Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a major financial donation Wednesday to an activist group trying to preserve Obama-era rules targeting the coal industry.
Bloomberg poured more than $64 million into the Sierra Club’s political war chest to help the group fight President Donald Trump’s efforts to resuscitate the fortunes of a beleaguered coal country. The war on coal began in coal country, not Washington, D.C., he noted in a statement.
“The Trump administration has yet to realize that the war on coal was never led by Washington — and Washington cannot end it,” Bloomberg said, adding that “communities in both red and blue states who are tired of having their air and water poisoned” were the ones leading the charge.
Bloomberg’s announcement came a day after the Trump administration began repealing former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which sought to curb greenhouse gas emissions from coal plants. The former mayor has dumped money on similar efforts in the past.
He gave New York University a $6 million grant in August, for instance, to create a center helping attorneys general prevent Trump from nixing climate rules. The grant will go toward the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center, which seeks to escalate attacks against Trump.
The center’s services are open to all attorneys general, but Democrats such as New York’s Eric Schneiderman, California’s Xavier Becerra, and Maryland’s Brian Frosh will likely be the lone recipients, because they have indicated a willingness to drown the president in lawsuits over his climate policies.
The Sierra Club claims that the group’s Beyond Coal campaign has resulted in the closure of 259 U.S. coal plants since the effort began in 2010. The campaign has cobbled together opposition to coal-fired power, and enticed state regulators and utility owners to mothball coal plants throughout the country.
Democrats argued during last year’s presidential campaign that natural gas development, and various green energy markets, were responsible for coal country’s hard times. They tried to tamp down claims from conservatives that regulations and anti-coal rhetoric were to blame for the downfall.
The coal industry lost 50,000 jobs from 2008 to 2012 during Obama’s first term, and another 33,300 jobs during his second term, according to federal data. Coal mining currently employs about 69,460 Americans, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many ex-coal miners are unemployed in the Appalachian states, some of which have faced very real economic devastation as a result of waves of regulations and market changes. The coal-producing areas of eastern Kentucky have an unemployment rate of 8 percent, and parts of West Virginia have double-digit unemployment.
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