Sierra Club’s $ War on Coal $ Pays Huge Dividends

Sierra Club’s “War on Coal” is its Number One Priority

The Sierra Club has become a synonym for the War on Coal.

The three largest Sierra Club Foundation projects (as measured by expenses) are:

  • The War on Coal [$27.2 million]
  • Sierra Club local chapters who are the foot soldiers in the War on Coal [$2.9 million]
  • The “Resilient habitats” program that is part of the “Climate Recovery Partnership” which the Foundation explains is an initiative to “reduce U.S. carbon emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050.”

A War on Coal, whose sole purpose is to create monopoly conditions for renewable energy generation by 2050, at significantly increased cost to rate payers, and with no direct, demonstrable positive effect on global warming, is not a charitable purpose. A confidential document reveals the Sierra Club’s plan to shut down the coal industry, as reported by the Daily Caller:

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.

The DCNF 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.”

Plans by EPA and Sierra Club to cripple coal industry were exposed by Freedom of Information Act documents obtained by E&E Legal, and presented in the following press release:

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) has produced several hundred documents affirming the uncomfortably close working relationship between the current U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) and activist left-wing environmental groups in their effort to make abundant energy resources, particularly coal, much more scarce in America.

These records come in a series of productions in litigation spawned by two specific FOIA requests — a lawsuit filed after an EPA FOIA specialist admitted she and her colleague were instructed to do no work on the requests, as EELI counsel Chris Horner attested in a sworn affidavit. Mostly e-mails between EPA top officials and the Sierra Club, the records illustrate how certain EPA employees with backgrounds working for green pressure groups serve as liaisons to those groups in advancing a shared agenda. Other documents affirm the close advisory role the pressure groups play in key EPA actions, like EPA’s recently published New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for new coal-fired plants.

This collaboration takes place in many forms: emails providing, e.g., a list of coal plants the green groups insist any EPA standards block from coming or staying on-line, meetings at EPA and at the green groups’ offices where EPA comes to brief them, frequent conference calls, and at the Starbucks at Washington’s J.W. Marriott, across the street from EPA.

The latter is reminiscent of the Caribou Coffee revelations about this most transparent, White House, in history arranging off-site meetings with other lobbyists to avoid signing them in to the building (see, e.g., New York Times reportage of this subterfuge, here.)

The level of coordination in these documents is shocking, showing, for example, Sierra Club strategizing with EPA’s former green group activists, and other senior Obama appointees, about killing the coal and coal-fired electricity industries, even sharing a joke in one particular email saying EPA administrator Gina McCarthy had her “pants on fire” when assuring those parties they would remain viable under EPA’s regulations.

The e-mails show the central players to be two EPA officials who worked in the agency’s policy office at the time of the e-mails, Michael Goo (former legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) who left EPA for a senior Department of Energy post), Alex Baron, and EPA senior counsel Joe Goffman (a former EDF lawyer). They all work closely with John Coequyt, who heads the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign.

In one e-mail Coequyt sent to Goo and Barron, he said, “Attached is a list of plants that companies said were shelved because of uncertainty around GHG [greenhouse gas] regulations. If a standard is set that these plants could meet, there is a small chance that they [sic] company could decide to revive the proposal.” Coequyt is clearly signaling that that if the EPA sets achievable standards, proposed power plants on hold as the new standards are developed could ultimately be built, which is contrary to his group’s agenda.

Last week, the EPA finally released their New Source Performance Standards, four months after first announcing them.. The American Coalition for Clean Coal Energy (ACCCE), which plans to take the EPA to court over the new regulations, questioned what EPA was up to during those four months that it took the agency to post its NSPS.

Numerous other emails show close collaboration on EPA public hearings to generate support for the rule.

“ACCCE asks a very relevant question, if one that EPA’s own mail answers,” added Horner, the lawyer handling the lawsuit. “After reviewing the e-mails between one of the chief outside organizations in the war on coal, and their allies in the EPA, it’s clear that this process was one of trying to develop standards to kill the future of coal in America. And being less than honest about it, even according to their own allies in candid moments.”

Sierra Club Hops in Bed with Natural Gas…And Targets Coal

Endorsements and rental of its membership lists to corporations for marketing purposes apparently was not sufficient to generate the amount of funds the Sierra Club and its Foundation wanted. The Club, having turned away from its grassroots culture, wanted to take a leadership role in the emerging “sustainability” initiative that had morphed into global warming activism. To play in that game, the Club needed to significantly expand its funding levels. The logical next step was to go beyond endorsements and work to expand market share as agents of corporations, disguised as policy advocates. In 2007 the Club picked an industry to attack that would allow them to obtain massive donations from the industry’s technological competitors in exchange for reducing the industry’s market share and increasing that of their new donors. They picked coal. This offered the Sierra Club two ready players who wanted to expand their market share in electricity generation at the expense of coal – the natural gas industry and the renewable energy industry.

Natural gas is a direct competitor with coal in the electricity generation marketplace. Many coal-fired plants were reaching the end of their normal lives and Environmental Protection Agency regulations were making new coal plants’ life-cycle costs on a par with natural gas generation.

The Sierra Club and its Foundation sold the natural gas industry on a “war on coal” and reaped massive rewards. In 2007, the Club convinced Aubrey McClendon, then CEO of natural gas supplier Chesapeake Energy, to support the War. He coughed up $26.1 million in contributions between 2007 and 2010, and offered an additional $30 million in 2011, as reported by the Washington Post. By then, however, the Sierra Club didn’t need McClendon and didn’t’ merely discard him, but added him as an enemy in their war-time expansion, still called the War on Coal, but now a war on any carbon-based energy, including natural gas, funded by the renewable energy industry alone.