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March 04, 2013

Los Angeles Announces "Coal-Free by 2025" Goal

VillaraigosaAngelenos cheered this week when Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced his intention to sign two agreements that will make the city coal-free no later than 2025.

This comes at a moment in our campaign when massive rallies across the U.S. in February called on President Obama to take immediate administrative action to tackle the threat of extreme climate change devastation.

Here in L.A., 2,000 Angelenos showed up in front of City Hall to demand national action on climate change last month. The good news this week is that Angelenos' demand for clean energy is driving significant progress in our own backyard. 

L.A. gets nearly 40 percent of its power from two aging out-of-state coal plants -- the Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in Arizona and the Intermountain Power Project (IPP) in Utah. These aging plants have become a financial liability for Angelenos as a result of the necessary and required retrofits at both of the several-decades-old power plants.

The prospect of Los Angeles being poised to sign agreements to get off of coal represents a pivotal moment. This would mark a major transformation for our city and would be the result of ordinary Angelenos coming together to demand change in the energy choices we make. In 21st-century Los Angeles, it has become simply unacceptable for nearly 40 percent of our city's energy supply to continue to come from aging, out-of-state, polluting coal-fired power plants.

When Mayor Villaraigosa took office in 2005, the city got nearly half its power from coal and a measly three percent from clean energy. What a difference eight years make. Los Angeles was the first city in the state to hit 20 percent clean energy. It recently launched the largest urban rooftop solar program in the nation, and it has reimagined its energy-efficiency program to create good careers while saving more energy. In the past year alone, L.A. has locked in enough clean energy commitments to power 330,000 homes with solar (that's basically the equivalent of Cleveland or Minneapolis).

The coal transition is as much an economic transition as it is an environmental one, and it represents a victory for all Angelenos. The city’s new CLEAN LA Solar program (a solar buy-back or "feed-in-tariff") -- the largest city-wide program of its kind in the nation -- promises to create 4,500 jobs and nearly $500 million in economic development for the city. Toronto-based Solar Provider, for example, has plans to hire 30 Angelenos and to invest $50 million in Los Angeles as a result of the new program.

At the same time, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is ramping up its energy efficiency program, increasing its energy savings, goal which will help lower Angelenos' energy bills.
 
By leading on a transition away from coal, Los Angeles is showing how we can transform our economy to create jobs, clean our air and water, and improve the health of our environment. Crippling drought, devastating wildfires, and superstorm Sandy have brought climate change home. It’s time for a renewable energy future that breaks our addiction to dirty and dangerous fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, nuclear, and tar sands oil.

The Beyond Coal campaign's activists and supporters, along with countless other organizations, have been at the forefront for a transition from coal to renewable energy to reduce our city's human-caused carbon pollution footprint. We look forward to seeing the details of the agreements being considered for the mayor's signature. It's imperative that the city continue to replace dirty coal with more of the clean energy that is already bringing new jobs and investments to L.A.

We look forward to continuing to work with the mayor, city council, and Department of Water and Power to finally end our city's reliance on dirty coal.

-- Evan Gillespie, L.A. Beyond Coal. Photo of Mayor Villaraigosa from Moapa solar project signing ceremony in 2012.

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