Support University’s Transition from Coal to Solar Power

Target: Chad Cheely, Environmental Safety Coordinator at University of Georgia

Goal: Support the University of Georgia’s efforts to shift campus energy from energy-intensive coal to solar power

Students, alumni, and local community members in Athens have joined together to urge the University of Georgia (UGA) to replace an on-campus coal-fired boiler with a less polluting energy source. The 50-year-old coal-fired steam boiler is the largest source of air pollution in the county. This petition supports UGA students in taking a stand against coal at their school.

According to Dale Kemmerick, from the EPD’s Air Protection Branch, the height of the boiler’s emission stacks “results in high concentrations of pollution even with relatively low overall emissions.” The stack is located near several tall buildings on campus that may face direct exposure to the pollution before it disperses, posing a significant environmental and health hazard to students and local residents.

In response to student and community protests, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division (EPD) held a public hearing to discuss the future of the school’s last remaining coal-fired boiler. Opponents of the boiler are urging the EPD and UGA administration not to renew the school’s federal operating permit without increased pollution monitoring, stricter regulations for plant operations, and a set timetable for retiring the plant. According to Online Athens, “UGA emits more than 500 tons of air pollution each year, including 145 tons of nitrogen oxide, 54 tons of carbon monoxide and about 229 tons of sulfur dioxide.”

Unfortunately, because the coal boiler complies with federal and state pollution rules, the EPD can’t legally shut it down. Environmentalists have called for testing for lead on the ground surrounding the steam boiler an further investigation into where the school’s air pollution goes and its impact on human health and the environment. This information must be known before UGA’s air-pollution permit is extended.

UGA has begun to recognize the need for a more efficient replacement to the coal boiler and is making strides toward a cleaner energy future. According to the Sierra Club’s Mary Anne Hitt, the school is working with an engineering firm to release an actionable energy plan in the coming months.

The Georgia Public Service Commission recently approved a proposal to retire 20 percent of its coal plants and invest in a solar power program to introduce 525 megawatts of solar power to the state by 2016. Georgia’s transition to renewable energy will help stabilize electricity rates and create tens of thousands of jobs. UGA will also benefit by utilizing solar electricity at a set rate. Sign this petition to demand the school to do away with this outdated coal-fired plant that threatens the health of students and faculty.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Cheeley,

As the University of Georgia and the state’s Environmental Protection Division deliberate the renewal of the school’s pollution permits, we hope you will recognize the value of switching from the current outdated coal-fired boiler to a cleaner energy source.

Georgia Power’s new solar mandate to close 20 percent of the state’s coal-fired plants and invest in solar power offers a critical opportunity for UGA to make advancements in clean energy development. Retiring the school’s old and energy-intensive coal boiler will serve as a stepping stone to achieve a sustainable energy future for the university. We urge you to help UGA become a leader in promoting renewable energy and protecting students from harmful air pollution.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Georgia Tech Research Institute via Wikimedia Commons

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