In a triumphant press conference with Al Gore today, Los Angeles Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa announced the city’s plans to become the largest coal-free city in the country by shifting the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power off “dirty” coal and replacing it with renewable energy sources and natural gas.
LADWP currently gets 70 percent of its energy from coal plants, Villaraigosa triumphantly declared that the city will “kick its addiction to coal” in no more than 15 years.
The mayor described growing up in “smog hell” in the 1950s and 60s, when he said schools would cancel P.E. classes outside because of the smog.
“The memories of those smog-filled decades stuck with me. I’ve always known I didn’t want my kids or grandkids to grow up like that,” he said.
Villaraigosa credited “the greenest, most progressive city council in our city’s history” with the decision to make L.A. the “city of green angels.”
He also thanked environmental groups that he said have supported his candidacy for every political office he’s run for. “This was their idea, baby!” he said.
One of the groups supporting the initiative is the Sierra Club, whose executive director Michael Brune applauded LADWP’s move to renewable fuel and said fossil fuel companies are polluting the country’s air, water and politics.
“Officials inside the Beltway have missed almost every opportunity to lead on climate change,” he said.
Brune said moving L.A. off coal will help curb the devastation of storms and drought.
“Today’s announcement here in L.A.is an antidote to despair,” he said. “It gives us hope.”
Climate change champion Al Gore, whom Villaraigosa introduced as “our Vice President Al Gore,” said L.A.’s coal-free goal is not like the many other climate change initiatives attendees have heard of that are “superficially similar.”
“I want to say in the strongest possible way I can, this is a really big deal,” Gore said.