As some readers know, I am affiliated with the University of Virginia (U.Va.). U.Va. has been heated with coal for a very long time and, according to a recent request for proposals, anticipates using 34,000 tons of coal per year for coal-fired heat plants at U.Va. to “provide critical services affecting approximately 85% of the facilities on Grounds including the Hospital, research facilities, academic building and resident halls” (U.Va. Procurement Services, 2011, p. 4). I am hoping that my employer will join other institutions of higher education and move beyond using coal as a source of energy for heating.
Students and others at U.Va. are raising concerns about U.Va.’s use of coal. In October of 2011, some folks organized an event dubbed “Camp Out for Clean Energy” that echoed an event a year earlier conducted by an ad hoc U.Va. group called “UVa Beyond Coal” (Welch. 2010). According to Kurt Walters (2011) of Cvilletomorrow in “University under fire for use of coal,” the more recent event “featured up to 70 students and community members coming to sign petitions to university President Teresa A. Sullivan, listening to live music and hearing an address by John Cruickshank, chairman of the Sierra Club’s Virginia chapter.”
It’s good to see these current actions, but the issues are not new. Concerns about the effects of U.Va.’s burning of coal were raised in the early 2000s. As reported by Lee Graves (2002) in “U.Va., DEQ share same goal — an efficient, effective heating plant,” U.Va. sought to address problems with pollution emissions from the heating plants in 2001-2 when local officials raised questions about the health effects of operating a coal-burning plant in an urban area. For more on the earlier flare, see Lisa Provence’s (2002) report for The Hook.
There are a host of reasons that using coal for energy generates problems—from harm done by some mining practices through pollution from the burning itself to the waste from the combustion. To be sure, there are reasons using coal is advantageous, and one must weigh the costs and benefits. I consider the costs too great in this case, and I hope that U.Va. will agree with that calculation, so I’m endorsing the Campuses Beyond Coal effort. I encourage my colleagues to do so, as well.
Simply download the accompanying PDF of Campuses Beyond Coal’s faculty endorsement form, complete it, and send it to a local Campuses Beyond Coal representative. There are two pages to this form. One is a general endorsement form and the second is for faculty members. Use the appropriate one for your situation.
Graves, L. (2002) U.Va., DEQ share same goal — an efficient, effective heating plant
Provence, L. (2002, 21 March). Coal truth at UVA. The Hook.
U.Va. Procurement Services. (2011, 22 February). Request for Proposal: Coal (RFP Number: #JG022211). Charlottesville, VA.
Walters, K. (2011, 28 October). University under fire for use of coal. Cvilletomorrow.
Welch, G. (2010, 8 October). ‘Beyond Coal’ gathers supporters. Cavalier Daily.