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Teleconference: Ending Coal

Ending Coal
An Earthjustice Teleconference
Abigail Dillen, VP of Climate & Energy
Length: 44 min 51 sec
Recorded: June 14, 2013

Climate change is the life-disrupting crisis of our time. But we still can avoid its most severe impacts if we dramatically change the way we produce and use energy. Through litigation and administrative advocacy, Earthjustice fights to hold the coal industry accountable for the damage it does to the environment and human health.

Vice President of Climate & Energy Abigail Dillen discusses Earthjustice's strategy for ending the nation's dependency on coal. This conversation was held on June 14, 2013 and moderated by National Press Secretary Kari Birdseye.

Audio Transcript:

Kari Birdseye.Kari Birdseye: Hello and thanks for joining us today for Ending Coal, a special Earthjustice teleconference. I'm Kari Birdseye, National Press Secretary at Earthjustice, and our coal program director, Abigail Dillen, will be joining us in just a moment. [Ed. Note: On July 22, 2013, Dillen became Earthjustice's first Vice President of Climate & Energy.]

As species are pushed out of their traditional habitat, as more storms build to supersized strength, as island nations plan for their eventual relocation, it has become uncomfortably clear that climate change is already unraveling the complex web of life and permanently altering landscapes. Addressing climate change is a top Earthjustice priority. Global warming threatens all that we have worked for decades to protect. Without doubt, climate change is the greatest environmental threat facing mankind and ecological systems. Unless dramatic action is taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, people, wildlife, and landscapes will suffer irreversible losses.

There is no question that you have to tackle U.S. emissions if we have any hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change. Tackling U.S. emissions absolutely means tackling coal-fired power plants.

Ending the nation's dependence on coal is an absolute prerequisite to any significant progress on slowing human caused greenhouse gas emissions and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. Roughly half of the electricity generated in the United States still comes from burning coal in power plants. While touted as cheap energy, coal exacts a price far higher than what we pay in utility bills. Burning coal for electricity produces one third of global warming pollution in the United States. It releases harmful, toxic pollution into our air and water and prevents us from building a clean energy future. Through a broad program of litigation and administrative advocacy, Earthjustice is working to hold the coal industry responsible for the damage it does to the environment and human health.

I'm here today with Earthjustice attorney and coal program director [now VP of Climate & Energy] Abigail Dillen to talk about how Earthjustice is fighting to end coal. Welcome Abbie. I'm going to talk to Abbie in just a bit, and then we're going to open the lines up for listeners. We're going to take your calls. If you'd like to ask a question press one on your touch tone phone at any time to be connected to the operator.

So let's dive right in, Abbie. Why is ending our addiction to coal such an urgent issue?

Why is it urgent to end our dependence on coal?

Abbie: Well, first of all, hi Kari, and hello to everybody who has joined the call. Thank you for participating on a Friday during the summer. What I'm going to say is not going to be news to many of you, but burning coal is really the number one reason why we're facing a climate catastrophe now. A third of U.S. carbon emissions come from our coal-fired power plants, and while the U.S. is no longer the number one emitter of carbon emissions in the world, we're very close behind China. There is no question that you have to tackle U.S. emissions if we have any hope of avoiding the worst consequences of climate change. Tackling U.S. emissions absolutely means tackling coal-fired power plants.

It's a climate imperative to move ourselves away from coal, and it's also a health imperative. Coal plants are the top emitters of soot and air toxics, like mercury and also sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which together are responsible for some of the biggest health problems we face in this country. Coal-fired power plant pollution kills thousands of people a year. It causes even more thousands of heart attacks and it's a huge driver in the asthma epidemic that we see across the country. It's also the prime mover in acid rain that we've been fighting for the last 30 years.

Child suffering from asthma. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

In the United States, 17 million adults and 7 million children suffer from asthma. Environmental triggers like air pollution can cause and exacerbate asthma.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

And these are just the impacts of burning coal in power plants. When you look at the life cycle impacts, the picture is even more alarming. Again, as many of you will know, mining coal has been one of the greatest environmental tragedies in this country, across Coal Country in North America, and we're still dealing in many communities with a legacy of poison water from acid mine drainage. We're now at the point where we're blowing the tops off mountains to get at coal. We're losing entire Appalachian ecosystems, and these are some of the richest, biodiverse areas that we have in North America.

At the back end of the combustion process, we have literally tons of waste; a hundred and twenty million tons of coal ash each year is generated by our coal fleet. And that ash is laden with all of the toxic metals and constituents that are in coal—arsenic, mercury, cadmium, chromium, selenium—the list goes on. And those are all constituents which leach out into our water. There's an awful convergence of under-regulation where we're putting our coal ash and coal wastewaters in big, unlined surface impoundments across the country. Those are big impoundments that can burst, as we saw with the tragic disaster in Tennessee in 2008. And there's a more slow moving disaster which is that we're seeing these toxic chemicals leach into our waterways and our groundwater and contaminating drinking water for people all around the country.

From start to finish, coal is something that is killing us. That's something that [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid has been saying for years, and it has the virtue of being true. It couldn't be a bigger priority both from a climate standpoint and an environmental standpoint to move away from coal.

Kari: Abbie, given that coal supplies so much of our electricity, and there doesn't appear to be any shortage of coal, how can we hope to shift away from coal quickly enough to make a difference for the climate?

How can we shift away from coal quickly enough to make a difference?

Abbie: Well, it's absolutely a heavy lift to make a wholesale shift away from coal, and if you had asked me that question ten years ago, I might have had a very pessimistic answer. But we've got a lot going for us right now and I think it's really a unique moment.

The coal power sector is facing just a fundamental infrastructure dilemma, and that is our coal fleet is very old. Most of the coal plants in the country were built before the 80s, and even before the 70s, so to remain at the level of coal-fired generation that we have now, you simply have to make a huge investment in renovations or just building an entire new fleet. And building the entire new fleet was the idea that the coal sector originally had. Five years ago we were facing an enormous rush to build new coal-fired power plants and replace the existing fleet. Nationally, the environmental community came together in an unprecedented way and, with the help of a crippling recession, we were able to stop the vast majority of those proposals.

Where the utilities are now is in the position of deciding whether or not to keep throwing money into their existing coal plants. And those are decisions that we have a unique opportunity to influence right now. After decades of litigation to get more regulation of this industrial sector, we are finally at the point where new air standards, new water pollution standards, and perhaps even new regulation of waste are just on the cusp of coming into play and creating very extensive new environmental compliance obligations for coal plants. So the decision to invest in the coal plant is fraught with the knowledge that there are going to be hundreds of millions of dollars that are required to meet new environmental standards.

After decades of litigation to get more regulation of this industrial sector, we are finally at the point where new air standards, new water pollution standards, and perhaps even new regulation of waste are just on the cusp of coming into play.

At the same time coal is really getting a run for its money for the first time from a competitor, and that is natural gas. Natural gas prices are at an all-time low. Gas plants are for the first time in history out-competing coal plants, meaning that coal plants are getting to sell their power less. That is cutting into their profit margins in a big way and it is convincing regulators that maybe they shouldn't be approving big investments in retrofits when it's cheaper right now to build a new gas plant. That's a huge change for the coal sector's business model. We have to be thinking about avoiding a scenario where we replace all of our coal with gas, but the gas dynamic is helping us to get rid of the coal in the first instance.

The best news of all, though, is that our energy efficiency programs are really starting to take off. And that means we're seeing demand remain flat. The coal sector has always relied over time on the idea that electrics demand is always going to go up. They're a bulk power seller; they need to sell in bulk to make money. And so, to the extent that we're limiting their market, and we're cutting into it with gas—to some extent, renewables—and we're forcing up the cost of coal, we are really changing the outlook for this industry, and the results are apparent in coal share of the power market. For time and memorial, coal supplied over half the electricity in this country. We're now down to 37% coal as of 2012. And we expect to see that number continue to decrease as these new environmental standards kick in and force an increasing wave of coal plant retirements through 2017.

Kari: Thanks Abbie. I want to remind our listeners, if you have a question you can press 1 on your touch tone phone and we'll get you with the operator and we'll take your question.

Abbie, what can we do to make the sweeping emissions cuts that are needed to avoid the worst consequences of climate change?

What can be done to make the needed emissions cuts?

Abbie: As I said at the outset of the call, it is incumbent on us to get a handle on our electric grid and de-carbonize the way that we make and use energy. And the first order of business is shutting down as many coal plants as we can. Now what do we, Earthjustice, do that's different and useful in this very big project that has to involve lots of different environmental groups? And more than environmental groups, of course.

With respect to Earthjustice, we play a very unique role as a law firm. As many of you know, we've faced really crippling hurdles in Congress trying to make progress on climate change and getting federal legislation. When we're in that kind of gridlock, it's always a relief that the courts exist. The courts are great equalizers. What is crippling us in Congress is the entrenched political power that fossil fuel interests have, and King Coal more than any other, perhaps. When we go to court we have the ability to go up against these very powerful interests, including the federal government, and force action.

The courts are great equalizers … When we go to court we have the ability to go up against these very powerful interests, including the federal government, and force action.

It's important to remember that even as Congress refuses to budge on climate the President does have significant authority to make a difference. As President Obama made clear in his [2013] State of the Union Address, he thinks he can do a climate plan—but he has not been moving in that direction. So it's very important that we have access to the courts to force the administration to come forward with carbon standards for coal plants, to come forward with new, first-ever regulation of air toxics, first-ever regulation of coal waste, first-ever regulation of all of the toxics that are discharged in wastewaters. Through that kind of action, we can really shift the landscape and the rules of the road for the coal sector, and we can do it on behalf of citizens in this country. We're very fortunate to have environmental laws that allow citizens to come before the courts and stand in the shoes of the government and make sure that we deliver on the promise of our environmental laws.

The other thing I would say that we have as an opportunity as lawyers is to work from the ground up in the states. A lot of the decisions that affect our energy future are being made in public utility commissions. And those are arenas where, as lawyers, we can intervene in the rate cases where decisions are being made about what plants should be retrofitted and what plants should be retired. While I think the conventional wisdom has been that those can be hostile forums for us, we're finding that conservation groups haven't played there in the past and that when we're there bringing our skills to bear we are a powerful force and we're winning even more than we had initially expected to. So, there's a lot that we can do, not only at the federal level, but at the state level to impact how the U.S. handles our energy needs.

Kari: Let's talk more specifically about how Earthjustice is tackling this issue. How long has the organization been in this fight and what is the current strategy?

What is Earthjustice's history in this fight and current strategy?

Abbie: We have been litigating at the national level to try to get a handle on air pollution from coal plants for many, many years. But I would say that our first real push that was a deliberate attempt to get at coal plants in the United States started when we were faced with this unbelievable number of new proposals to build new coal-fired power plants. That was in and around 2005, 2006. It was at a time where awareness of climate change had increased dramatically, and it didn't take much to connect the dots between 165, 170 new coal-fired power plants, the emissions that those would lock in over the next hundred years, and the complete disaster that that would entail from a climate perspective. We realized that Earthjustice, along with many of our colleagues at the Sierra Club and other groups that have been working on coal for many years now, that it was absolutely imperative that we try to stop those new coal plant proposals.

The Cheswick coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)

The Cheswick coal-fired power plant in Pennsylvania. Roughly half of the electricity generated in the United States still comes from burning coal in power plants.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

At Earthjustice, and as a community, we were successful beyond even our wildest hopes and we were able to stop, again, the vast majority of those proposals. As the coal rush died down, the fight then turned to the existing fleet. And that's still the fight that we're in and that we expect to be in for several years to come. Because there are so many coal plants across the country—500—and because every coal plant is a tax base and a source of jobs within its community, and because, perhaps even more importantly, it's an asset that's usually bought and paid for and that makes a lot of money for its owners, these are hard fought battles and they require cooperation across many organizations and among many lawyers.

And I have to say that I have been a part of many coalition and many big campaigns over the years, but the energy and professionalism and network around shutting down coal plants is a network I've never seen before. We represent a really exciting array of clients that I think reflects the larger base building impact that we're having with this work. And let me just say what I mean by that.

We represent the Sierra Club, which has taken a leading role in shaping the Beyond Coal campaign, and we represent some other big national groups like the National Parks Conservation Association. But we also represent new faces to the climate fight—the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, for instance, has been one of our great partners on the air toxics standards and on regulation of coal ash and other waste.

A coal ash 'storm'. (Photo courtesy of Moapa Band of Paiutes)

The Moapa River Indian Reservation, tribal home of a band of Paiute Indians, sits about 300 yards from the coal ash landfills of the Reid Gardner Power Station. For years, the plant has rained pollution on the community.

If the conditions are just wrong, coal ash picks up from Reid Gardner and moves across the desert like a sandstorm.

Photo courtesy of Moapa Band of Paiutes

We represent the Moapa Band of Paiutes in Nevada; they have been living in the shadow of a coal plant that has taken a serious toll on their community, in terms of really egregious health impacts. Working with them, we have been able to put the Reid Gardner plant in Nevada on the radar of Harry Reid, for instance, and I am pleased to report that that plant is now shutting down.

There are so many people who live around a coal-fired power plant who understand its impacts. Even if they aren't motivated by climate in the same that we are, they are absolutely motivated by the health impacts that coal plants have. The broader the coalition that we have, the more political power we have and the greater enduring movement we've built to do something about our climate emissions and an environmental problem that's been dogging us for really a hundred years when it comes to mining and burning coal. I want to give a feel for the breadth of this campaign and the kind of folks we work with and I just wanted to add one more group. The Physicians for Social Responsibility have been a wonderful partner, and getting doctors and nurses—the American Nurses Association, also—into this fight has really made a big difference in making it understandable to more people beyond just the conservation community.

Kari: Thanks, Abbie. So what would you say our best legal hooks are?

What are the best legal hooks?

Abbie: I think of our work as falling into two basic categories. I've talked about both of them a little bit, but just to make it explicit, the first category is national work—to change the rules that apply to coal plants. Right now, coal plants have the benefit of very sweeping regulatory exemptions. They don't have to dispose of their waste safely. They don't have to limit their wastewater discharges of the most dangerous pollutants. They haven't had to install modern pollution controls that have been in use at other industrial facilities for years. So by cracking down on those huge regulatory gaps that have had really bad environmental consequences, we're forcing the industry to internalize its cost and we're making coal—which has always had the reputation of being cheap power—of finally having to pay its way. And as it becomes more expensive, it becomes less attractive and it makes room for cleaner energy which may be slightly more expensive than coal has been historically.

By cracking down on those huge regulatory gaps that have had really bad environmental consequences, we're forcing the industry to internalize its cost and we're making coal—which has always had the reputation of being cheap power—of finally having to pay its way.

The other category of work we do is what I think of as plant-by-plant work which leverages the new rules that we secure and brings them to bear on individual plants. So that means getting into these public utility commissions that I've mentioned and fighting for the right economic decisions to retire instead of retrofit coal plants. It's getting into permitting of coal plants, making sure that Clean Water Act permits and Clean Air Act permits actually reflect the stringent rules that apply and force the plants to control their pollution as the national standards require. It's getting into enforcement fights where plants like the Luminant fleet in Texas are often allowed to violate their permit for years with impunity, and we are doing the hard work of getting the data—finding out where there are illegal pollution problems that have gone unresolved and fighting to force the installation of controls or retirement to clean up illegal pollution. Those are the basic categories and I'll be happy to answer questions about the knitty gritty details of the laws that we rely on if anyone's interested.

Kari: Abbie, you seem hopeful, and you've outlined some progress that we're making. Can you talk about some victories and some milestones that are meaningful to you?

What have been the most significant victories in the fight so far?

Abbie: I'd love to. In preparation for this call, I was thinking about three examples that I think exemplify our work and the way that it can be successful. The first example I'll give is one of these new regulations that we've been able to secure. And that's called the Mercury Air Toxics Rule. Power plants were able to—remarkably, even though Congress knew power plants were among the top emitters of air toxics like mercury—they were exempted from the Clean Air Act's air toxics standards when they were passed. And so, over many years, over a decade in fact, we have been chipping away at EPA, bringing lawsuit after lawsuit, forcing the agency to come forward not only with regulations but regulations that are sufficiently stringent. And at last we have rules that are forcing coal plants to put on the controls that they should have put on years ago to stop emitting these really dangerous pollutants.

The MATS rule is expected to force retirement of up to 20% of the existing fleet. I was taking a look at what industry is saying the impact of the MATS rule has been, and they have been collecting the retirement announcements that cite the Mercury Air Toxics Rule as a factor in their decision to retire. We've already retired 25 thousands megawatts of coal-fired power plants with this national standard. I'm happy to say I think that's just the beginning. There are many plants who are going to try to under-comply and we're going to be there to force them to do what's really required and I think we'll elicit further retirements than the voluntary announcements that we've already seen. So that's an instance where a long-standing Earthjustice air program has delivered an important new standard and then we're ensuring that that standard is brought to bear in an effective way, plant-by-plant.

Big Sandy. (Shawn Poynter)

The Big Sandy coal-fired power plant burns through 90 railroad cars of coal daily. The Kentucky Power Company had proposed a near billion dollar upgrade—but the price tag would have been passed along to Kentucky ratepayers.

Shawn Poynter

A second example is the Big Sandy plant in Kentucky, in the heart of "Coal Country." This is a plant owned by AEP, one of the most regressive companies in the country in terms of its eagerness to comply with environmental regulations. The Big Sandy Plant is a workhorse, very big base load power plant that AEP was planning to retrofit for over a billion dollars. They had made the decision that that plant was worth that much money to them. They were going to the Kentucky public utilities commission to get permission to put that money into the rate base, meaning that electricity customers would pay for that retrofit over time. And we went into that commission and, let me tell you, it's Kentucky, it's not a place that is full of wild-eyed environmentalists.

We argued, with the help of our technical and economic experts, that the proposal to spend a billion dollars on this old coal plant was simply uneconomic given more cost effective alternatives, with energy efficiency, even with building gas natural gas plant. And we got the industrial consumers, the factories who consume lots of electricity, on our side. And we had a terrific trial that elicited very helpful questions from all the commissioners—and at the end of the proceeding, instead of continuing and filing briefs in support of their position, AEP elected to withdraw its application to retrofit the plant and it has now announced that it is going to retire Big Sandy. And the cherry on top of that great sundae was that the Kentucky commissioners asked our brilliant lawyer, who litigated the case, whose name is Shannon Fisk, if he wouldn't come back and help them figure out what to do with the next big retrofit proceeding they had with the Big Rivers Plant. And so we're in the midst of those proceedings now. It's highly unusual to be asked by commissioners to come back, but that's what happened there. I think that's a terrific example of going into what is by no means a friendly forum and making a huge difference on a very big retrofit decision.

The San Juan Generating Station, with the San Juan Coal Mine to the left. (Ecoflight)

The San Juan Generating Station, with the San Juan Coal Mine to the left.

Photo courtesy of Ecoflight

And the final example, at the risk of exhausting all of your patience, that I want to highlight, is the San Juan Generating Station. This is a plant that's near the Navajo reservation. It is one of the notorious polluters in the country, one of the top ten polluters. It is a plant that has taken a heavy toll on the reservation in terms of air pollution and that gives people asthma and results in premature death. It's a plant that puts mercury into waters where folks want to fish. It creates a blight over the Grand Canyon. It's a plant that has long been in our sights. And at the same time that we were wondering what to do with San Juan Generating Station, we were also negotiating a global consent decree, basically a binding court order that required EPA to finally do something about regional haze.

The Clean Air Act has a program called the Regional Haze Program that is aimed at restoring pristine air quality in the areas where we think air should be clean and clear, like national parks, wilderness areas, national wildlife refuges. EPA has been foot-dragging for years. It was asked by Congress in the 1970s to do something about this problem. It's taken all of this time and lawsuits by Earthjustice to finally bring them to the point where they're finally plans, state-by-state, to get at the haze that is hanging over many of our most treasured public lands.

Haze in the Grand Canyon. (Arild Andersen)

The San Juan Generating Station was on the big contributors to haze in many areas, including the Grand Canyon. The same pollutants that cause haze also contribute to heart attacks, asthma attacks and emergency room visits for respiratory illnesses.

And it just so happened that the San Juan Generating Station was on the big contributors to haze in many of these areas, including the Grand Canyon. We saw an opportunity to advocate for very strong retrofit limits that are required under the haze program. That means that, just to translate that, we pushed hard with the help of technical experts to get EPA to finalize a rule that would force the San Juan Generating Station to put expensive new controls on all four of its units. The EPA came forward with that rule and it gave us a huge amount of leverage because the cost of those controls was going to force the company to shut down some units.

This was a real concern to the [Navajo] tribe, so we worked with our clients, who included tribal members, we worked with the agency, and we helped to broker what I think is one of the best examples in the country of a just transition, where two of the units of the plant are going to be cleaned up, addressing this long standing pollution problem, and two of the units are going to be shut down, which is a huge climate benefit.

So we've been able to leverage a longstanding interest in public lands and visibility and clean air into a concrete coal plant shutdown and clean up. San Juan has become a model, and we're now seeing plants in Arizona and another plant near the Navajo Reservation, a Four Corners plant, wanting to get into similar settlement negotiations to do a cleanup and shutdown solution to their haze contribution.

Kari: Abbie, I have one more question for you and then we're going to open it up to take some questions from our listeners. Once again, if you would like to ask a question please press 1 on your touch tone phone to be connected to the operator.

Okay Abbie, what does the future of the coal program at Earthjustice look like?

What does the future of Earthjustice's coal program look like?

Abbie: I think it looks like doing more of what we're currently doing. As I said, we really are at a unique crossroads right now where the coal sector has to make big decisions about what to do with the coal fleet. We have the wind at our backs with low natural gas prices, with this new sweep of environmental regulations, and with the burgeoning success of energy efficiency programs and renewable portfolio standards. And so, coal is on the ropes in a way that it hasn't been in the past. We want to take advantage of this moment. Across the country right now, the decisions whether to retrofit or retire specific plants are being made, and those decisions are only going to be made once. We see ourselves as being in an all-hands-on-deck situation.

Across the country right now, the decisions whether to retrofit or retire specific plants are being made, and those decisions are only going to be made once. We see ourselves as being in an all-hands-on-deck situation.

We've grown the coal program very quickly over the past five years. We now have eight lawyers on staff who are working full-time on coal and many, many other lawyers across the organization in our regional offices spending much of their time on coal as well. And yet we are still in a situation where we're chronically understaffed. When we look out at all of the opportunities, for instance, with haze retrofit requirements, those are state-by-state opportunities and we want to be there for all of them. And we have been able to be there in a remarkable number of states and in a remarkable number of Courts of Appeals to litigate this in a "take no prisoners" kind of way. It has made us very effective. We want to be able to do that in the Midwest PUCs. We've really ramped up our presence in Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Michigan, Ohio, but we want to continue to be there and build on the gains that we're making. And these are places where a regular presence is really required.

So, when we look at the future, we see more opportunities for the victories of the kind that we've already been fortunate to have had, but we know that we need to maintain the level of staff time that we have on this program and even increase it. That's where the Energy Foundation match [challenge grant] comes in. The Energy Foundation has taken a similar view as we have, that this is the moment to go big on coal. We're thrilled that they've made these matching funds available to us. To the extent that we're able to meet the match, we'll be able to add additional lawyers to staff this exciting body of work.

Kari: Abbie, our first question comes from Jessica in California. With the rise of coal in India and China, shouldn't we be focusing our attention internationally?

Should we be focusing our attention internationally?

Abbie: It's a great question and I think the answer is both. I think there is a misconception that we may have our coal-fired power problem solved in the U.S. because we have been so successful stopping new plant proposals and eliciting an initial wave of retirements in the U.S. But again, the U.S. is one of the biggest CO2 emitters in the world and our CO2 emissions are still coming disproportionately from coal-fired power plants. While working on the U.S. cannot be a full solution to the climate quandary, we can't solve climate without working on the U.S. So, we have to be here.

But do we also need to be in India and China? I think the answer is absolutely. People have to be working on coal in India and China, as many of you on the call know. The rate of construction of new coal plants in both countries, and also in Brazil and elsewhere, is truly alarming. Many of our colleague groups have been working in China. We have explored that idea. Our sense is that our efforts as lawyers may be better served in India. And we are starting a pilot project there this year that we're very excited about. I have made some trips to India myself, as have some other lawyers within the organization. We are collaborating with an incredibly talented group of lawyers there who are taking on coal plants and winning. This program is at its very inception, and so I think we're going to have to go slowly and figure out how effectively we, as Americans, can be in the Indian system. And that's why we're choosing to help bolster efforts that are already ongoing by very talented Indian lawyers. But in our dealings with them, we've seen a lot of common ground. The Indian courts are very receptive to getting information, scientific expertise, even court decisions from the United States. So there's a lot of the work that we've done that, just off the shelf, can be presented in Indian proceedings to help slow down some of these proceedings. That's one of the easy ways that we think that we can contribute. And as we learn more, we'll be looking for ways to see whether we have enough valued added to be expanding Earthjustice's presence in India and perhaps other countries as well in the future.

Kari: Abbie, what piece of work are you most proud of?

What have you been most proud of?

Abbie: It's a really hard question because I am extremely proud of a lot of our work—all of our work, in fact. Let me say two things about that. I am very proud, institutionally, of the staying power that Earthjustice has had on national air regulation. Jim Pew is a fantastic lawyer in our D.C. office and he has been working on air toxics, emissions of mercury, and others of the most dangerous pollutants for his entire career at Earthjustice. And it is work that I think went unnoticed, maybe. It's work that was not high profile. He has stuck to it and done it with unstinting excellence and commitment over the years and that's why today we're in a position to be defending a strong Mercury Air Toxics Standard that has been a game-changer for coal-fired power plants. I think Earthjustice has shown tremendous courage and vision in taking a long view of our work and problems that matter and that commitment is necessary when you're dealing with entrenched, powerful interests that are very much against regulation. I think that that's a quality that Earthjustice brings to bear in this fight that is tremendously valuable

I think we are seeing that tremendous tipping effect where big wins do make a difference even beyond the great wins in and of themselves

I'm also extremely proud of the fact that we've never had the staff to take on every single fight, and so we've had to think very carefully about the fights that we do take on. We've always had the sense that if we could win big in the hard battles, in the places like Kentucky, and on the big plants like Big Sandy, that aren't just going to go down because they're old and weak and economic factors are going to force their retirement regardless of what we do. Because we've been willing to take on those fights, we've assumed that if we could win them, it would send a very strong message to the industry and to investors and to regulators that it's really time to rethink coal. And so in the new coal plant sites we took on the biggest plant in the country, the Everglades plant, and were able to kill it in the conservative Florida public utility commission. In the existing plant fights, we're taking on really hard battles as well and we're coming out winners. I think we are seeing that tremendous tipping effect where big wins do make a difference even beyond the great wins in and of themselves.

Kari: You mentioned an Energy Foundation grant a minute ago. How does that factor into your budget and what growth would that permit in the program?

Please elaborate on the Energy Foundation grant.

Abbie: We are anticipating that the Energy Foundation grant, if fully matched, could allow us to add at least two new full-time lawyers to the coal program and ensure that, in some of these very resource intensive cases, we will have some additional money to put towards experts and whatever it takes us to be able to win the case.

Kari: Abbie, thank you so much for all the information today. Is there anything else that you want to add, Abbie, before I wrap things up?

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Abbie: I know that some of our staunch supporters and coal funders are on the phone, and I want to say that we've only been able to expand this program and get to the place we are through the really concerted support and wisdom that we've received from you. It's great to have this chance to talk about our program and we're truly thankful for all the support that you've given us over the years.

Kari: Thanks, Abbie. We've come to the end of the program. I want to thank you everybody for joining us today. I want to thank Abbie for sharing her thoughts and perspectives with us. Here at Earthjustice, we are executing strategic efforts to fundamentally change the way the nation produces and uses energy. The work is resource intensive, but high impact. We have a unique opportunity to influence decisions to be made on continued investing in coal for our future. These are decisions that could lock in coal for decades to come—or hasten a transition to a cleaner energy future.

If you would like more information on Earthjustice's coal program, please visit our website at earthjustice.org. If you would like more information on how to contribute to help us meet the Energy Foundation challenge grant, email us at events@earthjustice.org or you can call 1-800-584-6460. Thank you for joining us and have a great rest of your Friday. Bye-bye!

That concludes today's conference. Thank you for your participation. You may now disconnect.

This phone teleconference was held on June 14, 2013.


Coal-fired power plant. (Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice)
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