August 6, 2018 Read More →

U.S. coal company works behind the scenes to thwart Lake Erie wind-energy project

Cleveland Plain Dealer:

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.

More: Big Coal joins fight against Lake Erie green energy wind turbines

Comments are closed.