Photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxia;/Creative Commons
When I talk about the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, I can't help feeling inspired and a sense of pride and optimism. We've come so far since the campaign started back in 2002 - even in just the past few years. While we racked up successes along the road, I remember talking to one of my favorite Sierra Club activists, Verena Owen, Sierra Club Beyond Coal Volunteer Co-Lead, in 2006 about how, to really end the era of coal, we'd need major commitments from some major players.
And then today we have that major announcement - one Verena and I could've never dreamed of five years ago: Today the Sierra Club announced a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies that includes a $50 million commitment over four years to the Beyond Coal Campaign that will fuel the Sierra Club's effort to clean the air, end the coal era, and accelerate the transition to cleaner, cost-effective energy sources.
Michael Bloomberg recognizes the success of the Sierra Club and our great grassroots leaders like Verena. "The Sierra Club has had great success in stopping more than 150 new coal-fired power plants over the past few years, and shown that local action can achieve what Congress has failed to do: move America toward a rational, safe energy policy that isn't driven by special interests. I'm pleased to support the Sierra Club and its allies, and I encourage others to do the same."
Through our amazing activists (here's a brief profile on Verena from 2006 ), the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign has achieved success after success in the transition from coal to clean energy, not to mention bringing awareness to the many public health and environmental problems caused by our nation's reliance on coal.
This is the campaign that has stopped 53 new coal-fired power plants from being built since the campaign started in 2002. Through Sierra Student Coalition members, it's landed victories at 16 colleges and universities to shut down on-campus coal plants. The Beyond Coal Campaign has mobilized hundreds of thousands of people mobilized in support of strong clean air and water protections (here's one example from Tuesday).
In San Antonio, Texas, our local activists worked for years with the City Council to shut down the city's coal plants. Last month, they succeeded, and the city is switching to solar power.
Residents in Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia successfully fought off a planned a transmission line that would've connected to one of the nation's dirtiest coal plants.
Beyond Coal organizers in Montana and Wyoming are raising awareness of the fragility of the Powder River Basin, which is being destroyed for coal.
Parents in Chicago, concerned about their children's health because of the city's two ancient, dirty coal plants, keep showing up in force to public hearings on the plants and proposed safeguards that would clean them up or shut them down.
The list goes on and on. Communities are speaking out against coal and its many public health problems, and they're taking the lead on transitioning to clean energy.
Powered by the additional resources of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign will continue this string of successes and help end the era of coal.
Community by community, Americans are standing up and saying no to the industry that has been making us sick and polluting our environment for too long. We want clean energy. This is a fight we can win, and we're not waiting for Washington.