Billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is providing the Sierra Club a major cash infusion—$30 million—as the big green group wages war against coal-fired power, the largest industrial source of carbon emissions.
The gift from the former New York City mayor announced Wednesday follows a four-year, $50 million commitment from Bloomberg in 2011.
"It will help us continue to run the largest campaign in the Sierra Club's history and we think one of the most important in our history," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune told National Journal.
"Every time we retire a coal plant and replace it with clean energy, that means we are cutting carbon, cutting air and water pollution, increasing the amount of clean energy on the grid, and increasing the amount of jobs at the same time," he said.
Bloomberg, in announcing the gift to the Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" campaign, said he's working with other foundations and individual donors to secure another $30 million in matching contributions. "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," Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Sierra Club said in a joint announcement.
Brune said the money funds a suite of Sierra Club efforts, including fights against individual coal plants, support for the Environmental Protection Agency's air-pollution rules, and programs that support renewable power.
Anti-coal advocates face opposition from the GOP congressional majority and especially from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is waging a campaign to convince states to rebel against EPA's carbon-emissions rules. Republicans, some coal-state Democrats, and major business groups contend that EPA's rules will be economically harmful.
Coal once provided more than half of U.S. power, but in the past decade, the natural-gas boom and the growth of renewables have eaten into its share. Coal supplied 39 percent of U.S. power last year, according to the federal Energy Information Administration.
Several EPA air-pollution rules are putting even more pressure on the fuel. EPA has forecast that if its draft carbon-emissions standards for power plants take effect, coal's share of the U.S. power mix would be 30 percent in 2030.
Brune said that the campaign hopes to reduce U.S. coal use even more than analysts are currently projecting. "What we expect to do is bend the curve much more sharply," he said. The Sierra's Club's goal is that power supplied by coal plants forced out of operation is replaced, whenever possible, with renewable sources instead of natural gas.
The Sierra Club announced a new goal alongside the funding: Close half the nation's coal-fired power fleet by 2025. The group is seeking to secure commitments for those coal-plant retirements by the end of 2017.
That replaces the "Beyond Coal" campaign's prior goal of shutting down one-third of the nation's coal-fired power generation by 2020.
This story has been updated.