Mayor Bloomberg's foundation is donating $50 million to the Sierra Club's campaign to shut down coal-fired power plants and replace them with alternative energy sources, including wind and solar power.
The billionaire mayor and Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, announced the partnership Thursday outside a coal-fired plant in Alexandria, just across the Potomac River from the nation's capital.
Brune predicted Bloomberg Philanthropies' four-year commitment to the environmental organization's Beyond Coal Campaign will help replace one-third of the nation's aging coal-fired plants with clean energy by 2020. He said the donation would allow the Sierra Club to expand the campaign from 15 states to 45 and double the size of its campaign staff to 200.
"This will enable us to help communities across the country that have dirty coal plants in their back yard retire them and replace them with clean energy," Brune said in a telephone interview.
He said the money will be used for grassroots advocacy, advertising, legal expenses and to enhance the campaign's use of social media.
In a news release, Bloomberg said that while coal may seem to be an inexpensive energy source, the impact on the environment and public health is significant.
"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," Bloomberg said.
Cecil E. Roberts, president of United Mine Workers of America International, said in a written statement that he finds it troubling that Bloomberg "is willing to spend $50 million to help the Sierra Club put Appalachian coal miners out of work and plunge their local economies into deeper recession."
Roberts said technology already exists to enable utilities to build coal-fired plants that virtually eliminate mercury and other harmful emissions, but environmental groups are waging campaigns against these new plants, keeping the older ones in operation. "Who's harming who here?" Roberts said.
The Sierra Club claims that its Beyond Coal Campaign, which started with a staff of three in 2002, has stopped 153 new coal-fired power plants from being built.