Protestors denouce “dirty and done” coal in Friday demonstration
By CG Science Editor Audrey Rabalais
Representatives from Ohio University Beyond Coal gathered on College Green Friday to protest the university’s use of coal energy in anticipation of a meeting between OU officials and activist groups later this month.
The protesters’ plea was for the university to abandon coal energy in favor of other options such as solar and geothermal. University officials, including OU President Roderick McDavis, have agreed to meet with members of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club.
“We are here to hold them accountable,” Beyond Coal member Badger Johnson said. “We’re hoping to meet with them at the end of the month face to face and, in the meantime, let the public know what’s coming up.”
Protesters hoped to catch the attention of university officials as they walked in and out of Cutler Hall beginning at 11 a.m. They silently held anti-coal signs for two hours before moving near College Gate where they chanted and played musical instruments.
Johnson, a fourth-year botany major, said the NRDC has been researching OU’s Lausche Heating Plant, which supplies heat to all campus buildings. The NRDC has found that the plant is almost certainly in violation of the Clean Air Act.
Lausche heating plant is in compliance with EPA regulations, according to the Office of Sustainability’s website. Ohio University is located in an area where pollution regulations are less restrictive than in other parts of the country.
McDavis signed the President’s Climate Commitment in 2007. In the commitment, McDavis agreed, within two years, to set a target date and milestones for becoming climate neutral. The Presidential Advisory Council for Sustainability Planning, a group of university officials, students and advisors, submitted a climate action plan to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment in January 2010. The plan did not include a climate neutrality target date.
To view the plan, click here.
A comprehensive plan and an updated climate action plan are set to be presented to the public in March.
“If they want to go carbon neutral, how would that possibly happen if you’re burning coal on campus with no pollution control?” Johnson said.
OU’s coal comes from 30 miles away in Hamden, Ohio. According to the Office of Sustainability’s website, using coal energy is inexpensive because of its abundance in Southeast Ohio.
Also present at the protest was Gary Houser, co-founder of the Ohio University EcoHouse. Houser said he received an e-mail from McDavis’s secretary stating that the president had read Houser’s Jan. 6 commentary in the Athens News urging OU to avoid coal and uphold its sustainability goals. Houser said McDavis is giving the article’s points serious consideration.
The original column can be viewed here on the Athens News’ website.
“We’re not expecting the plant to be replaced tomorrow,” Houser said. “What the university can do today is commit itself to a strict timeline and sign that as an official document. Then we know they’re serious about it.”
Alternatives that were discussed included natural gas, a fossil fuel that can be more easily controlled for pollution than coal. Also mentioned was geothermal power, which is being used at Ball State University in Indiana.
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