Peabody Energy is the world’s largest private-sector coal corporation and is the latest coal company to claim bankruptcy. Peabody coal has a long history of social injustice and cultural genocide. Since 1974, with the assistance of the federal government, they have forcibly relocated over 14,000 Diné (Navajo) people from their ancestral homeland and have dramatically depleted the Navajo aquifer, just so they could take the resources from the land with minuscule compensation to the communities in which they harmed. Now, after continual harassment of Diné families, Peabody Energy is going bankrupt. However, in past situations where coal companies have filed for bankruptcy, the company and bankruptcy courts made CEO payouts and payments to hedge funds and big banks the priority, resulting in cuts to funds for worker’s pensions and their health care obligations.
On June 24th 2016, to confront Peabody Energy and make sure that doesn’t happen with their bankruptcy settlement, St. Louis residents and members of 50+ groups of the Our Power Campaign protested in St. Louis to call on Peabody’s bankruptcy settlement and demand that it benefits workers, impacted communities, land, and water. They demand the creation of a Just Transition Fund, instead of the “business as usual” payout to big investors and executives.
The Just Transition Fund will:
- Fully fund promised Peabody and Patriot coal worker pensions and health care plans.
- Put an immediate stop to the forcible relocation and harassment of Diné people in northern Arizona and provide full reparations for cultural genocide caused by Peabody.
- Guarantee full funding for clean-up and full reclamation of all mined lands and polluted and depleted aquifers used by Peabody.
- Prioritize payouts to stakeholders for communities negatively impacted by Peabody’s practices in areas left stranded in the bankruptcy – rather than big investors and executives.
- Support communities as they transition from coal-based economies toward jobs and infrastructure based on community-owned renewable energy and local self-sufficiency.
- Support health care funds for pollution-fouled communities in and adjacent to mining and coal-processing areas.
The protesters marched through Clayton, a St. Louis business district, to Armstrong Teasdale, Peabody’s local bankruptcy counsel. Marshall Johnson, long time Diné activist and a leader of Tonizhoni Ani, rode on horseback onto the steps of Armstrong Teasdale, demanding the creation of the Just Transition Fund. “”We are here today knocking at Peabody’s door, and we will continue to knock at federal and tribal representatives doors’ too because they are complicit.”
The delegation from Black Mesa Water Coalition lead the march with St. Louis’s Native Women Care Circle. Jihan Gearon, the Executive Director of BMWC said, “there’s a better solution. Let this be the first corporate bankruptcy to fund both obligations to workers and communities, and a visionary “Just Transition” away from this harmful extraction economy.”
St. Louis resident Basmin Nadra from Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) stated, “we’re through with that dirty, old game, where a big coal company uses powerful local institutions and people to prop itself up. We won’t sit quiet while the legal system protects the interests of a wealthy few over the well-being of our families. We call on everyone who thinks that’s wrong to join us in demanding a better outcome. It’s time for us to recognize we are all connected in these concerns. This is an opportunity to set new precedents.”
This action was in alignment with the Climate Justice Alliance national convening. During this convening members of CJA and their community partners ratified the Alliance’s strategic objectives for the next four years and advanced work plans for its key work in: making just transition real on the ground, energy democracy, reinvesting in local communities and the grassroots sector, and building the bigger we. Black Mesa Water Coalition has been a leader within CJA since the very beginning and thus serves on the Steering community and is one of the six pilot sites of CJA.
#PayUpPeabody, petition for the creation of a Just Transition Fund from Peabody: http://www.powerbehindthepolice.com/peabody_bankruptcy_petition
Our Power Campaign Action Press Release: http://www.ourpowercampaign.org/press-release-peabody-knocking-2016-06-24
Video of the action in St. Louis made by the Indigenous Environmental Network: https://www.facebook.com/ienearth/videos/10153758109175642/