Western Organization of Resource Councils
Released today, a letter from members of the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) details a highly inappropriate relationship between the National Coal Council, a federal advisory committee, and its corporate alter ego, National Coal Council, Inc. The Western Organization of Resource Councils urges Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm to scrutinize and restructure or terminate the National Coal Council.
The National Coal Council is chartered under the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), which exists to facilitate the collection by federal agencies of advice and research from third parties that is relevant, objective and open to the public, are fairly balanced, and comply with reasonable cost controls. The Western Organization of Resource Councils’ letter describes how the National Coal Council includes no perspectives from individuals or organizations working to address the negative impacts of coal extraction, and there are no clear lines of separation between National Coal Council and National Coal Council, Inc. The industry association blatantly funds and influences the work of the National Coal Council, resulting in biased information to the Department of Energy on behalf of the coal industry.
“For too long the Department of Energy has allowed the coal industry to stack the National Coal Council with industry representatives who meet behind closed door to launder their own interests into federal policy while shutting out the voices of ranchers, landowners, and coal mine neighbors,” said Bob LeResche, Powder River Basin Resource Council and the Western Organization of Resource Councils Board Member from Clearmont, Wyoming. “It’s time for the DOE to end this unethical industry influence and form an advisory committee that considers the costs the coal industry wreaks on our communities, our landscapes, and the climate.”
"The National Coal Council barely even pretends it is anything more than a corporate lobbying group. The council abuses the credibility of the federal government and misuses tax dollars to further corporate interests,” said Mark Fix, a member and past chair of Northern Plains Resource Council who ranches in eastern Montana’s coal country. “At a minimum, the council should be disbanded and reformed. However, the blatant corruption goes so deep, I'm not sure this specific entity could earn credibility no matter the reforms or restructuring."
Under the Trump Administration’s “Energy Dominance” agenda, the National Coal Council’s focus shifted to advocate for the increased use and financial support of coal. Specific examples from this time described in the Western Organization of Resource Councils’ letter include:
- National Coal Council events, often including dinner, drinks, and social time, are funded by the coal industry, and that this funding blatantly influences the work of the National Coal Council. For example, at one recent National Coal Council meeting, the federal advisory committee received a presentation on National Coal Council, Inc.’s financing, in which the speaker lauded the approval of new appointments by the DOE Secretary to the National Coal Council because they would generate additional revenue for National Coal Council, Inc.
- The Council appears to believe that it has a single-focus policy mission of propping up the coal industry. One National Coal Council speaker put it best when he said, “the single most important priority for the committee” is to “preserve and rejuvenate the existing coal fleet.”
- In another instance, the Chairman of an National Coal Council subcommittee admitted that while the National Coal Council seeks to give the DOE the advice it seeks, the National Coal Council has a parallel goal of, “at the same time, serving our own strategic objectives.”
- National Coal Council speakers exhibit pro-coal biases, with occasional open bashing of counter perspectives coming from the conservation community or those with differing political views. For instance, a speaker at a National Coal Council event in 2018 remarked, “[I]magine where we would be if we were a year and three months into the Hillary Clinton Administration.”
- In an almost comical example of the pro-coal sentiment of the National Coal Council, the Director of the National Energy Technology Laboratory at the time, Grace Bochenek, led National Coal Council meeting attendees in a “COAL” cheer.
Under the Trump Administration’s “Energy Dominance” agenda, the National Coal Council’s focus shifted to advocate for the increased use and financial support of coal. Since 2017, it has recommended: eliminating barriers to coal production on federal lands, extensive subsidization of coal plants in the name of “grid resiliency”, government support and funding for using coal to create a suite of products currently made with other materials, and more generous financial support and tax breaks for coal companies, as well as significant amendments to pollution control regimes like the Clean Air Act.
The National Coal Council is composed of two entities: the National Coal Council chartered under Federal Advisory Committee Act, and a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit corporate entity called “National Coal Council, Inc.,” funded by anonymous donors. All of National Coal Council Inc.’s members are appointed members of the federally chartered National Coal Council, and, as one court found, there is “no meaningful distinction between the National Coal Council and National Coal Council, Inc.”
In October 2020, the Western Organization of Resource Councils and Democracy Forward sued the Trump administration for violating the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) by refusing to make fully public National Coal Council meetings and records.
Northern Plains is a grassroots conservation and family agriculture group that organizes Montanans to protect our water quality, family farms and ranches, and unique quality of life.
The Powder River Basin Resource Council, founded in 1973, is a family agriculture and conservation organization in Wyoming. Resource Council members are family farmers and ranchers and concerned citizens who are committed to conservation of our unique land, mineral, water, and clean air resources.
The Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) is a network of eight grassroots organizations in seven Western states with 15,000 members, many of them ranchers and farmers committed to common-sense reform in agriculture, oil and gas development, coal mine reclamation, and rural economic development. Headquartered in Billings, Mont., the Western Organization of Resource Councils also has offices in Colorado and Washington, D.C.