NMA: Bloomberg is helping strangle the nation’s cost-effective coal generation

The National Mining Association (NMA), which represents the nation’s major coal producers, said the latest $30 million allocated by billionaire Michael Bloomberg to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign is money spent to the detriment of the U.S. economy and blue-collar workers.

NMA President and CEO Hal Quinn said about this Sierra Club campaign to shut down affordable sources of electricity generation: “The Sierra Club today may thank the Bloomberg Foundation for an additional $30 million to fight affordable energy, but families across the country facing higher utility bills won’t be so grateful. Policies favored by the Sierra Club have already destroyed large portions of the nation’s most reliable sources of electricity generation, leaving consumers more dependent on fewer and costlier sources of electricity and a less reliable supply, leaving tens of thousands of Americans without jobs and low-income families plus those on fixed incomes with still higher bills to pay. There is no reason to celebrate raising costs for society’s most vulnerable. As pending regulations on carbon emissions shutter more power plants, studies have estimated America’s consumers could be paying an additional $366 billion to $407 billion. We can expect more of this after today’s announcement and also to be paying the bill for decades.”

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced it will invest an additional $30 million in the Sierra Club to secure the replacement of half the nation’s coal fleet by 2017 with clean energy. The new round of funding builds on a previous commitment of $50 million, raising the foundation’s overall investment in the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign to $80 million. Additionally, Bloomberg will lead a coalition of funders which aim to match up to $30 million in grants, further boosting the Sierra Club’s capacity to move the U.S. towards clean energy sources faster.

The coalition of more than a dozen funders includes individual donors, family foundations and major philanthropic organizations recognizing the urgency to fight climate change. Select funders include the Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Yellow Chair Foundation, the Grantham Foundation and the Sandler Family Foundation. Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune and Michael Bloomberg announced the investments at the Sierra Club in Washington DC.

“The single biggest reduction in carbon pollution in the U.S. has come by retiring and repurposing coal-fired power plants – and that’s the direct result of our Beyond Coal campaign,” said MichaelBloomberg. “Thanks to the community leaders who have spearheaded this work, the U.S. led every industrialized nation in reducing carbon emissions last year. But much more work remains, and today we are doubling down on what has proven to be an incredibly successful strategy for improving public health and fighting climate change.”

To date, the Bloomberg Philanthropies-Sierra Club partnership has led to results that include:

  • 187 coal plants have already retired or announced their retirement (a new round of them is about to retire due to the April 16 implementation deadline under the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standards); and
  • coal has plunged from 52% of U.S. electricity generation to under 40%; and
  • the announced retiring coal plants effectively cut more than 280 million metric tons of carbon emissions from the U.S. electric sector.

With the new round of funding, the Sierra Club will continue to use tactics as varied as grassroots advocacy, community organizing, paid advertising, technical research and litigation. The Sierra Club will also continue to push regulators to crack down on harmful pollution and supplant it with solar, wind and energy efficiency.

Bloomberg and Sierra Club said this new investment in the Beyond Coal campaign will put the United States in a stronger position to drive more ambitious climate action at the 2015 United Nations climate change conference in Paris, where nations, businesses, cities, and other actors will convene to make bold commitments on further greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The Beyond Coal campaign’s success in retiring coal plants and replacing them with clean energy has already positioned the U.S. as a global leader going into the Paris negotiations, and the goals announced by the Sierra Club put the nation on a path to exceed the climate targets announced recently by the Obama Administration, they said.

Bloomberg Philanthropies began funding the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign in 2011 with a goal to phase out one third of the nation’s coal plants, beginning with the oldest and dirtiest units, and replacing the retiring coal fleet with cleaner energy sources, reducing toxic mercury emissions by 90% by 2020. The initial $50 million grant was used to expand the Sierra Club’s campaign to 45 states from 15, enforcing state and federal environmental laws and helping communities impacted by coal mining and coal plants to make the clean energy transition and address concerns left from closing coal plants. 

Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael Bloomberg’s charitable activities, including his foundation and his personal giving. In 2014, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $462 million.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.