Recent contributions totaling $60 million dollars to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign -- including a hefty donation from former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg -- are angering the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), which calls the campaign an attack on coal miners and their families.

“Billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s additional $30 million contribution to the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign is an affront to every working and retired coal miner, their families and their communities,” said UMWA president Cecil E. Roberts in a statement. “It provides yet more ammunition for an effort that has and apparently will continue to put the lives, health and well-being of hundreds of thousands at risk in Appalachia and elsewhere.”

Replacing coal with wind, solar power

The Sierra Club’s goal is to close half of the nation’s coal-fired power plants by 2017 and replace them with low-carbon energy sources like wind and solar. Coal-fired plants are the primary source of CO2 emissions, which contribute to climate change.

The coal industry has already been affected by the rise in natural gas usage, which has been propelled by low natural gas prices.

“A clean energy economy is inevitable,” Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said. “Dirty, outdated, deadly coal is a thing of the past.”

Roberts said moving away from coal-fired power threatens the jobs of miners and benefits for their families, including health care.

Pensions, health care at risk

“This campaign puts at direct risk the pensions and health care of more than 100,000 retired coal miners, their widows and dependents. This campaign puts at direct risk the ability of communities to support critical services like first responders, schools, and other needs of coalfield residents throughout Appalachia, the Midwest and other coal-producing areas of the United States.”

Roberts criticized Bloomberg for failing to recognize the people who he says will be most affected by the Beyond Coal campaign he is helping to fund: those who live and work in Appalachia and other coalfield communities in the U.S.

“We may be invisible from the skyscrapers of New York and the mountains of California, but we are here nonetheless. We have long, sad experience with powerful elites dictating what we do and how we live, but we have also learned to fight back. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”