Billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is making a new $64 million commitment to environmental groups’ efforts to shut down coal-fired power plants and replace them with cleaner forms of electricity generation.
The media mogul and former New York City mayor made the announcement Wednesday at the Washington, D.C., office of the Sierra Club. The group's Beyond Coal campaign is getting $30 million of the money, with the rest going to the League of Conservation Voters and others.
Bloomberg's announcement comes a day after President Trump started the process of rolling back the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.
Bloomberg declared his actions Wednesday as a “war on coal,” embracing a term Republicans use to attack clean-energy advocates, saying that the Trump administration and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Scott PruittEdward (Scott) Scott PruittEPA bans use of pesticide linked to developmental problems in children Science matters: Thankfully, EPA leadership once again agrees Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE are wrong to say that the war is being fought mainly in Washington, D.C.
“These are the groups that are fighting the war on coal, and it’s happening all across America, and they are winning,” Bloomberg said of the groups receiving funds from his Bloomberg Philanthropies organization.
“The war on coal is a fight for America’s health, for our economy and our environment, and our competitive place in the world. And it’s a fight we’re going to win, no matter what anybody in Washington says,” he said.
“This is to save American lives and save the American economy. This is our future, and going in the wrong direction is just needlessly inflicting pain on all of us, and it has to stop.”
Bloomberg, through his philanthropic group, has been the main financier of the Beyond Coal campaign since it launched in 2011. His $30 million commitment is in addition to more than $100 million he has dedicated for the anti-coal project in the last six years.
Since the Sierra Club launched the program, almost half of the nation’s coal fleet — 259 plants — has shut down or committed to do so, according to figures the group tracks. That includes 11 plants since Trump’s inauguration.
The group claims that the closures have reduced deaths related to coal pollution by 42 percent.
Bloomberg said his donation is meant in part to push back at Trump’s pro-coal policies, like repealing the Clean Power Plan.
The 2015 regulation limited carbon dioxide pollution from power plants and was expected to reduce coal’s market share for electricity generation from 30 percent to 27 percent by 2030.
“While repealing it is a mistake, the truth of the matter is we’re already making great progress limiting carbon pollution from power plants, and we’re going to continue, keep doing it, without leadership from Washington,” he said.
Beyond Coal is the largest private effort in the county dedicated to shutting down coal plants.
It prides itself on a multi-pronged approach to its effort, working simultaneously on federal lobbying, state policies, local permitting decisions, corporate campaigns and numerous other fronts.
But Beyond Coal and the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest environmental group by membership, have been far from the only forces working against coal. Natural gas and renewable energy have gotten far cheaper and various regulatory efforts, largely from the Obama administration, have hastened coal’s demise.