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February 08, 2011

Scrapping of Purdue Boiler Marks 150th Canceled Coal Plant

Purdue-Beyond-Coal

When Purdue University announced on February 3 that it was canceling plans for a new campus coal plant, the significance reverberated far beyond the university and the town of West Lafayette, Indiana. The nixing of the Purdue plant marked the 150th coal plant to be defeated or abandoned since the beginning of the "coal rush" in 2001.

150-Moving-Beyond-Coal 

The Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign is largely responsible for the fact that no new coal plants have started construction in the United States in the last two years, during which time the coal industry has announced the phase-out of more than 50 plants. That's Purdue alum Gerry Van Horn below, speaking out against the new plant.

Purdue-alum-Gerry-VanHorn 

The Sierra Student Coalition, a key player in the Purdue fight, received an extra measure of satisfaction when the university's Board of Trustees announced that they were instead approving the leasing of land for a new wind turbine farm.

Alexis Boxer, Sierra Student Coalition organizer with the Campuses Against Coal campaign, has been working since last spring with Purdue students, faculty, and West Lafayette community members activists to challenge the administration's decision to install a new coal boiler on their existing on-campus coal plant, below.

Wade-Power-Plant

"We found out at the last minute that Purdue had received an air permit for a new coal boiler that was set to be installed this winter," she says, "so we kicked into action through grassroots student pressure, litigation, and coalition-building to stop its construction."

Purdue was poised to be the only school in the country moving forward with investments and technology to support the burning of more coal while other major schools are transitioning to cleaner energy alternatives. Below, a warning sign at the Ward Plant on the Purdue campus.

Warning-at-Ward-Plant

"This was a huge effort that included protests, rallies, online days of action, and networking throughout the community and the university—as well as our fight over their air permit, which was set to be a drawn-out battle," Boxer says. "It's a great day when the Sierra Club can say they dissuaded the Boilermakers from making a boiler!"

When the coal rush began a decade ago, more than 150 new coal plants were slated for construction. Now, most of these projects have been defeated or abandoned due to grassroots pressure, escalating costs, and new EPA cleanup requirements.

"The way people, businesses, governments, and schools think about energy has shifted," says Beyond Coal Director Mary Anne Hitt, below with daughter Hazel Marie. "The dirty status quo is no longer acceptable."

Mary-Anne-Hitt

Even so, the coal and oil industries are working with their allies in Congress to weaken the Clean Air Act. Take action by urging your representative to protect the health and welfare of Americans like Hazel Marie.

And if you have a celebratory photo like the one above that you'd like to share, by all means upload it to the Sierra Club's 150 Coal Plant Victories! Flickr set.

I-Heart-Clean-Air 

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