Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $64 million donation that will go to environmental groups "to move the U.S. off coal power" following the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to withdraw the Clean Power Plan.
The funds will be split among the Sierra Club and other related organizations with similar goals. The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign, which credits itself with aiding in the retirement of 259 coal-fired power plants since 2010, will receive $30 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Bloomberg said Oct. 11 that the ultimate goal is to retire two-thirds of the coal-fired power plants in the U.S. by the end of 2020. The announcement comes after EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt laid out plans Oct. 10 to sign a proposed rulemaking to withdraw the Clean Power Plan, or CPP.
"The past administration was unapologetic. They were using every bit of power, every bit of authority to use the EPA to pick winners and losers in how we generate electricity in this country," Pruitt said.
"The Clean Power Plan was not about regulating to make things regular. It was really about regulating to pick winners and losers" he added.
The EPA move is another step in President Donald Trump's playbook to fulfill a campaign promise to bring back coal, including stocking his Cabinet with players familiar with the industry and rolling back former President Barack Obama's clean energy trajectory.
Coal advocates celebrated the planned repeal of CPP, while advocates of the Obama-era regulation promised not to go down without a fight.
"This action, together with the nationwide stay of the Clean Power Plan that Murray Energy Corp. received from the Supreme Court of the United States, has saved over 25,000 American jobs," said Murray spokesperson Gary Broadbent. "We will continue to work with President Trump's administration to preserve low-cost, reliable electricity in America, and to protect the thousands of jobs and family livelihoods that rely on the United States coal industry."
The American Coal Council also welcomed Pruitt's announcement. CEO Betsy Monseu said in a release that the CPP was ill-conceived and unprecedented in scope and reach.
"It attempted to thrust EPA into the role of energy regulator. It would have dramatically transformed how electricity is produced and distributed in the U.S. Economic harm impacting far more than the coal sector would have been the result, including double-digit electricity cost increases for families and businesses," she said.
Proponents of the regulation pushed back against the plan and pledged to bring the matter to the court once the repeal becomes official.
When Pruitt officially repeals the rule, "we [will] take his dirty power plan to court," David Doniger, director of the Natural Resources Defense Council's climate and clean air program, promised during an Oct. 10 call with reporters.
Bloomberg, during his press conference at Sierra Club headquarters, also took aim at other Trump administration policies that he suggested are ignoring the underlying market forces driving the retirement of coal-fired generation.
A recent S&P Global Market Intelligence analysis shows that despite the Department of Energy's grid resiliency proposal aimed at bolstering coal and nuclear power generation, the number of scheduled or completed coal capacity retirements is increasing through 2021, with some power companies saying that low-priced natural gas continues to drive decisions to retire coal-fired units at plants.
According to data compiled by S&P, about 49.5 GW of coal capacity is or was scheduled for retirement between 2013 and 2021, an increase from the 44.1 GW scheduled as of March 27 for that period. Forty-five coal units are slated to retire from 2017 to 2021 while 395 units have been retired since 2012, though certain planned retirements without firm dates are not reported in the data.
The great majority of coal units undergoing fuel-type conversions have been or will be switched to gas, with a handful of biomass conversions. Only 115 MW is planned to shift to other nonrenewable fuel types.
Bloomberg called the DOE's proposal "the worst ideas Washington has ever come up with" and said it amounts to a "massive taxpayer bailout of failing coal plants."