Bloomberg gives $50M to anti-coal effort

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will donate $50 million over four years to a Sierra Club campaign to wean the country off coal power.

“Ending coal power production is the right thing to do, because while it may seem to be an inexpensive energy source the impact on our environment and the impact on public health is significant,” Bloomberg said in a statement Thursday. “Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to our water, and the leading cause of climate disruption. ”

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The donation, which comes from Bloomberg Philanthropies, will go toward the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, which aims to cut U.S. coal production by 30 percent by 2020.

Bloomberg’s donation makes up about one-third of the Beyond Coal campaign’s projected $150 million four-year budget, the Sierra Club says.

Michael Brune, the executive director of the Sierra Club, called the donation a “game changer” for the ongoing fight against coal-fired power plants, which release toxic air emissions that can have detrimental effects on public health.

“This partnership will help the Sierra Club to work with communities nationwide as they tell one coal plant after another that inflicting asthma and other diseases on their children is unacceptable and that they will not accept coal pollution in their neighborhoods,” Brune said in a statement.

Brune and Bloomberg are announcing the donation Thursday at a coal-fired power plant in Alexandria, Va.

Coal-fired power plants generate about 40 percent of the country’s electricity, according to the Energy Information Administration. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups hope to wean the country off its dependence on coal in favor of lower-emissions technologies.

President Obama has proposed mandating that 80 percent of the country’s electricity come from low-emissions sources like nuclear, natural gas and wind by 2035. But the proposal, known as a clean energy standard, has hit roadblocks in Congress.

The Environmental Protection Agency is in the process of issuing and implementing a series of rules aimed at reducing harmful air pollution from coal-fired power plants. The regulations have come under fire from Republicans and some Democrats in Congress, who argue that they will impose massive costs on industry that will be passed on to the public.

Brune said Bloomberg’s donation will help the Sierra Club take action without having to wait for policymakers to move forward with new laws and regulations.

“Coal relentlessly dirties our water, air, and lungs — and fixing the problem cannot be left to Washington,” Brune said. “Nor can coal’s contributions to climate disruption be left to international bodies.