In a previous post we announced that Penn State had decided to move off coal. Below are more details on this environmental victory.
Pennsylvania State University students are roaring with happiness over the school’s decision to move the campus beyond coal. Urged by both Sierra Club’s Sierra Student Coalition (SSC) and Campuses Beyond Coal campaign, the Nittany Lions have announced they’re making a change for the better by getting off coal.
In 2009, anticipating tougher federal regulations on carbon emissions, the Penn State Board of Trustees began considering its options. When students learned that the Board was considering coal scrubbers, the SSC convened a rally on campus in conjunction with Pennsylvania Power Shift and marched around the university’s administration building. “The expense of adding scrubbers would have locked the school into coal dependence for years to come,” said national SSC organizer Kim Teplitzky.
The student activists also gathered more than 2,000 petition signatures, collected comment cards from fellow students and mailed them to the EPA, generated dozens of media hits, hosted rallies, built coalitions with faculty and alumni, and held several meetings with top administrators demanding the university end coal use on campus.
The West College Steam Plant has been powering 270 buildings since the 1920s, consuming 7,500 tons of coal and pumping 20,000 tons of carbon emissions into the air every year. Starting in 2011, the university plans to spend between $25 million and $35 million to convert the plant to burn natural gas. Although it is another fossil fuel, gas is cleaner-burning than coal or petroleum, releasing less CO2 and mercury into the air. Also, a life-cycle analysis of gas confirms that it uses less water than coal when producing electricity. Lastly, Penn State declared its switch to natural gas is considered transitional while it waits for a sound renewable energy option.
Penn State joins Western Kentucky University, University of Wisconsin at Madison and seven other universities that have committed to retiring their coal fleet due in part from the insistence of the SSC and Campuses Beyond Coal.
Go here for answers to commonly asked questions about Penn State's transition to natural gas.
Click here to learn more about other universities that are moving beyond coal.
(Photo: Students protest campus coal use in front of the West College Steam Plant. Courtesy of Kim Teplitzky.)