Coal Mining CEO Defends Financing Harassment of Climate Scientists

"It should come as no surprise to you that we support those with like-minded philosophies," said Kevin Crutchfield, chief executive officer of Alpha Natural Resources.

NEW EAGLE, PA - September 24: A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The plant, owned by FirstEnergy, will be 1 of 2 plants in the region to be shut down effecting 380 employees.  The Evironmental Protection Agency and the Obama Administration have been taking major steps to get coal-fired power plants into compliance with clean air regulations. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty

In August, The Intercept revealed that Alpha Natural Resources, one of the largest coal mining companies in America, has been secretly financing think tanks and political organizations that deny climate change. One of the people they funded, attorney Chris Horner, is well known for hounding climate scientists across the country.

The payments were exposed in the firm’s bankruptcy filings last month.

On Monday, when I asked Kevin Crutchfield, the chief executive officer of Alpha Natural Resources, about his company’s support for Horner and his aggressive investigations of climate scientists, he was unapologetic.

“It should come as no surprise to you that we support those with like-minded philosophies,” Crutchfield said.

We spoke briefly at the Southern States Energy Board, an energy conferenced hosted at The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia.

“Everything we have to disclose, it’s on our restructuring website,” Crutchfield added, referring to the website that helps manage Alpha Natural Resource’s bankruptcy proceedings. He added, “The other thing I’d like to say is that the amount of political contributions pale in the amount of charitable contributions we’ve made over the years.”

As we reported, Alpha Natural Resources has funded a wide array of political groups that have helped the coal industry beat back environmental regulations, including the American Enterprise Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council, the Heartland Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The filings also showed that the firm helped finance the Kentucky Opportunity Coalition, a dark money group that was set up to provide undisclosed campaign support to the reelection effort of Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in his race last year.

The bankruptcy filings named recipients of Alpha Natural Resources’ money, but did not provide dollar amounts for the contributions. I asked Crutchfield how much he has given to Horner and other groups that work to deny the existence of manmade climate change.

“I don’t know the numbers. We believe in transparency,” he retorted, and began walking away.

I asked if he believes that the burning of fossil fuels contributes to climate change. “It doesn’t matter what I believe because the bus has left the station seems like,” Crutchfield said, smiling. By then, a group of men with earpieces surrounded the Alpha Natural Resources CEO, blocking me from asking any more questions. 


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