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Sierra Club Enters “Game Changing” Partnership for Cleaner Energy

July 28, 2011

FRANKFORT, Ky. - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's philanthropic organization is committing a multi-million-dollar grant to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign to hasten the transition to cleaner energy sources.

One goal of the partnership is to cut coal production by a third by 2020, says Lauren McGrath, the Sierra Club's Kentucky representative.

"This is kind of a game changer, as we're putting it, because it really allows us to leverage resources to take on some of the biggest polluters in our nation and in Kentucky, and have a bigger vision around the transition to clean energy."

Bloomberg Philanthropies has committed $50 million to the Sierra Club's campaign. The environmental group hopes the partnership will also help efforts to reduce mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants by 90 percent by 2020 and replace a majority of coal with clean energy.

A recent report from the Natural Resources Defense Council lists Kentucky among five states with the most toxic air pollution from coal-fired power plants.

Some members of Congress are seeking to block the Environmental Protection Agency's new emissions standards for power plants. McGrath believes air quality compromised by coal can't be improved by Washington alone, and the new funding will aid in diversifying the nation's energy base, build the economy and clear the air.

"Especially during these hot summer days when we all want to be outside are the days when air quality tends to be the worst, and coal is one of the major contributors to that. "

The coal industry response to green-energy efforts touts the current affordability of electricity rates, which the industry contends is made possible by coal-fueled power. McGrath says that sentiment couldn't be further from the truth.

"We're seeing a transition to more natural gas, more energy efficiency, and the clean-tech market is definitely booming. The states that are going to be most vulnerable to major rate increases are states like Kentucky that haven't diversified our portfolio and are completely reliant on coal."

When it comes to the coal industry's concern about jobs, McGrath says the industry already is shedding jobs as machines replace manual labor. On a national scale, she says, the wind industry currently employs more people than does mining.

More information is online at beyondcoal.org. The study is online at nrdc.org.

Renee Shaw, Public News Service - KY