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March 31, 2011

Victory Against Coal at Ohio University

OU students 
Students at Ohio University are celebrating the school's announcement this week of a promise to not consider coal as an energy source for a new campus heating plant.

This is the culmination of a two-year campaign that was jump-started by local organizer Christina Liakos (pictured above) and worked with the school's Sierra Student Coalition chapter (OU Beyond Coal).

"I am proud of my Alma Mater," said Badger Johnson (pictured below), a student organizer with OU Beyond Coal. "Now that our school has ruled out coal, the next step needs to be to invest in truly clean energy that has potential to create jobs in Athens - something I'm very interested in as a graduating senior."

Badger johnson 
Over the course of the campaign, well over 2,000 students signed a petition urging OU to move beyond coal - which is more than 10% of the entire student body.

The school had signed the Presidents Climate Commitment back in 2007, but did not act on it for three years. In 2009, President Roderick McDavis met with students, only to once more sit on his commitment without taking any action. 

Finally, in late 2010, students asked the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to intervene. We did so by gently pointing out to the university that their coal plant was in direct violation of the Clean Air Act, and that the best way to remove any legal liability would be to commit to moving beyond coal (see the letter here- PDF)

OU group 
L to R: Brandon LaBonte, Shannon Fisk, Nachy Kanfer, Badger Johnson, Camille Scott, and Greg O'Hearn.

Spurred by our letter, OU agreed to hold a high-level meeting with Sierra Club and NRDC reps, and OU students on March 7 - attended by their CFO, Associate VP of Facilities, two attorneys, and Executive Director of Facilities Management.

Then this great news came down this week! 

While Bobcats and all clean energy supporters are cheering the decision, the fight is not yet over.

Ohio University has committed not to replace the Lausche Heating Plant with more coal, but hasn't figured out yet exactly what they're going to do instead. The Sierra Club and students with OU Beyond Coal will remain engaged for the rest of the year and beyond, making sure that OU prioritizes the cheapest, cleanest and most reliable energy sources of all: energy efficiency and renewables. 

OU student 
But for now, celebrate the good news. Coal's increasing costs and dangerous pollution, coal failed both the economic and the environmental test for the school. OU leadership made a choice that will positively affect students' health and tuition payments. 

-- Co-written by Nachy Kanfer and Heather Moyer

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