Dead Hand from the Grave: Big Coal Funnels Money to Fight Wind Turbines

August 5, 2018


Above, clinging to life and sucking on an oxygen tank, Robert Murray is the cartoonishly evil, uncannily accurate human metaphor of the dying coal industry – feverishly seeking to destroy the planet’s life support system even as he dangles one foot over the grave himself.

Murray, and Big Coal, are funding anti-wind efforts across the heartland – they know their industry is doomed, but every month they can keep it alive on life support is millions, if not billions, in their pockets.

Today we have an example of clear fingerprints discovered in an Ohio regulatory proceeding.

Cleveland Plain Dealer:

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Boaters and birders have been upfront about their opposition to the six-turbine Icebreaker Wind project planned for Lake Erie, but a new, powerful voice of resistance has recently emerged: Big Coal.

In documents and sworn statements filed with the Ohio Power Siting Board on Thursday, the wind farm developers presented evidence that Murray Energy Corp. has been bankrolling anti-Icebreaker consultants, as well as lawyers representing two Bratenahl residents who have testified against the project.


Cody E. Nett, a spokesman for Murray Energy, confirmed the company’s involvement by e-mail and said, “Murray Energy is pleased that its outside counsel… can assist the Bratenahl residents to prevent Icebreaker from steam-rolling this project through the Ohio Power Siting Board certification process without the public scrutiny and opposition that it deserves.”

Robert Murray, who has homes in Moreland Hills and Belmont County, is the founder and CEO of the nation’s largest privately-owned coal company, with 16 active mines in five states and Colombia, South America. As coal sales plunge and hundreds of coal-fired power plants are shut down across the country, green energy facilities such as Icebreaker pose a formidable new source of competition for Murray’s coal companies.

Even if Murray had wanted to intervene in the state certification process for Icebreaker, he likely would have been denied, said David Karpinski, vice president of operations for the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation. Interveners must first file a request to participate in the decision-making process with the siting board, which is responsible for reviewing applications for the construction of major utility facilities such as power plants and wind farms.

As a potential direct competitor of the $126 million Icebreaker project, Murray Energy probably wouldn’t have been allowed to intervene before the siting board, Karpinski said.

Nor could Murray Energy have worked to oppose Icebreaker by putting its substantial resources behind the Campaign for American Affordable and Reliable Energy, a trade group whose stated mission is “to protect, preserve and promote America’s affordable and reliable coal-fired electricity generation.” The state siting board denied three previous attempts by the group to intervene in wind projects after finding that the group objected to wind farms in general and would not be impacted directly by any of the projects.

Trish Demeter, vice president of energy policy at the Ohio Environmental Council, said Murray’s behind-the-scenes activity in the Icebreaker case is an example of “his no-holds-barred approach at stymieing Ohio’s energy future.”

“At the OEC, we’ve long suspected Murray Energy was involved in whipping up opposition to wind energy in Ohio, but seeing the hard evidence of that opposition is still shocking,” Demeter said.

By opposing the application to place North America’s first freshwater offshore wind farm in Ohio, “Murray Energy is grasping at straws to keep its business relevant in an era of unstoppable trends towards clean, renewable energy,” Demeter said.

Murray recently gave a bizarre address to assembled clean energy advocates at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance gathering in NYC.

RTO Insider:

“I’m probably the only coal guy in the room. I’m also an American,” he said, pausing to gather his composure after tearing up. “The recent polar vortex shows our grid is not as reliable as grid operators would like you to believe.”

Murray criticized FERC for rejecting Perry’s proposal to subsidize coal and nuclear plants with onsite fuel and said Perry should approve FirstEnergy’s request for an emergency declaration to protect coal plants. (See Perry Hints DOE Won’t Grant FES ‘Emergency’ Request.)

The declaration “has to be [made] or we’re going to have a disaster. … Will we have to have a system collapse before recognizing that something has to be done about the security, resiliency and reliability of the power grid?” he asked. “Barely one-half of [remaining coal] plants generate enough revenue to cover their expenses. There has to be a capacity payment there.”

Lynn Doan, head of power and renewables for Bloomberg News, asked Murray about reports by NERC and others that some coal plants were unable to run during recent cold spells because of frozen coal piles. “Did not happen ma’am,” he insisted.

“The poorest 25 million families in this country are putting out 31% of their income for energy — gasoline, oil and electricity,” he continued. “We have an energy poverty problem in this country. We don’t have a global warming problem.

“All of you are building your businesses around climate change. The best thing that could happen is overturning the [EPA’s CO2] endangerment finding — that artificial thing that has put political correctness ahead of getting the lowest-cost electricity for the people on fixed income, for that single mom, for that manufacturer.”

Although most of the conference focused on advances in renewable technologies, there was some discussion of the impact of those resources on organized power markets.

“We know that clean, zero-marginal cost energy does fundamentally change the way the power markets work,” said Albert Cheung, BNEF’s head of global analysis. He cited BNEF modeling on the impact of adding 5 GW of solar in Texas. “It creates $300 million going toward solar. But you also destroy about $2 billion worth of revenue for other generators, whether it’s gas or coal or wind or nuclear. In California we already see this happening,” he said, with even solar “cannibalizing itself already.”

“Be wary of capacity mechanisms which bake in solutions of the past,” he added.

Former FERC Commissioner Nora Mead Brownell said she is confident organized competitive power markets will survive state and federal interventions to protect favored generation resources.

“I think it’s easy to sit in a vertically integrated market where you have elected regulators who pretty much approve what [utilities] wish and say this life is perfect. What we’ve seen in organized markets is a decrease in price, an increase in innovation and an increase in reliability and investment.”

FERC, she said, is acting properly in considering market redesigns to respond to decreased prices resulting from renewables and cheap shale gas. “They’re doing it in a methodical way based on a fact pattern, unlike kind of throwing subsidies at old solutions. They want to keep the market open for this continuing innovation that you will only see if you let the market drive decisions. You don’t see big huge mistakes in organized markets with big huge ratepayer-funded R&D projects. You don’t see that at all. There’s financial discipline, there’s transparency and there is encouragement of new solutions. It’s not happening fast enough … but I think it’s moving forward now. So, we need to step back and make economic decisions and not political decisions.”

Below, Mr Murray attempted to sue comedian John Oliver for skewering him and his crusade. You’ll be happy to know there are still judges sentient enough that the case was thrown out.


A West Virginia judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by coal company Murray Energy against HBO host John Oliver.

A segment of Oliver’s Sunday show “Last Week Tonight” in June poked fun at Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray, who blames regulatory efforts by the Obama administration for damaging the coal industry. Oliver said the 77-year-old looked like a “geriatric Dr. Evil.”

A Circuit Court judge in Marshall County, West Virginia, ruled on Wednesday that Murray’s company failed to state a claim. The two-page ruling from Senior Judge Jeffrey Cramer was posted online by The Hollywood Reporter.

The Ohio-based company was seeking financial damages and a court order barring rebroadcasts of the segment’s “defamatory statements.”

HBO had argued the show didn’t violate Murray Energy’s rights or those of Murray.

Below, Oliver’s victory lap.


8 Responses to “Dead Hand from the Grave: Big Coal Funnels Money to Fight Wind Turbines”

  1. sailrick Says:

    What the heck was Murray’s reference to the polar vortex about? Talk about clueless.

  2. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    World to coal industry: Drop dead already, again.

  3. Sir Charles Says:

    Those boys again…

  4. […] Dead Hand from the Grave: Big Coal Funnels Money to Fight Wind Turbines – Nett, a spokesman for Murray Energy. […]

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