Beyond Coal Unveils Energy Proposal For Administration

2 04 2010

Supporters of Virginia Tech’s Beyond Coal Campaign assembled on the Drillfield yesterday to present the university administration with the “Hokies’ Declaration of Coal Independence.”

The declaration, a poster-sized document with almost 2,000 signatures, was carried from the Drillfield to President Charles Steger’s office by a large group of supporters after the event.

Members of the Beyond Coal Campaign will meet with Sherwood Wilson, vice president of administrative services, Friday to discuss moving Tech away from coal. However, no administrators were present at the declaration event yesterday.

Beyond Coal has pressed to see Tech move away from coal in a transition to cleaner fuels. Its aim is to have a coal-independent campus by 2020.

“Coal is an old fuel source,” said sophomore Kara Dodson, project coordinator for Beyond Coal. “We need clean energy sources for our university, for our state and for our nation.”

Senior mining engineering major Chris Noble said the goal is unrealistic.

“I support the ideals of being more environmentally friendly and to drop carbon emissions, but I don’t necessarily agree with the timeframe,” Noble said. “The idea of renewable energy will not be ready for sure by 2020, not on the scale that we need it.”

According to university spokesman Larry Hincker, Tech has not taken a position on the coal issue.

“The university will take a look at what the students are proposing, but the university does not have a stand on the issue,” Hincker said. “The key thing is for us and the students to understand the implications of what is being proposed.”

Among the speakers at the event was town councilman Don Langrehr.

“By continuing the reliance on coal we’re falling behind, and it causes two kinds of problems: financial and environmental,” Langrehr said.

He said as an older industry, coal is not providing as many new jobs as renewable energy sources could. He added burning coal has caused an increased rate of asthma and other respiratory problems.

Also attending the event was Jaclyn Catlett, a sophomore who lived in Thomas Hall last year. Thomas is located on the upper quad next to the power plant.

While living in Thomas, Catlett suffered severe health problems including tonsillitis and pharyngitis, and she was told by doctors at Schiffert Health Center that the problems were caused by exposure to coal dust from the plant.

“I lived there my first semester and got sick six or seven times. I got to the point where they put me on antibiotics for the whole semester,” Catlett said. “I missed most of my classes, because I was up all night because I couldn’t breathe.”

Catlett moved to Main Eggleston Hall during the second semester of her freshman year and has not had respiratory problems since.

She sent emails to the administration about her issue, but was told that there was not enough funding to provide filters or other equipment necessary to make the coal cleaner.

“I was really frustrated, I just felt like I kept getting shot down,” Catlett said.

Jackie Pontious, a former president of the Environmental Coalition who graduated in 2009, also spoke.

“We as students are having to educate our educators,” Pontious said. “Our motto is ‘Invent the Future.’

As students, we like to say ‘Invent the Right Future.’”

Article written by Claire Sanderson from the Collegiate Times. It can be found originally here.

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