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NSW EPA looks into manipulation of pollution data from coal-fired power plants

The Environmental Protection Agency of New South Wales is investigating claims that one of the Australian state’s largest power stations manipulated monitoring of its coal-fired power units to make them seem lower than actual emissions levels. Only one of the four coal-burning units at the Bayswater power station was only required to report pollution data, and according to reports, plant staff were instructed to supply it with lower sulphur coal while dirtier coal was burned in the other three units.

The company that operates the plant, AGL, did not deny that the previous owner had deliberately blended coal to mask the true emissions of nitrous oxides, sulphur dioxide and other pollutants. A former engineer at Bayswater told journalists that the practice of burning variable quality coal to curb pollution readings had been going on since at least 2000. As a result, the EPA  has broadened its inquiry and contacted all currently operating and licensed power stations in New South Wales to find out whether Bayswater and other plants have under-reported emissions in the past or continue to do so. By using cheaper, dirtier coal, it’s possible that the coal plant operator was able to avoid paying the pollution fees and carbon taxes.


The Sydney Morning Herald (Updated June 2017)

Charges, prison as NSW Corruption Commission finds widespread malfeasance in coal deals

Two former members of Parliament and political power brokers in the New South Wales have been implicated in separate corruption schemes related to developing coal in the southeastern Australia state. Both cases resulted from inquiries by the Independent Commission Against Corruption into the activities of the former NSW Labor government.

In May, former NSW Mining Minister Ian Macdonald was sentenced to a maximum of 10 years for awarding a multimillion-dollar coal exploration license in 2008 to a company chaired by a union boss and political associate without a competitive public bidding process. In previous licenses granted for coal exploration in New South Wales, companies had paid tens of millions of dollars to the government as compensation, but the license to Doyles Creek Mining, run by a political associate, was offered for almost nothing in return to the state. The judge at Macdonald’s hearing noted the deviousness of the deal, saying it was cloaked in misconduct as the principals tried to hide their scheme by couching it in the context of developing a training mine to promote mining safety. The former head of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union made $6 million from the deal selling shares in a company that acquired Doyles Creek Mining after the license was granted and was found guilty as an accessory.

In July 2016, another former member of Parliament, Eddie Obeid, was charged for his role in netting a $30 million profit from a rigged permitting process for developing coal on Obeid family property while he was still in office. Macdonald was also charged with conspiracy to commit misconduct in that scheme.

– The Sydney Morning Herald: hereherehere, here and here (updated June 2017)


Five arrested in suspected embezzlement at proposed Bangladeshi coal plant and port

A Bangladeshi court sent the former deputy commissioner of the port town of Cox’s Bazar to jail as part of an investigation into embezzling funds from the proposed Matarbari coal-burning power plant. The chief judge in the case rejected a request for bail filed by the accused commissioner.

According to case files, a syndicate of 36 people embezzled more than $US 55 million (Tk 46,24,03,320) by disguising payouts as compensation for the purchase of 25 shrimp enclosures at the project area, which includes a proposed port for importing the coal to be burned at the plant. The scheme was discovered in In 2014 by the project’s Land Acquisition Officer, who noticed irregularities while processing five checks to disburse the compensation money. The case was then taken over by Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission, which ultimately filed the charges. In all, five people have been arrested, including another former deputy commissioner of Cox’s Bazar. The previous four suspects were all released on bail.

The initial price tag to build the 1,200-megawatt project and dredged coal port came in at $US 4.5 billion, an amount the Bangladeshi newspaper The Daily Star called “staggering.”



– The Dhaka Tribune


Forms of Corruption & Wrongdoing

In Bataan province in the Philippines, three new coal plants are planned in addition to two existing plants and two open coal storage facilities. Coal companies were allegedly behind intimidation of Gloria Capitan, leader of a community group in Bataan concerned about coal pollution and health impacts. Gloria was assassinated by masked gunmen.

Intimidation & Retaliation

Threats, harassment, violence or other scare tactics to influence behavior, such as to quiet a whistleblower or chill opposition

In a village on the outskirts of Yangon, Myanmar, it comes to light that a foreign coal plant company has been misleading villagers for months with promises of profit-sharing and pushing non-English speakers to sign forms in English saying they support the plant.

Deception & Fraud

Lying, faking, covering-up, cheating, or lack of transparency to gain an advantage or hide wrongdoing

A scheme by Brazilian company Odebrecht to vastly overcharge for construction of two new coal power plants and a coal terminal in the Dominican Republic is one ploy amid what appears to be a broader scandal behind the project, which is now being partly paid for by public funds in the DR.

Financial Schemes & Excess

Bid-rigging, skimming, over-billing, tax evasion, golden parachutes, and other tactics for profit – often at public expense

The South African government is supporting new coal mining and three new coal-fired power plants in the face of major economic, water use and pollution concerns. Top government leaders in South Africa are financially tied to the coal industry.

Conflict of Interest & Favoritism

The potentially corrupting influence of an official’s financial or personal interests – a clash between self-interest and public interest

That was a lot of money I was being paid, and I believed I was being paid it to give favors any time they were asked to be given.” – Kentucky mine inspector Kelly Shortridge, testifying about the bribes he was paid by a coal mine owner to ignore or delay violations for issues like water pollution.

Bribery & Influence-Peddling

Payments or other favors given to sway or reward a decision that may be illegal or unethical

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