Coal Free IU, Sierra Club
Student leaders with Coal Free IU weren’t deterred by frigid temperatures when they delivered stacks of more than 5,000 petitions to IU President Michael McRobbie on Jan. 13. The action is part of the ongoing student-led campaign demanding action to retire the dirty, outdated and polluting coal plant on campus and replace it with cleaner, healthier energy sources.
The university’s Central Heating Plant on campus burns around 68,000 tons of coal each year and is the largest single source of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide pollution in Monroe County. Burning coal also releases other dangerous pollutants including mercury, lead and arsenic and can cause cancer, heart disease and trigger more severe asthma attacks.
“I always knew I wanted to go to school at Indiana University, but I didn’t know that doing so would mean having to deal with a dirty, polluting coal plant right on campus that poses a threat to students’ health,” said IU senior and Coal Free IU President Megan Anderson. "Instead, IU should be investing in innovative, 21st century clean-energy solutions that will mean cleaner air for everyone in Bloomington."
"IU should be investing in innovative, 21st century clean-energy solutions that will mean cleaner air for everyone in Bloomington." - Megan Anderson, Coal Free IU
The petitions are the result of a nearly three-year-long campaign by students to get the school to switch to cleaner, healthier energy sources such as solar, geothermal and efficiency. Throughout the campaign students have collected petitions on campus and online through a partnership with Credo Mobile, as well as hosting rallies, movie screenings, panel presentations, an action with a 16-foot-tall, inflatable inhaler and collecting campaign sign-ons from faculty, community members and various student organizations.
The effort was one of the first launched as part of the Sierra Club’s national Campuses Beyond Coal campaign and already nearly one-third of the more than 60 universities that operate coal plants on campus have committed to transition off burning coal completely, including the University of Minnesota, Penn State and the University of Wisconsin.
“As a proud IU alum I want to see my alma matter be a real leader by investing in the type of clean energy solutions that will create new jobs, boost the economy and lead to cleaner air and water in Hoosier country,” said Sarah Hodgdon, conservation director of the national Sierra Club and fourth generation IU alum. “Indiana has a lot to gain by investing in cleaner energy sources and already more people are employed in the fast growing wind industry in the state than in coal mining.”
Last year, Coal Free IU was responsible for securing a grant to install the first-ever solar array on campus on top of the Indiana Memorial Union.
“The solar panels Coal Free IU helped install at the IMU are just an example of all the exciting clean energy technologies the university could be using," Anderson said. "For instance, we have many aging buildings on campus in desperate need of energy efficiency upgrades that would help move the university off coal power and save the school money. We hope to see the university take a comprehensive approach to solving the problem of burning coal on campus by utilizing a mix of clean energy options that will mean healthier air for students and show real, visionary leadership from the administration.”
Coal Free IU aims to get Indiana University to 100 percent clean energy as soon as possible.
“We know Indiana can be a clean energy leader for the nation and want to see that start right here on campus by moving beyond coal to exciting clean energy solutions that will mean Hoosiers can breathe easier,” Anderson said.
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