I can see clearly now, the smoke is gone. Or prevented. Thanks to the Sierra Club, who celebrated a landmark in the fight against coal today. Thanks to advocacy in favor of ending coal, Intermountain Power decided to pull the plug on a coal plant in Delta, Utah, making the 100th plant to be either abandoned or prevented since the beginning of the 2001 coal rush.
The Delta plant “would have burdened Utah with more coal-burning pollution,” said Wayne Hoskinson, chairman of the Utah Chapter of the Sierra Club. “This opens the door for additional renewable projects, like the Milford wind development, allowing the state to still be an exporter of energy without the cost of worsened air quality and more mercury pollution.” It is exactly this shift from coal to renewables that the Sierra Club has been advocating since it began its Beyond Coal Campaign.
The abandonment of the Delta plant comes in the wake of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s announcement last week that Los Angeles would be coal free by 2020 and is reason to celebrate. “Stopping one hundred coal plants is a huge milestone in our fight to end global warming,” said Bruce Nilles, Director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign.
But the prevention of the plants hasn’t been an easy chore. For the last six years, the Sierra Club and its allies have fought to expose the dirty truth behind coal power. Grassroots campaigns, rising costs and new carbon emissions regulations have all contributed to the victories over the coal kingdom. Activists have worked in almost every state to promote cleaner alternatives to coal, doing everything from turning out to public hearings, holding rallies and meeting with officials.
“I was around for the first coal plant Sierra Club tackled; against all odds and with literally only a handful of us who believed in fighting the plant. Now, only a couple of years later, there are thousands of grassroots volunteers who are helping defeat the construction of polluting coal burning plants. We are seeing a movement,” said Verena Owen, volunteer chair of the Beyond Coal Campaign.
And she’s right. Since the beginning of the coal rush in 2001a paradigm shift has begun to take place. “At the beginning of the coal rush in 2001, it seemed inevitable that as many as 150 new proposed coal plants would get built,” said Nilles. “Since then we’ve seen an incredible change in the way people, businesses and governments…are thinking about energy, figuring out how to generate and use it more cleanly and efficiently. Coal is no longer a smart or cost-effective option. We can create jobs and electricity through clean energy technology made in America.”
That is what the plan is now. The Sierra Club doesn’t just want to stop the coal kingdom from expanding, but wants to ignite a renewable energy revolution, helping states fill the void left by abandoned or prevented coal plants. In place of coal, the Sierra Club is pushing for the development of wind, solar and geothermal plants as well as promoting energy efficiency.
The current movement has kept over 400 million tons of harmful global warming pollution out of the air annually, making significant progress in the fight against global warming. Stopping 100 new coal plants has also kept thousands of tons of asthma-causing soot and smog pollution, as well as toxins like mercury out of the air and water.
Despite all of the progress, the fight isn’t over. “The coal industry is still pushing forward with plans for dozens of new plants in places like Michigan and Kansas, and pouring money into slick advertising campaigns and lobbying efforts,” said Nilles. “As we celebrate this amazing milestone, we must redouble our efforts to stop new plants and replace the existing coal plants with clean energy.”
Photo Credit: ianrthorpe via flickr under Creative Commons License