(CNSNews.com) – At a press briefing at the Sierra Club in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Democrat, announced that he is contributing $30 million to the Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign, which is designed to shut down the nation’s coal plants.
The $30 million is in addition to the $50 million Bloomberg already gave to the campaign, which has also changed its initial goal of shutting down 1/3 of the country’s coal plants by 2020 to shuttering 50 percent of the plants by 2017.
Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, thanked the “coal fighters” who attended the event, telling them it was “because of you” that the campaign launched in 2011 has already succeeded in the “retirement” or “repurposing” of 187 coal plants in the United States.
“Beyond Coal is taking our country in the right direction,” Bloomberg said. “It’s the direction that will help our community, not hurt it, because the price of pollution and environmental damage has suffered our economy as well as our lives.”
“Saying that we’re destroying jobs in the coal mining industry is not quite as bad, not quite as true as people would want you to believe,” Bloomberg said, without explaining how destroying coal jobs is positive. “But we are adding jobs in other industries.”
“And we are saving lives and I think that’s what’s really important,” he said. “Instead of protecting an industry that will continue shrinking because of technology and because of less demand, elected officials should be making investments that will help people find jobs and build careers in industries that will continue growing.
“Coal’s days are numbered,” Bloomberg said.
But Jason Hayes, associate director of the American Coal Council, said that Bloomberg’s claim of the benefits of stopping coal production ignores the cost to tens of thousands of American workers.
“Tens of thousands of people are being put out of work, and even worse is that they’re bragging about it,” Hayes told CNSNews.com. “That, to me, is fundamentally sick: to brag about putting people out of work.”
"One wonders if the Sierra Club is going to put any of Mr. Bloomberg’s multimillion dollar gifts to work helping these miners and families get retrained, or to help them pay their bills,” said Hayes. “Or will they continue to enjoy their six- (or more) figure salaries and comfortable homes while they continue their campaigns to put more American miners out of work and shut down America’s industry? I think we both know the answer to that question."
According to the federal Energy Information Administration, coal is an “abundant” energy resource in the United States.
“The United States is home to the largest estimated recoverable reserves of coal in the world,” the agency states on its website. “In fact, we have enough estimated recoverable reserves of coal to last more than 200 years, based on current production levels.”
“Coal is produced in 25 states spread across three major coal-producing regions,” the website states. “In 2013, approximately 70% of production originated in five states: Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Illinois.”
According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, at the end of 2012 there were 557 coal-fueled power plants in the United States. By 2015, over 90 percent of U.S. coal-fueled electric generating capacity will have installed clean coal technologies and other advanced emission controls to reduce harmful emissions, according to ACCCE.
Brune also announced at the event that other “partners” contributing to the campaign would add an additional $30 million to the effort to shutter America’s coal plants, including the Hewlett Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Yellow Chair Foundation, the Grantham Foundation and the Sandler Family Foundation.
“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 press release distributed to the media at the event states. “The Sierra Club will also continue to push regulators to crack down on harmful pollution and replace dirty power generation capacity with solar, wind and energy efficiency.
“In addition to helping the country move away from coal towards a new energy economy, today’s 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 press release states.