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Bankruptcy Filing Shows Arch Coal Funded Climate Denial Group

Climate

By Nick Surgey, The Center for Media & Democracy

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), a group best known for filing lawsuits seeking climate scientists' personal emails, has secretly received funding from Arch Coal, one of the largest coal producers in the U.S. The funding is revealed in documents recently filed as part of the Arch Coal bankruptcy proceedings which list the coal company's creditors.

The Energy & Environment Legal Institute, a group best known for filing lawsuits seeking climate scientists' personal emails, has secretly received funding from Arch Coal, one of the largest coal producers in the U.S.

The Arch funding is revealed just months after Alpha Natural Resources, another coal company facing bankruptcy, was identified by The Intercept as providing funding to a group closely connected to E&E Legal, the Free Market Law Clinic, as well as funding directly to E&E Legal's lawyer, Chris Horner. The two organizations share staff and fellows, often working together to bring lawsuits.

Although E&E Legal is listed as a creditor, the Arch Coal court filing does not provide any other details that would indicate the size of the funding nor when any payment or payments were made.

E&E Legal has developed a niche for filing voluminous requests for the emails of climate scientists working at state universities, including their personal emails and for work not yet completed or ready for publication. When E&E Legal doesn't get everything it asks for, it will typically file a lawsuit and take the scientist and university to court.

The Union of Concerned Scientists has said that E&E Legal's tactics amount to the harassment of climate scientists.

In one such case, E&E Legal requested fully 13 years of emails from climate scientists Dr. Malcolm Hughes and Dr. Jonathan Overpeck based at the University of Arizona. The university and the scientists handed over significant quantities of emails, but withheld thousands of others which they said included "prepublication data and drafts." E&E Legal filed a lawsuit against the scientists and the university. The scientists eventually won their case.

Other leading climate scientists, including Michael Mann, James Hansen and Katharine Hayhoe have also been subject to lawsuits from E&E Legal.

"The volume and frequency of the requests from EELI are designed to antagonize leading climate scientists, wasting their time in drawn out and frustrating lawsuits. They frankly have better things to do and that's obviously the point of E&E Legal's campaign" Brendan DeMelle of DeSmogBlog, which tracks and reports on climate change denial groups, told the Center for Media & Democracy by email.

Coal Support for Chris Horner

Chris Horner, E&E Legal senior legal fellow, is the group's lead on its work seeking scientists emails. In 2014, Horner received $110,000 from a group closely tied to E&E Legal, the Free Market Law Clinic, according to the most recently available tax filings for that organization. David Schnare, general counsel at E&E Legal, is also the director at the Free Market Law Clinic.

The bankruptcy filings for Alpha Natural Resources, revealed by The Intercept, showed direct support from that coal company to Chris Horner personally, as well as to the Free Market Law Clinic.

In 2015, the Center for Media & Democracy obtained an invitation and other materials from a private and highly secretive annual coal summit, hosted by the CEOs of five coal companies, including both Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources, as well as Alliance Resource Partners, Drummond Company and United Coal Company. Chris Horner was a speaker at the event, which also included then Republican presidential front runner, Jeb Bush.

After the event, attendees received an email signed by each of the five coal company CEOs which hinted at the coal funding for Horner's work: "As the 'war on coal' continues, I trust that the commitment we have made to support Chris Horner's work will eventually create great awareness of the illegal tactics being employed to pass laws that are intended to destroy our industry."

That email, suggests that the coal funding of Chris Horner's work may extend even beyond Arch Coal and Alpha Natural Resources.

"It's very telling to confirm that E&E Legal has received Arch Coal funding since their attacks on climate science and harassment of scientists are just what the coal industry is counting on to survive," DeMelle said.

The E&E Legal Institute's general counsel, David Schnare, did not respond to numerous requests to comment for this article.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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