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Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announcing his $50 million donation
 to the Sierra Club near a coal-fired power plant in Alexandria, Va.
Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced on Thursday that he would donate $50 million to the Sierra Club’s campaign to shut down coal-fired power plants across the United States. The announcement was made in Washington, DC on the bank of the Potomac River across from the Potomac River plant, which is owned by The 62-year old Potomac plant, which is owned by GenOn Energy, is among the oldest of the country’s roughly 400 coal-fired power plants.

Mayor Bloomberg appeared with the Sierra Club’s executive director, Michael Brune to announce the gift from his chief charitable organization, Bloomberg Philanthropies. Mr. Bloomberg said he hoped it would help the environmental group shut down as many as a third of the nation’s coal-burning power plants — the oldest and dirtiest ones — by 2020.

Coal provides nearly half of the nation’s electricity and accounts for roughly a third of its output of carbon dioxide and other gases responsible for warming the planet. Burning coal also produces millions of tons of other pollutants that are harmful to human health and the environment.

The Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign claims to have blocked the opening of more than 150 coal-fired power plants in recent years through litigation and local action. Mr. Bloomberg’s $50 million represents a third of the campaign’s projected $150 million four-year budget.

The goal of the campaign is to cut electricity production from coal by 30 percent and mercury emissions by 90 percent by 2020. Mr. Bloomberg’s donation will be used to expand the campaign to 45 states from the current 15 and to double the number of full-time staff members to 200. (NYT, 7/21/2011)