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Bankrupt US Coal Producer Was Funding Climate Change Denial

The bankruptcy of one of America’s largest coal producers revealed that the company was helping to fund “think tanks that have attacked the link between the burning of fossil fuels and climate change, as well as to several conservative advocacy groups that have attempted to undermine policies intended to shift the economy toward renewable energy,” reports the Intercept.

The document shows that Cloud Peak Energy helped fund the Institute of Energy Research, a Washington, D.C.-based group that has dismissed the “so-called scientific consensus” on climate change and regularly criticizes investments in renewable energy as a “waste” of resources. Several of the groups that receive funding from Cloud Peak Energy have used aggressive tactics to attempt to discredit environmentalists.

The Center for Consumer Freedom, one of the groups listed in the coal company’s filing, is part of a sprawling network of front groups set up by a lobbyist named Rick Berman geared toward attacking green groups such as the Sierra Club and Food & Water Watch as dangerous radicals. Other organizations quietly bankrolled by Cloud Peak Energy have directly shaped state policy… The Montana Policy Institute — a local libertarian think tank that promotes a discredited claim that world temperatures are falling, not rising, and questions whether humans cause climate change — also received funding from the firm….

Four years ago, falling coal prices led to a series of bankruptcies of the largest coal companies in America. The filings, first reported by The Intercept, similarly revealed that the coal industry had financed a range of activists and organizations dedicated to spreading doubt about the science underpinning climate change…

In 2016, Greg Zimmerman, an environmental activist, stumbled upon a presentation titled “Survival Is Victory: Lessons From the Tobacco Wars.” The slide deck was the creation of Richard Reavey, a vice president for government and public affairs at Cloud Peak Energy, and a former executive at Phillip Morris. Reavey argued that fossil fuel firms, particularly coal, should emulate the tactics of big tobacco, which similarly spent decades battling scientists and regulators over claims that its product harmed public health. In the New York Times coverage of the episode, Reavey told the paper that his firm “has never fought climate change — never fought it, never denied it or funded anyone who does.” The bankruptcy filing from last week, however, suggests otherwise.

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