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UNC Students Win Commitment to Phase Out Coal on Campus

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Students at the University of North Carolina won a commitment from campus administrators to phase out the use of coal to generate power at the Chapel Hill campus by 2020. The student-led Coal-Free UNC campaign also pushed administrators to end the use of mountaintop removal coal as quickly as possible.

UNC’s campus is currently powered by a coal-fired co-generation plant, which heats and powers the university’s infrastructure. Last fall, after being approached by the Coal-Free UNC student group, school Chancellor Holden Thorpe appointed an Environmental Policy Task Force to find an alternative to coal-fired power.

There are coal cars pulling up on rail up to the plant and thats not particularly good symbolism for a university that teaches people about climate change and the frontiers of energy research.
-UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp

The task force set the coal deadline at May 1, 2020, though an aspirational date of 2015 has been set as well.

Appalachian Voices’ Matt Wasson, who testified before the Energy Task Force on April 14th, clarified that the university was purchasing coal from mountaintop removal mines in Virginia, despite a claim on the university’s website to the contrary. Wasson declined to criticize the University for “unwittingly” using mountaintop removal coal and attributed the misunderstanding to the changing definition of the practice.

But Wasson also left no doubt about the University’s connections to mountaintop removal, using Google Earth to show task force members images of widespread destruction caused by the specific mines with which UNC currently has contracts.

Wasson also told the task force that eliminating the use of coal by 2015 was both reasonable and prudent.

The next mission for the task force and student environmental groups is to decide on an alternative fuel for the plant and to find ways to reduce energy demand and increase efficiency on campus.

One Response to “UNC Students Win Commitment to Phase Out Coal on Campus”

  1. A Person Against Coal Says:

    Wonderful! UNC is a prime example to the nation, I hope this continues as people learn the deeper truths of coal.

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