By Mary Anne Hitt, Sierra Club
Today is a remarkable day. In the shadow of one of the nations most notorious polluting coal plants, New York mayor and philanthropist Michael Bloomberg announced a game-changing gift to the Sierra Club – a $50 million commitment over four years to the Beyond Coal Campaign that will fuel the Sierra Club’s effort to clean the air, move beyond coal, and accelerate the transition to cleaner, cost-effective energy sources.
We are thrilled about this partnership – Michael Bloomberg sees our nation’s energy future the same way we do:
“Ending coal power production is the right thing to do for our environment but it is also simple economics. And while it may seem to be an inexpensive energy source, the hidden costs are significant,” said Bloomberg.
“Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to the water we drink and the leading cause of climate disruption. With clean solar and wind getting cheaper and newer technologies emerging, it doesn’t make sense to use an outdated 19th century technology to make electricity.”
I’ve worked for almost a decade on coal issues, beginning with my work to end mountaintop removal in Appalachia. This is the kind of leadership we need to fight coal pollution and put this nation on a path to a clean energy future. Coal is making our kids sick – it’s the #1 source of mercury pollution, #1 source of carbon pollution, and a leading trigger of asthma attacks. In fact, coal pollution causes 13,000 asthma attacks a year, and 1in 10 kids in this country suffers from asthma.
The growth of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign has been inspiring, and out work gives me hope when I look at my one-year-old daughter and think of the world I’m handing down to her, and all the kids of her generation. State by state, and plant by plant, we are slashing pollution going into the air and water, and pulling the planet back from the brink of a climate crisis.
Thanks to the work of the Sierra Club and our allies, my daughter and millions of kids like her are less likely to end up in the emergency room with an asthma attack, and less likely to face a dangerous future where global warming has undermined our national security.
We’ve stopped 153 new coal-fired power plants from being built, preserving market space for clean energy. We’ve mobilized hundreds of thousands of people in support of strong clean air and water protections. Our Sierra Student Coalition members have united on campuses nationwide, winning victories at 16 colleges and universities to shut down coal plants on their campuses.
The list goes on and on.
Now we have this added momentum – and we will continue the fight to bring about a clean energy future for our nation.
We will continue standing up to King Coal and its pollution of our air, our water, and our politics. Moving beyond coal means ending coal pollution’s $100 billion in annual health costs. It means ending mountaintop removal coal mining, which poisons drinking water, lays waste to our purple mountains majesty, increases the risk of deadly floods, and turns small towns into ghost towns.
It means ending the hazards of coal ash, which is stored in unlined ponds nationwide and contaminates drinking water. The toxins found in coal ash have been linked to organ disease, cancer, respiratory illness, neurological damage and developmental problems. Children are more susceptible to the health impacts of coal ash, a disturbing fact since EPA has found that 1.54 million children live near coal sites.
Who wants their child to live with these deadly effects of coal when we can power our nation with clean energy?
Mayor Bloomberg sees the reality of our nation’s energy independence. He recognizes that the switch to clean energy is already starting to happen, and it is spurring innovation and job creation. Local communities are taking the lead and replacing coal with wind and solar power.
Iowa is already getting more than 15% of its energy from wind power. San Antonio just announced it is retiring its coal plant and is now planning to build one of the largest solar projects in the country. In Denver, the Mayor and residents grew tired of the dirty air, put pressure on the local utility and got the coal plant retired. Colorado utility Xcel is now on target to meet that state’s clean energy goal – one of the most aggressive state standards in the country – a full eight years ahead of schedule. Oregon and Washington have both announced they are retiring the one-and-only coal plant in each state.
The path to lower energy costs and a cleaner environment is clean energy, and the donation from Bloomberg Philanthropies will help us accelerate the transition to renewable energy, as well as the economic prosperity that comes with it.
Clean energy should be our future. We’re already winning in cities across the country. Community by community, people are standing up and saying no to coal, saying that they are ready for the clean energy economy.
Editor’s Note: We welcome Sierra Club as a column contributor to EarthTechling with this first cross post from its Compass blog. Author credit goes to Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign.