Bloomberg, Sierra Club Align Against Coal

| Thu Jul. 21, 2011 12:38 PM EDT

Outside the GenOn power plant in Alexandria, Va. on Thursday, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a new partnership to end coal-fired power. Bloomberg's philanthropy will donate $50 million to Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign—a sizable chunk of the proposed $150 million budget for the campaign.

Sierra Club is already touting its role in preventing the construction of more than 150 new coal-fired power plants. Their goal with the next phase of the campaign is to shut down a third of the country's older plants by 2020. The support of Bloomberg Philanthropies will have a "significant impact" on achieving that goal, said Sierra Club in a statement Thursday. With it, the group plans to increase its campaign from 15 states to 45 and double the number of full-time staff working to organize members.

Here's what Bloomberg had to say:

"If we are going to get serious about reducing our carbon footprint in the United States, we have to get serious about coal. Ending coal power production is the right thing to do, because while it may seem to be an inexpensive energy source the impact on our environment and the impact on public health is significant," said Bloomberg. "Coal is a self-inflicted public health risk, polluting the air we breathe, adding mercury to our water, and the leading cause of climate disruption."

The move is an interesting one, on Bloomberg's part. I can't think of another example of a sitting politician making such a large investment in an interest group, particularly an environmental one. The blog Charity Navigator has some research on the giving habits of politicians, but nothing quite this size. You often hear about fossil fuel interests buying off politicians, but it's rare to hear about a political figure investing in the opposition.