New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday announced a $50 million donation toward a Sierra Club campaign to cut coal production by a third and significantly reduce coal emissions in the United States by 2020.
The donation comes from Bloomberg Philanthropies and will support Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.
"Ending coal power production is the right thing to do, because, while it may seem to be an inexpensive energy source, the impact on our environment and the impact on public health is significant," Bloomberg said in a statement, announcing the partnership outside a coal-fired power plant in Alexandria, Va.
"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," he added.
Bloomberg decided to make the donation in part out of frustration with climate policy inaction in Washington, Rohit Aggarwala, head of environmental donations at Bloomberg Philanthropies, told NPR's Elizabeth Shogren.
Industry groups criticized Bloomberg.
"The 'Beyond Coal' campaign actually would move America beyond jobs," said Evan Tracey, spokesman for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, in a statement. "Mayor Bloomberg's millions will be spent on a plan that would result in higher electricity rates for millions of Americans, fewer jobs, and less competitive American businesses."
National Mining Association President and CEO Hal Quinn said in a statement that "almost half of the nation's electricity is generated by coal and more than a half-million Americans owe their jobs to coal." He recommended that Bloomberg "make a philanthropic contribution that is truly good for all Americans" by donating to "technologies that make coal cleaner to use."
Coal production has the highest levels of greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollutants of all energy sources. Just last week, one of the nation's biggest coal companies, American Electric Power, announced that it is putting its plans to develop "clean coal" technology on hold.
While Bloomberg on Thursday touted Beyond Coal's successes in "stopping more than 150 new coal-fired power plants over the past few years," the decline in coal production has also been attributed to the abundance of natural gas, and pending environmental standards from the Environmental Protection Agency aimed at reducing coal-related carbon emissions in the United States.