April 8, 2015 / 2:56 PM / 4 years ago

Bloomberg charity donates $30 million to shutter U.S. coal plants

WASHINGTON, April 8 (Reuters) - Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s charity has injected another $30 million into an environmental campaign to halve the number of U.S. coal-fired power plants by 2017, it said on Wednesday.

The donation by Bloomberg Philanthropies to the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign adds to a $50 million pledge it made in 2011. The campaign has contributed to the closure of 187 coal plants to date.

The mayor and the Sierra Club said 12 other contributors would match Bloomberg Philanthropies’ $30 million donation.

“Coal’s days are numbered,” the former mayor said on Wednesday. “It’s holding back our economy.”

“Beyond Coal” says it now wants to retire half of the roughly 500 U.S. coal plants by 2017, up from its previous goal of a third by 2020.

The new funding comes as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency works on completing its proposed regulation to slash carbon emissions from existing power plants later this summer.

With opposition lawmakers and industry groups aiming to defeat the pending EPA rules in Congress and in the courts, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said the group was ready for battle.

“We’ve been preparing for backlash for the better part of five years,” Brune said in a phone interview before the announcement.

“Beyond Coal” seeks to mobilize local activists to advocate for the retirement of older coal plants and prevent new ones from being built, replacing the retired capacity with renewable energy.

Brune said his group approached affected coal communities “with facts and a little bit of empathy” but added that coal no longer offered them an economic benefit because renewable energy costs have come down.

“I wouldn’t want to defend the coal industry nowadays,” he said.

The group is also pursuing a campaign to retire gas-fired power plants, prevent construction of new ones and replace the capacity with renewable energy. The aim is to retire all coal and gas by 2030, Brune said.

Bloomberg Philanthropies does not fund Sierra Club’s natural gas campaign.

Since leaving office, the former mayor has focused on promoting clean energy and sustainable cities in his philanthropic work. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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