Student Government Association
Ross Cohen, President
014 Nelson Hall
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point
Recommendation for responsible coal purchasing policy goes to UW Regents and the WI DOA
STEVENS POINT, WI – On Sunday, February 11, students from the UW System unanimously voted in favor of a resolution to ask the Board of Regents to re-think their coal purchasing policy which expires June 2007.
Representatives of the University of Wisconsin campuses, Stevens Point, La Crosse and Eau Claire, introduced the resolution to the United Council of UW Student’s general assembly, asking students around the UW System to endorse the legislation. Students passed this resolution hoping the Board of Regents and the Department of Administration (DOA) will take the issue seriously and reconsider their current purchasing policy.
For three years, the UW System has been tied to a contract with Alpha and Massey Energy, two large mining companies known for their poor history of repeat violations. “Currently the coal powering the UW System is surface mined in Kentucky where the company’s practices have been found to adversely impact the public and environmental health for citizens in Kentucky,” according to University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP) alumna Lauren McGrath.
Ross Cohen, Student Government Association President for UWSP, says “the mines where the UW System purchases their coal are owned by two companies with some of the worst track records out there. They are known for their irresponsible practices and consistent violations.”
The UW students voted for this legislation because they see this as an opportunity to take the state’s renewable energy commitment to a new level. According to McGrath, “This is about environmental justice and finding the solutions to create a just energy future. Students have the choice to purchase coal that does not threaten the public health for families in Kentucky.”
Kevin Pentz, who works for Kentuckians for the Common Wealth in Kentucky noted, “In just one of the mines where the UW System buys their coal, Massey has a coal prep plant there where coal sludge has polluted the Big Sandy River with black water releases regularly. The prep plant is right next to a school and local citizens there have talked about how bad the coal dust is in the school because of the prep plant.”
The resolution passed by UW students asks the Board of Regents and the DOA to negotiate with coal companies that can provide coal that is deep mined by a unionized labor force. The legislation asks that before signing a coal purchasing contract, a company’s history of violations be taken into consideration as well. A statement issued by McGrath and Cohen states, “The ultimate objective is to eventually plug the UW System into a post-carbon, renewable energy source. However, realistically we are far from that. For now, there needs to be a unified effort in the UW System to increase energy efficiency, implement conservation measures and a movement towards more renewable energy alternatives. The UW System student’s effort towards a sustainable energy future emphasizes ensuring the fossil fuels we do use currently are derived from the best practices and companies the UW System can identify.”
Cohen referenced the states initiatives in renewable energy by noting, “Governor Doyle has nominated four campuses to move off the grid by 2012. This purchasing policy is part of that vision for students. It is a priority to students that while in the transition to a more sustainable energy future, we need to start doing responsible purchasing of the fossil fuels now. There’s no easy answer, but if students can have a say in helping the public health of families in Kentucky and purchase more responsible forms of coal—we need to do it.”