A major environmental group is launching a massive campaign to strangle the coal industry, push green energy sources and increase electricity prices for much of the country, The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned.
TheDCNF obtained an internal Sierra Club Beyond Coal campaign document from an anonymous source. The document lays out the environmental group’s $120 million campaign to decommission 105,000 megawatts of U.S. coal-fired power, prevent more coal from being mined or exported and push for more green energy production.
Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign’s main goals are to “stop the construction of a new fleet of coal plants… expedite the replacement of the existing fleet of coal plants with cleaner energy alternatives, with a goal of retiring all existing coal plants by 2030” and to “keep the massive U.S. coal reserves underground and out of international markets.”
In order to do this, the Beyond Coal campaign proposed to spend $120 million over four years, with an additional $30 million in 2015, to capitalize on Democratic control of the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Sierra Club plan notes that at this funding level “we will run a strategic national campaign that pushes and supports EPA to issue a series of new pollution-cutting rules relating to each step in the coal lifecycle, including coal mining, coal burning, and disposal of coal ash.”
“At the same time we will use our battle-tested community organizers, lawyers, and media experts to ramp up to a 198-person campaign that is driving robust coal-retirement and clean energy replacement campaigns in at least 45 states,” the document reads. “Sierra Club staff will engage our allies and tens of thousands of new and existing activists to shutter plant after plant. As new market opportunities for clean energy are created, we will push for the rapid deployment of zero-carbon options, including wind, solar, geothermal, and energy efficiency.”
It’s no secret that the Sierra Club is opposed to coal, which they argue contributes to man-made global warming. The environmental group has backed the Obama administration’s regulations on new coal plants, effectively banning them, and have pushed for stricter rules on coal mining.
In fact, the Beyond Coal campaign’s stated goal is to retire one-third of the U.S. coal fleet and keep it from being mined. The group takes credit for helping to retire 163 coal plants since 2010, totaling more than 65,000 megawatts — close to their 105,000 megawatt goal.
But despite their efforts, coal generation has increased slightly in the last year and now generates about 40 percent of U.S. electricity. In light of this, the Sierra Club is redoubling its efforts, launching a federal and state-focused campaign to bring lawsuits against the coal industry to force more power plants to retire and lobby for stricter regulations.
“A big part of our strategy is to expose the huge health cost that coal is imposing on Americans and end support for coal among public officials and leaders in all but the most coal-wedded states,” the document reads.
An important component of the Sierra Club’s plan is to force existing coal plants to install costly emissions control technology that would cause utilities to shut down coal plants rather than pay for them to be brought into compliance. This would raise the price of electricity for many Americans who rely on coal power — something the Sierra Club is counting on. Their goal is to make coal power more expensive than green energy, like wind and solar, to encourage utilities to switch to energy sources that emit less carbon dioxide.
“Although existing coal plants without pollution controls can, in many instances, produce electricity more cheaply than new wind or solar, installing the full suite of pollution controls essentially doubles the cost of power generation and levels the playing field with clean energy,” the confidential plan reads. “Rather, to ensure that all plants are required to either retire or install scrubbers by the end of 2015, we will work to ensure that the cumulative impact of new and existing rules requires scrubbers.”
“Sierra Club worked with an outside consultant to analyze each of the 1,200 coal boilers in the United States, the proposed rules, and the number of boilers each rule is likely to impact,” the document says, adding that the “modeling further predicts that the expense of installing pollution controls essentially doubles the cost of coal-generated electricity, putting coal financially on a par with clean energy over the next decade.”
“We also contracted an outside consultant to help us model the economic vulnerability of the existing coal fleet,” the document says. “Our modeling indicates that up to half of the fleet would be less economical than natural gas and/or wind if required to install the full range of modern pollution controls, including cooling towers to reduce water use.”
The Sierra Club also plans to work with federal officials to come up with regulations to burden the coal industry. The document says that “Sierra Club staff also work closely with EPA, providing technical and legal information when needed, and supporting EPA’s efforts to adopt and implement strong protections against coal pollution.”
“Sierra Club staff in DC also work with the Department of the Interior (DOI) around coal mining and clean energy development issues on federal lands, including offshore sites for wind development,” the document adds.
Emails revealed by Energy and Environmental Law Institute attorney Chris Horner already show that the Sierra Club has coordinated with EPA officials in the past over coal plant regulations and also concerning the agency’s role in stymieing the Keystone XL pipeline.
The document obtained by TheDCNF is an internal plan from 2013, according to a Sierra Club spokeswoman, and has since been updated.
“You don’t need our internal documents to know that the Sierra Club has been running a well-organized and highly successful Beyond Coal campaign for more than a decade,” the spokeswoman told TheDCNF. “Our record in helping cut toxic pollution from dirty power plants, protecting public health, and growing the clean energy economy speaks for itself.”
This report was written by Michael Bastasch and cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.