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January 22, 2013

On Heels of Inaugural Address, Sierra Club Announces Coal Retirement Milestone

SmogI was fired up by President Obama's remarks on climate and clean energy in his second inaugural address -- and gauging by the huge cheer that went up from the crowd, it sounded like the hundreds of thousands of people on the National Mall were, too. The day after that inspiring call to action by our President, the Sierra Club is announcing a milestone in the steady progress we’ve been making for two years to tackle climate disruption by moving America beyond coal.

Today, the Sierra Club and Warren Buffett's MidAmerican Energy Company announced a landmark settlement that requires the Iowa utility to retire seven coal-fired boilers, which pushes the total amount of coal retired or announced to retire since 2010 to over 50,000 megawatts, almost one-sixth of the nation's coal fleet.

This outside-the-beltway movement has now won the retirement of 130 coal-fired power plants, and that dramatic power shift is now being felt inside Washington DC, as well. Earlier this month, the Washingtonian Magazine included me as part of "The New Guard" of young leaders who will make an impact during Obama's second term, along with the likes of Redskins quarterback RGIII, Senator Tammy Baldwin, and NAACP president Benjamin Jealous. All these leaders highlighted by the magazine in D.C., combined with the power of organizers and volunteers across the country, are changing the country and making the world a better place. As the magazine described the list:
A presidential inauguration marks a moment to look toward the future, and these are the people who are shaping Washington's. They've already changed the way we think, commute, eat, work, and play. They've improved our quality of life and beautified our area -- and they’re likely to have an impact for years to come.
I was very honored to be included, and I saw it as a testament to the hard work of thousands of volunteers and activists, who have joined forces for a decade to move America beyond coal. By retiring coal plants and replacing them with clean energy like wind and solar, in state after state after state, we are redefining what is possible when it comes to how we power the nation, and we are changing the energy debate in Washington, D.C. We are also making President Obama's commitment to tackle climate disruption a goal that's within reach.

Based on all the lessons we've learned doing that work, the Sierra Club has put together a roadmap of actions the President can take in his second term – without waiting for Congress – to tackle climate disruption. It's called the Obama Climate and Clean Energy Legacy Campaign, and it includes a platform of policy solutions for the President on issues like clean energy, coal, oil, natural gas, land protection, and safe communities. We’re backing it up with 100 days of action, from the Inauguration to Earth Day, and over the coming weeks I’ll be posting about some of the great events we are holding from coast to coast.

I live in West Virginia, and so I understand that this transition to clean energy poses challenges -- and creates fear about the future -- in some parts of the nation. But as President Obama put it in his inaugural address:
The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries -- we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure -- our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.

The Sierra Club and our many allies will be working hard over the next four years to deliver on this promise. Join us.

-- Mary Anne Hitt, Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign


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