Activism on Coal

Activism on coal issues takes many forms, ranging from litigation to nonviolent direct action protests such as tree sits. As described in “The Education of Warren Buffett,” which analyzed why Buffett’s PacifiCorp cancelled six coal plants, those opposing coal plants may be most likely to succeed when multiple groups deploy a diverse array of tactics.

In the United States, where hundreds of groups have been involved in coal issues,  opponents of new coal plants have had dramatic success. Over two-thirds of the 151 projects on the drawing board in May 2007 have been cancelled, and over 100 existing plants are now scheduled for retirement.

Opposition to coal is increasingly occurring on a global scale, especially in countries with densely populated rural areas. In Bangladesh, for example, the proposed Phulbari Mine would displace over 200,000 people. Rallies and marches against the plant have drawn as many as 100,000. In India, major protests have been reported in at least ten states. Issues of concern include land acquisition, impacts of coal plants on fisheries, conflicts over scarce water supplies, fly ash and air pollution, and destruction of forests.

Financing of coal plants by international lenders such as the World Bank and the U.S. Export-Import Bank has also been the focus of protests, including worldwide opposition to the Tata Mundra Ultra Mega Power Project in India and the Medupi Power Station in South Africa.