Fossil Fuel Companies Rack Up Another Worst Week Ever

by Kelly Mitchell

March 11, 2016

It was yet another horrible, no good, very bad week for the fossil fuel industry.

International Day of Climate Change Action

Bad news for fossil fuel execs is great news for the rest of us, and this week was full of it.

© Michael Nagle / Greenpeace

The fossil fuel industry seems to be having a lot of #worstweeksever these days. Coal companies are going bankrupt. Grassroots movements are defeating multi-billion dollar oil projects. Researchers are exposing industry attempts to buy our democracy. Somewhere, coal and oil execs are crying to the tune of 1,000 tiny violins.

World's Smallest Violin

via Tumblr.

This week proved to be no exception to the trend. Here’s what happened.

1. North America’s favorite bromance put climate science at the heart of Arctic policies.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined together to call for historic actions to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. As part of the announcement, both countries agreed that commercial activities in the Arctic — including oil and gas drilling — should only occur if they are in line with “global climate and environmental goals, and Indigenous rights and agreements.“ And, no surprise, drilling for oil in the Arctic is solidly out of line with the U.S.’s climate commitments in Paris.

There are other provisions of the agreement that could bring additional accountability to fossil fuel companies, including the finalization of methane regulations and the suggestion that government agencies should consider the social cost of carbon when making energy decisions.

2. One of the country’s biggest coal companies abandoned plans to build the largest new coal mine in America.

Apparently being one of the largest coal companies in the United States means a lot less than it used to.

This week, Indigenous activists, ranchers, and landowners scored a huge victory when Arch Coal (of recent bankruptcy infamy) asked the state of Montana to stop all permitting work on its proposed Otter Creek coal mine. Arch has been trying for years to develop this mine, but has faced sustained resistance by local communities every step of the way. While it was somewhat veiled by corporate doublespeak, Arch basically admitted this in its official announcement, citing “an extended and uncertain permitting outlook.”

By stopping this mine in its tracks, those activists have kept more than 2 billion tons of carbon in the ground and prevented a company with a long history of environmental and social destruction from scarring a beautiful landscape.

If that’s not enough, this decision casts doubt on the long term prospects for Arch’s proposed coal export terminal in the Pacific Northwest. The state of Washington is kicking off public hearings on that boondoggle in a few months — so stay tuned.

3. President Obama’s Bureau of Land Management held an oil and gas auction and no one bid.

It’s a little embarrassing to host a party where no one shows up, but that’s what happened to the federal government in Reno, Nevada this week.

Despite growing public opposition, the Obama administration continues to hold oil and gas auctions (that is, when activists don’t get in the way), largely throughout the West. These are the same auctions Tim DeChristopher made famous back in 2008, where bureaucrats sell off our public lands to the highest bidder.

Except, at this week’s auction in Reno, there was no highest bidder. There were no bidders at all.

The Department of Interior’s coal, oil, and gas leasing programs have been widely criticized for giving away our public lands and waters to corporations for laughable amounts with minimal oversight. So, when oil and gas companies sit out one of these giveaways, it could be a sign of shrinking confidence in the market. In 2015, for instance, more than 40 fracking companies went bankrupt and the number of active fracking wells is falling at a record breaking rate.

4. Late breaking: the Obama Administration just denied an application for Oregon’s proposed Liquefied Natural Gas terminal.

It’s even getting harder to publish #worstweekever blogs: the stream of industry bad news is coming faster than we can process!

Late today, in a rather unassuming tweet, the Obama administration’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced its denial of an application required to build the Jordan Cove LNG export terminal on the Oregon Coast. FERC commissioners cited a lack of need for the project and noted that any benefits of the pipeline, which would drag fracked gas from Rocky Mountain states to the terminal, didn’t outweigh the consequences for communities.

We’ll keep unpacking this news (and this dense FERC order) in the coming days, but in the meantime, here’s another cheers to the world-changing organizing juggernaut that is the Thin Green Line.

The fossil fuel industry is reeling, and we can seal the deal. Take action to #keepitintheground today!

Kelly Mitchell

By Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell is the Climate and Energy Campaign Director for Greenpeace, based in Chicago. Since 2006, she has worked with activists and organizations across the country to confront corporate polluters and transform U.S. energy policy. She currently leads Greenpeace's campaign for an economy powered by 100 percent renewable energy, pushing some of the largest companies in the world to embrace wind and solar and working alongside communities to develop a just and democratic energy system.

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