Ohio University is moving away from using coal as a heating source, and several groups on campus say that's a good news.
Administrators said coal is not in the running as the energy source for a new heating plant by 2016, according to a news release from the Sierra Club, an anti-coal group. Right now, OU heats its buildings with coal burned at the Lausche Heating Plant.
According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, the plant on Factory Street emitted more than 80 tons of carbon monoxide last year.
Anti-Coal Group on Campus Part of the Decision
OU Beyond Coal was launched a few years ago after the Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" campaign started. The group had talks with university administrators to guarantee a coal-free future.
"The entire group did a bit of celebrating because we had been working very hard," says Camille Scott, a member of OU Beyond Coal. "A few weeks prior, we had met with the administrators to reach out to them to discuss how we can be involved in this process, and we didn't find them to be as willing at the time as we had hoped. We came away from that a little bit downtrodden... (and then) we got an email from (OU President Roderick McDavis) saying, 'Sure, we'll go off coal.'"
The Next Energy Source
"We don't have anything set in stone," Scott says. "The university is forming a committee to meet with all sorts of different engineers and consultants to go over every possible energy source -- except for coal -- and do a complete comprehensive analysis... to find out what would be best for the university."
Scott says she hopes to be part of a new committee to decide on a new energy source.
Natural gas will certainly be an option, says Scott. However, she hopes the university will shy away from it because it's "another very dirty energy."
Heating Plant Looms Above OU Track
"It can't be good," track and field coach Clay Calkins says. "That's a poison. Anytime you have poor air quality, it's going to affect the performance of an athlete."
The 44-year-old factory is right across the street from the OU track, where student athletes run.
"When we're coming out here practicing every day, we can smell and taste the chemicals coming from the factory," track and field captain Kristi Sturges says. "Our team is pretty glad to hear that they're doing something to try to clean up the factory. Something really needs to be done, and I really hope it works."
The Cost of Coal
The Sierra Club says the Lausche Heating Plant "lacks modern pollution controls for dangerous soot, smog, mercury, and hydrochloric acids. These toxic chemicals contribute to asthma, respiratory disease, heart problems, cancer, and premature death in the Athens community."
In 2009, the Ohio EPA fined the university more than $67,000 for its emissions.
"OU leadership has made a choice that will positively affect students' health and tuition payments," says Nachy Kanfer, Midwest Representative for the Sierra Club's "Beyond Coal" campaign, in a press release. "Because of coal's increasing costs and dangerous pollution, coal failed both the economic and the environmental test for the school."
Miami University Also Axing Coal
Days after OU made its announcement, Miami University said it will phase out coal use.
However, Miami's target date for getting rid of coal is a bit later than OU's -- 2025, according to the Miami Student.
Junior Christian Adams, events coordinator for Beyond Coal, said the organization really hopes the 2025 date is the maximum date and the university aggressively pursues a quicker transition from coal.
"Beyond Coal is very excited about the sunset date since we have really been lobbying for it," Adams said. "We are curious to see the 2025 date play out. We personally feel the university could make the conversion by 2020, which would show a stronger commitment to sustainability. It is definitely a huge step with putting the date in there, but we look forward to promoting and prioritizing a quicker transition for Miami."