Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA: Bloomsburg University held a Coal Teach-in entitled ‘Re-Energize BU’ Thursday discussing mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia and what is being done to move Pennsylvania to a future free of coal power. The event, a joint effort by students, faculty and staff, comes amidst a growing awareness of the public health and environmental impacts of coal at BU and across the country.
Among the teach-in presenters was Kim Teplitzky, leader of the national Campuses Beyond Coal campaign for the Sierra Student Coalition and Sierra Club and Tiffany Hick, an outreach coordinator at PennFuture and leader of the “Breath Easy; Live Better” campaign. Along with Eli Tome, a sophomore and student leader of H.O.P.E. and BU Beyond Coal who had recently toured and spoke with Larry Gibson, a well-known mountain top removal mining activist from West Virgina, who shared his story about the devastation mountain top removal mining had caused his town.
“It’s very simple – the pollution from coal plants causes 24,000 deaths per year in our country . Coal is killing people. Young women have to worry about the mercury from coal causing birth defects in their unborn children, people in Appalachia can’t drink their water and here in Pennsylvania communities are sick from the pollution caused by coal waste disposal,” said Gibson.
“We’re fighting for the people who haven’t yet been born as well as the young and old who are hurt by the air and water pollution from coal. It’s time for people to stand up, here at Bloomsburg and in communities everywhere. This is a time to hold our ground and demand change”
Bloomsburg students are one of more than 30 groups on campuses across the country urging their universities to move beyond coal to clean energy solutions. They are asking the university to transition the central heating plant completely off coal as soon as possible with a comprehensive plan to transition to clean, renewable energy.
“We need our universities to lead the way by investing in innovative clean energy solutions that grow our local economies and develop young leaders in these fields,” said Kim Teplitzky, Campuses Beyond Coal Representative from the Sierra Student Coalition.
“Already a dozen campuses have committed to stop burning dirty, dangerous coal on campus and now students at Bloomsburg are asking their school to take a lead and switch to clean energy for Pennsylvania.”
Last November the university switched part of the plant to biomass reducing their on-campus coal consumption by about 50%. Students recognize this is a step in the right direction, but want the university to finish the job.
“I would never settle for 50% on a test in class, so why settle with a partial transition off of coal? We can do better,” said Monique Harmon, a leader of H.O.P.E. to President Soltz in a meeting earlier this semester.
Student leaders for H.O.P.E. and the BU Beyond Coal campaign met with President Soltz to ask Bloomsburg University to join the ranks of forward-thinking schools that are making this transition nationwide. Just last month Penn State publicly announced their commitment to moving beyond coal. Soltz was supportive of the idea and said he would look into it, scheduling another meeting with students for March 28th where students hope to get a firm commitment with a clear and rapid timetable for the transition.
“It was very encouraging to meet with President Soltz last Wednesday and know our president shares a similar vision for our university. We look forward to working with him to move BU beyond coal to real clean energy solutions, said Tome.