on conservation land for 30 hours last weekend. See the story on TVNZ. And the full story and photos from the team over at their website.

  1. CANA Blog

CANA’s blog is at http://coalactionnetworkaotearoa.wordpress.com
As well as our latest news, you’ll find pages (shown across the top of the blog) with information and resources you can use.

See boxes below for Facebook and Twitter.

  1. How to donate to CANA

We rely on your generous donations to keep the campaign going. Here are the account details if you want to donate:

Coal Action Network
Kiwibank
38 9011 0484435 00

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