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Mississippi Regulators Veto Any More Money for Southern Company's Kemper Plant in Stunning Vote

Kemper_plant_4.jpg

In a historic vote this morning, Mississippi state regulators slammed the brakes on the Kemper coal power plant, saying they will refuse to ask utility customers to pay anything for Kemper's non-functional multi-billion dollar "clean coal" gasification technology and will re-designate the plant as a natural gas facility.

In a joint press release explaining their unanimous decision, the three Mississippi Public Service commissioners said they seek a solution that "eliminates ratepayer risk for unproven technology and assures no rate increase to Mississippi Power customers," and that they want Mississippi Power, the Southern Company subsidiary that built Kemper, to consider rolling back existing rates.

"I think it's high time we finally turn the corner on this project and also strongly protect our ratepayers, who should only have to pay for what actually delivers electricity," said PSC chairman Brandon Presley in an interview. Presley was, until recently, the lone opponent of a bloated, runaway project that saw costs jump from $2.3 billion in 2010 when work began to $7.5 billion now. 

The 2015 PSC election quickly turned into a referendum on the unpopular project. Two new commissioners were chosen, Sam Britton and Cecil Brown, both of whom promised to rein in Kemper and re-examine public support for the project, which was supposed to have gone on-line as a coal facility in the spring of 2014.  Instead, the plant has run on natural gas since August 2014.

Important personnel shifts are also part of the new picture at the PSC, as longtime counsel Shawn Shurden has announced he is leaving. Meanwhile, the commissioners said at the meeting today that Frank Farmer, a special assistant state attorney general, is taking the lead on "all pre-hearing matters" regarding Kemper, according to a transcript.

The PSC's decision on the power plant, located near DeKalb in eastern Mississippi, was hailed by consumer and environmental groups.

"I applaud the commission for doing what needed to be done, and driving a stake through the heart of this so-called clean coal project," said Louie Miller, the Sierra Club's statewide director. "I think this is the beginning of the end of a long nightmare for Mississippi Power customers. This is a boondoggle that should never have been built in the first place"




NY Attorney General: Phony CO2 Accounting, Extensive Document Destruction by ExxonMobil

Former ExxonMobil CEO and now-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson personally approved a scheme for accounting for the financial impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the company's business that deliberately misled investors, one that continued right through ExxonMobil's May 31st shareholders', according to an explosive court filing by the New York Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman claims that beginning in 2007, ExxonMobil used one set of figures in describing carbon-related risks to investors but internally used another, secret set.  The net result was to vastly understate the financial danger to the company.

The June 2nd court filing also accuses ExxonMobil of destroying countless documents despite the fact that it had a legal obligation to preserve all records potentially relevant to the attorney general's investigation, which is probing possible fraud in ExxonMobil's disclosures about climate change to investors and the public. 

"These failures directly resulted in the destruction of months, and in many cases, more than a year’s worth, of emails and other electronic documents belonging to key custodians including the company’s top management and reserves analysts," the attorney general writes.

Material from a secret email account maintained by Tillerson under the name "Wayne Tracker" was also evidently destroyed. 

An ExxonMobil lawyer acknowledged that she "knew in 'early 2016' about the second email address for Rex Tillerson – the Wayne Tracker email address –and that she did not disclose that email address to OAG, stating that it would 'be an interesting test of whether the Attorney General’s office is reading the documents,' " according to the filing in state court in Manhattan.  (Emphasis in the original.)

This omission led to "months of automatic destruction of relevant correspondence involving Mr. Tillerson," the court papers charged.

Courts can impose substantial financial and other sanctions - and even criminal penalties - for destruction of evidence.  

The attorney general did present a number of preserved emails that seem to show Tillerson's fingerprints on the decision-making for how to minimize to the public the likely impact of a carbon-constrained business environment - such as new national and international greenhouse gas regulations  - not only on ExxonMobil's business operations, but on the value of its oil and gas assets.

A May 2011 email exchange between ExxonMobil managers describes two different price calculations for the potential cost to the company of a ton of emitted carbon dioxide, one used internally and one presented to the public as the  "proxy" for GHG costs that the company supposedly used in calculating the impact on ExxonMobil's bottom-line.

"I have pointed out the difference in past reviews," writes Tom R. Eizember, then Planning Manager for Corporate Strategic Planning at the company.

"Rex has seemed happy with the difference previously - appeared to feel it provides a "conservative" basis (but only if viewed from the perspective of claiming economics credits to reduce emissions; it is not conservative vs EO from the perspective of debiting actions that increase emissions)," Eizember continues.

The AG's court filing provides a significant amount of new, explosive information about what the investigation, which began in 2015, is undercovering about the world's largest oil company's climate secrets. These are backed up by 33 exhibits that include internal corporate emails, a transcript of an investor conference call, and XOM's own reports on carbon risk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Steve Milloy climate denier's ExxonMobil shareholder proposal goes down in flames

milloy.jpgSteve Milloy's decades long war on climate change science and policy continued today at the ExxonMobil Annual General Meeting for shareholders.  

There Milloy forwarded shareholder proposal on "Nuisance Shareholders" with an attack on environmentalists, shareholder activists and the Exxon management.

Milloy's proposal got a lame 1.5% of shareholders' votes, while a climate change proposal linked to the Paris agreement's 2 degree target garnered a record 62.3% of votes, the first climate change resolution ever to pass, even while it was opposed by ExxonMobil.

For your reference, Milloy's proposal is "Item 8 - Restrict Precatory Proposals" on the ExxonMobil 2017 Proxy statement.

I will try to post a tape of Milloy's rant at the shareholder meeting...

(thanks to Media Matters for the image)

Blowback

In what some might term 'blowback', Exxon can blame itself for Milloy, having funded his operations for several years in the mid 2000s, including a grant that kickstarted Milloy's Free Enterprise Action Institute in 2003 and the subsequent Free Enterprise Education Institute in 2004 and 2005, both headquartered in Milloy's Potomac, Maryland home.  The company also funded the tobacco industry funded front group that made Milloy who he is today, the Advancement of Sound Science Coalition.

Exxon grants to Steve Milloy that we know about from ExxonMobil public documents and tax returns:

The Advancement of Sound Science Coaltiion - at least $30,000

Free Enterprise Action Institute - $50,000 in 2003

Free Enterprise Education Institute - $80,000 ($10,000 in 2004, $70,000 in 2005)

 

Footnote: There was an interesting discrepancy in ExxonMobil's reporting of these grants to Milloy.

In 2005, the company's Worldwide Giving Report shows the $70,000 total with no description

ExxonMobil Foundation's IRS 990 Form  lists a grant titled "Corporate Social Responsibility and Climate Change" for $45,000 and another $25,000 in "general operating support"

The company did not renew these grants in 2006.

With Exxon's money, Milloy went after numerous companies that were stepping up to the plate on climate change, including General Electric and others.

The Free Enterprise Education Institute ran the website CSR/SRI Watch http://csrwatch.com which is now offline. The site showcased anti-corporate social responsibility/socially responsible investment and monitored the so-called "anti-business" movement composed of social and environmental activists holding corporations accountable for their actions. 

CSR/SRI Watch lists the "Top 10 Worst Moments in Free Enterprise" which includes companies who buy fair-trade coffee, BP's renewable energy plans, and Citigroup's decision to not lend to those contributing to global warming and logging as per the Rainforest Action Network's asks. CSR/SRI Watch deplores businesses listening to activists of any sort and lambasts corporations who make decisions based around social responsibility rather than the bottom line. CSRWatch also includes "required reading" from the likes of the Institute for Economic Affairs - a conservative free-market think tank based in London.  

From the Free Enterprise Education Institute website: "American Electric Power, Alcoa, Boeing, DuPont, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Toyota and 32 other companies that belong to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change were heralded by New York Times editors as “progressive” for subscribing to the unproven notion that humans are altering global climate for the worse, and to the even more dubious idea that environmental activists like those at the Pew Center should decide U.S. energy policy in hopes of affecting global climate. Though voters (through both President Bush and the U.S. Senate) have already recognized the junk science behind global warming hysteria and the economic downside of the international global warming treaty known as the Kyoto Protocol, these 40 corporate managements, nevertheless, see some sort of public relations-upside in supporting the Pew Center’s economy-killing agenda. These managements are also helping CSR activists circumvent our public democratic process -- which has rejected the Kyoto Protocol -- in order to compel U.S. companies to adopt “private Kyoto” protocols."




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