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No More Coal in LA by 2025: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Impressive Environmental Leadership

Linda Escalante

Posted March 23, 2013 in Solving Global Warming

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Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles announced this week an historic plan by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to stop using coal fired power by 2025 and replace it with cleaner energy sources. Once in place, Los Angeles will be the first large city in the United States to have carbon-free energy.

With this announcement, Mayor Villaraigosa adds to his already strong environmental record.

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Los Angeles gets nearly 40 percent of its power from coal-fired plants in Utah and Arizona so while this plan won’t directly limit pollution in the City, it will spur clean energy and renewable power in California and will eliminate carbon emissions equivalent to eliminating emissions from 6 million cars.

Also, as the largest municipally operated utility in the country, getting off coal not only sends an important message to the country and the world that the era of coal power is coming to an end, it cuts U.S. carbon emissions and moves the needle on clean energy. As my colleague Noah Long put it, “[t]he more utilities that walk away from coal, the more plants will shutter in favor of cleaner alternatives.”

Mayor Villaraigosa’s commitment to clean energy has helped LADWP increase its renewable energy use and energy efficiency. This step raises the bar for cities and is a significant step to stop climate change.  For the millions of Latinos living in Los Angeles who often bear the brunt of pollution and the impacts of climate change on air quality, this is welcome news. 

Getting off coal from power plants is the best way to stop climate change and clean up our air. Last month, NRDC unveiled a flexible, cost-effective proposal for how the Environmental Protection Agency could use the Clean Air Act to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants—the nation’s largest source of climate-changing pollution.

Villaraigosa has used his tenure as mayor of the second largest city in the U.S. to prioritize fighting climate change. Carbon emissions in L.A. are down around 30 percent from 20 years ago thanks to a portfolio of efforts that includes promoting bicycling and transitioning the city’s fleet to natural gas. With this important step to get off carbon, Mayor Villaraigosa leaves behind a legacy of environmental consciousness and courage in a city globally famous for sprawl and smog.  He will also leave Angelenos equipped with practical and transformative policy measures to lead the charge against the biggest environmental challenge we face today: the fossil-fuel induced warming of our planet.

As a Latina environmentalist it was inspiring to see Mayor Villaraigosa and Councilmember Jose Huizar, Chair of their Energy and Environment Committee, next to former Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore as they celebrated setting City of Los Angeles on a path to completely wean off coal-powered electricity by 2025. 

For more details on this policy, read the blogs by my colleague, NRDC Legal Director, Western Energy and Climate Projects, Kristin Eberhard.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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