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Bloomberg, Sierra Club Partnership Aims to Close Half of U.S. Coal Plants by 2017

Photo Credit- Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers)

Photo Credit- Matthew D. Wilson (LtPowers)

The Sierra Club announced this week that Bloomberg Philanthropies will be investing $30 million over three years to the Beyond Coal Campaign. This new round of funding builds on the foundation’s previous commitment of $50 million.

Bloomberg will also lead a coalition of funders, which aims to match up to $30 million in grants. With this new support, the Sierra Club hopes to see the replacement of half of the nation’s coal power plants with clean energy by 2017.

“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 R. Bloomberg announced the investments at the Sierra Club in Washington DC.” –source


The Bloomberg Philanthropies-Sierra Club partnership has led to 187 coal plants being retired or announcing their retirement. Coal has also dropped from 52% of US electricity generation to under 40%.

“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 Michael R. Bloomberg. “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.” –source

One of the goals of the campaign is to improve the health of Americans.

The health benefits of our work to date include preventing 5,000 premature deaths,  avoiding 82,600 asthma attacks, and saving $2.3 billion in health care costs – every year. Retiring even one coal plant can  prevent 29 premature deaths, 47 heart attacks and 146 asthma attacks annually. Peer-reviewed research has also shown families living next to mountaintop-removal coal mines have higher risks of cancer, birth defects, and premature death. Replacing half the nation’s coal plants with clean energy will bring real improvements to people’s lives.” –source

The campaign also aims to position the U.S. as a climate leader. Current reductions in coal and increase use of renewable energy has helped the U.S. reach a climate agreement with China. However, the Sierra Club is hoping for even more.

“…the science is clear that we must do more, and the goals announced today by the Sierra Club will put the nation on a path to exceed the U.S. climate targets announced in late March by the Obama Administration.” –source

The coal industry is clearly not a big fan of this effort by the Sierra Club and Bloomberg.

“Instead of trying to make headlines, environmentalists could be partnering with industry to make headway in providing cleaner, reliable energy to Americans across the country and around the world,” said Laura Sheehan, senior vice president for communications at the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, which represents coal interests, in a statement.”- source

However, the Sierra Club and Bloomberg say the partnership is helping transition the economy from coal to clean energy. Bloomberg has pointed out the increase in number of jobs in solar and other renewable energy.

“Saying we’re destroying the coal industry isn’t as true as people would want you to believe, said Bloomberg. We should be making investments in helping find jobs and careers in industries that will continue growing,” – source

You can find out more at the Bloomberg Beyond Coal and Beyond Coal websites.

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Lisa Sharp is the founder of Green Oklahoma. She is passionate about the environment and improving Oklahoma for future generations. She also writes on her personal blog Retro Housewife Goes Green.
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