Critics of Peabody Energy have become quite good at making a scene at their protests of the corporation headquartered in St. Louis. And that might just be why Peabody is going to be holding its annual meeting for shareholders 1,000 miles away in Gillette, Wyoming.
At least that's the theory of Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment, an activist group that caught wind of the corporation's location choice this week. It is the first time the company has ever held the event outside of St. Louis.
"It's clear that they would rather run and hide in Gillette," MORE organizer Arielle Klagsbrun tells Daily RFT, "than be in the place where they like to say they are such good corporate citizens."
Peabody officials, however, have a different explanation.
The Wyoming location -- the first non-St. Louis location since Peabody became a publicly traded entity in 2002 -- is disclosed in an annual report dated yesterday and available online. It says only that the annual meeting for shareholders will be Monday, April 29, at 4 p.m. at Gillette College in Wyoming.
Contacted about the accusations that this was a deliberate move to avoid protests, Peabody officials sent Daily RFT a statement, describing the Wyoming location as a strategic one. Vic Svec, a spokesman for Peabody, writes:
Peabody Energy is pleased to announce that the company is holding its annual meeting in Gillette, Wyo., in recognition of Peabody's leading position in coal sales and reserves in the Southern Powder River Basin. The meeting location also allows Peabody to showcase its North Antelope Rochelle Mine, the world's largest and most productive coal mine.
Peabody says it periodically holds meetings of its board of directors in locations where the company has no operations and adds that this location allows the corporation "to highlight the importance of America's largest coal region, which is one of the great energy centers of the world."
Continue for response from MORE and additional photos.
If the company held its meeting in St. Louis as expected -- last year it was in the renamed Peabody Opera House -- MORE and labor unions would have targeted the event to call attention to what activists argue are unfair tax breaks for a fossil fuel company contributing to climate change. Recent St. Louis protests, with strong union support, have focused on labor practices and a dispute over health care. They are often marked by frequent arrests.
And the groups weren't going to just protest outside the meeting. Klagsburn says that 40 different St. Louis residents have actually bought shares in Peabody so that they have a right to attend these meetings and speak out. They showed up last year and had conflicts with the company, she says.
"This is the one day...that corporations have to listen to their shareholders," she says. "It's hard to pass up."
Will St. Louisans trek to Wyoming?
"I don't think we've decided that yet," Klagsburn says. "We still have concerns we definitely want to bring to their ears...but it's sixteen hours away."
Here's the full statement from Peabody.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE March 20, 2013
PEABODY ENERGY TO HOLD ANNUAL MEETING IN WYOMING ST. LOUIS, March 20 - Peabody Energy is pleased to announce that the company is holding its annual meeting in Gillette, Wyo., in recognition of Peabody's leading position in coal sales and reserves in the Southern Powder River Basin. The meeting location also allows Peabody to showcase its North Antelope Rochelle Mine, the world's largest and productive coal mine.
The company periodically holds meetings of its board of directors in locations where Peabody has operations. This location allows Peabody to highlight the importance of America's largest coal region, which is one of the great energy centers of the world. Peabody Energy is the world's largest private-sector coal company and a global leader in sustainable mining and clean coal solutions. The company serves metallurgical and thermal coal customers in more than 25 countries on six continents. For further information, go to PeabodyEnergy.com and CoalCanDoThat.com.
And the full release from MORE.
For First Time in History, Peabody Coal to Hold Shareholder's Meeting Outside of St. Louis
With Local Opposition Growing, Peabody Moves Meeting to Avoid Scrutiny
ST. LOUIS - This year, for the first time since the company went public in 2002, Peabody Coal will hold its Annual Shareholder's Meeting in Gillette, Wyoming instead of its hometown of St. Louis. In 2012, the meeting was held at the newly rebranded Peabody Opera House, formerly the Kiel Opera House. Activists from Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE) and labor unions targeted Peabody's meeting to call out the corporation's failure to pay federal, state and local taxes. Forty concerned St. Louisans bought shares of the company and attempted to enter the meeting to convey their concerns. While about twenty were able to get in, Peabody blocked many from entering, despite court orders. Those who did enter the meeting publicly questioned Peabody executives about the company's failure to pay taxes.
"Peabody executives are fleeing St. Louis to avoid the legitimate concerns of their local shareholders. It is ironic that Peabody has spent millions of dollars pasting its name all over St. Louis, but is scared to have its meeting here. Opposition to Peabody is increasing. From the pending SEC investigation over Peabody's Prairie State coal plant, to UMWA retirees fighting for their pensions and healthcare, to indigenous communities from Black Mesa, AZ confronting Peabody over the forcible relocation of indigenous people, it is clear that Peabody's attempts to hide its everyday business of destroying the climate and communities all over the world have failed," said Molly Gott, an organizer with Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE).
MORE is engaged in a sustained campaign against Peabody Coal's business practices. In addition to targeting the shareholder's meeting in 2012, MORE organized a protest outside of Peabody in January 2013, focusing on the company's forced relocation of Navajo and Hopi in Black Mesa, AZ; 12 were arrested. MORE and other St. Louis groups are currently collecting signatures for the Take Back St. Louis ballot initiative which would bar the city of St. Louis from giving public money to fossil fuel producers and instead encourage investment in renewable energy and sustainability initiatives.