CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $500 million effort to close the nation's coal plants isn't sitting well in West Virginia.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice criticized the clean energy plan at a news conference Monday, saying it will destroy the economy of his coal-producing state.
"His end goal is to extinguish fossil fuels. If that happens to us, we're back in the dark ages," he said as he was surrounded by the leaders of coal and natural gas groups.
Bloomberg last week announced his investment in the Beyond Carbon initiative, which aims to put the U.S. on track toward a 100% clean energy economy and close all the country's remaining coal plants by 2030. The organization will bypass the federal government. Instead it will seek to pass climate and clean energy policies at the state and local level and back political candidates there as well.
Bloomberg's philanthropic group released a statement that said shifting to renewable energy can help address a decline in mining jobs.
"There has been a decades-long decline in mining jobs, as technology has displaced workers. Shifting to renewable energy can help us address both challenges at once, and every region and every state can benefit -- in more jobs, less pollution and contaminated water, and a healthier planet," the statement reads.
When asked directly if he believes in climate change, Justice declined to answer.
"At some point in time, there'll be real data that will make us all believe there's either got to be a real urgency worldwide for climate — you know — change or there won't be. But I'm not about to blow West Virginia's legs off because of some theory that somebody wants to do in New York," said Justice, who owns coal companies.
Nearly every scientific organization and government say the burning of coal, oil and gas has warmed the world because carbon dioxide traps heat in Earth's atmosphere. Federal weather records show that the globe has warmed by about 1.8 degrees (1 degree Celsius) since 1880. The last five years —2014 to 2018— have been the five hottest years on record globally and nine of the 10 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years.
A federal report released in November citied numerous studies to say more than 90% of current warming is caused by humans.