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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Another Climate Change Denier on Big Coal's Payroll


Climate change deniers that appear on Fox News often cite the argument that the climate has always changed. When Chris Horner, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., appeared on Fox News in 2014 he said, “Climate changes. It always has. It always will.”

But there’s a big problem with Horner appearing regularly on Fox News as a so-called climate change expert. He is bought and paid for by coal companies. Bankruptcy filings reveal that he is paid as a “regulatory counsel” for the coal company, Alpha Natural Resources (ANR). The Wall Street Journal reported that ANR paid Horner $18,600 before it filed for chapter 11 last summer. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) reported that recent filings it reviewed reveal that Horner has been paid “at least $12,000 more since then, taking the total amount to at least $30,600 for the nine month period between May 2015 and Jan 2016.”

CMD summed up what has been discovered so far about Horner’s work with climate denial groups funded by the coal industry. In addition to serving as “regulatory counsel” for ANR, Horner has also served other groups, including:

  • Senior Clinical Attorney for Free Market Environment Law Clinic, which paid him $110,00 in 2014 and is funded by ANR.

  • Senior Fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which received funding in 2009 Murray Energy and Massey Energy.

  • Participant in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force, which is funded by a number of energy companies, including ANR, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal.

  • An expert for Heartland Institute, which also receives funding from ANR.

While the relationship between the climate change denial practiced by Horner and groups like ALEC is exposed, some coal companies, in addition to ANR, are filing for bankruptcy. Or as CMD stated, the U.S. coal industry is “increasingly collapsing.” What is revealed in bankruptcy filings is that, like ANR, coal companies are funding climate change denial. The coal company Arch Coal gave funding to the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal), where Horner serves as a senior legal fellow. Arch Coal and ANR also funding ALEC, which engages in heavy climate change denial and ALEC has tried to block the Obama-administration’s Clean Power Plan, which is on hold while being reviewed by the Court of Appeals, from being implemented.

Lee Fang, writing for The Intercept, reported on ANR secretly financing groups and organizations that deny climate change. His article mentioned Chris Horner. A more recent article cited a conversation he had with Kevin Crutchfield, the CEO of ANR. In Fang’s words, Crutchfield “was unapologetic, and told him, “It should come as no surprise to you that we support those with like-minded philosophies.”

Fang asked Crutchfield how much he gave to Horner and other climate change denial groups. “I don’t know the numbers. We believe in transparency,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what I believe because the bus has left the station seems like.” In other words, Crutchfield isn’t talking about ANR’s funding of climate change denial.

Coal is a major contributor to climate change and the U.S. is one of the world’s two largest producers and consumers of coal, according to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). “If coal-fired power plants currently under development in these two countries are built as planned they will lock us into a future of devastated landscapes, damaged public health, and dangerous global warming,” the NRDC states.

Coal is a dirty fossil fuel that is contributing to climate change and one that needs to be kept in the ground. Coal companies are clearly not doing their due diligence to inform the public about their role in climate change.

Photo: Flickr/eutrophication&hypoxia

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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