by Michael Barbaro and Coral Davenport
July 5, 2014
To environmentalists across Australia, it is a baffling anachronism in an era of climate change: the construction of a 4,000-acre mine in New South Wales that will churn out carbon-laden coal for the next 30 years.
The mine’s groundbreaking, in a state forest this year, inspired a veteran to stand in front of a bulldozer and a music teacher to chain himself to a piece of excavation equipment.
But the project had an unlikely financial backer in the United States, whose infusion of cash helped set it in motion: Tom Steyer, the most influential environmentalist in American politics, who has vowed to spend $100 million this year to defeat candidates who oppose policies to combat climate change.
Mr. Steyer, a billionaire former hedge fund manager, emerged this election season as the green-minded answer to Charles G. and David H. Koch, the patrons of conservative Republican politics, after vowing that he would sell off his investments in companies that generate fossil fuels like coal.
But an examination of those investments shows that even after his highly public divestment, the coal-related projects his firm bankrolled will generate tens of millions of tons of carbon pollution for years, if not decades, to come.