The postcards — written by members of the Madison community — urged Wiley to revamp the coal-powered Charter Street power plant that currently supplies heat for the UW campus.
Jennifer Feyerherm, director of the Sierra Club's Wisconsin Clean Energy campaign said community members are pushing for UW to work with the state of Wisconsin and Madison Gas & Electric to investigate replacing three downtown coal-powered plants with one natural-gas-fueled cogeneration plant.
According to a Sierra Club press release, cogeneration combines heat and power production, doubling energy efficiency while reducing emissions of soot, smog, mercury and other global-warming pollution.
Feyerherm said the Charter Street power plant is a detriment to the community's health because it produces toxins that increase the risk of global warming.
Ingesting soot from the coal power plant, Feyerherm said, increases people's risk of heart attacks, asthma and mercury buildup.
"Global warming is the most pressing issue of our time," said Susie Levy, UW senior and intern for the Sierra Club Midwest Regional Office.
Levy added that it is contradictory for a university like UW, where professors conduct the latest research on global warming, to have a power plant that is not environmentally efficient.
Other critics debated how the coal plant affected Madison's image.
Laurie Maloney, a representative from the environmental group Clean Wisconsin, said Madison's use of a coal power plant is contradictory to its "progressive" image.
Levy said the Sierra Club wants Wiley to include an environmentally safe power plant, similar to the one on Madison's west side, in the "master plan" for the future of UW.
Feyerherm said Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz signed the U.S. Mayor's Climate Protection Agreement, which requires the city to address of global warming issues.
However, since UW makes up a significant percentage of Madison, Feyerherm said, it is virtually impossible to be environmentally friendly in Madison with the Charter Street power plant operating.
"We need the university to take action," Feyerherm said. "UW-Madison is the flagship of the UW System and should lead by example."
Sierra Club volunteer Seth Nowak said implementing a renewable-energy policy at UW is not just the responsibility of the administration, but the students as well.
Mike Dattner, president of Collegians for a Constructive Tomorrow, a conservative environmental group, said in an e-mail to The Badger Herald that environmental pollution and global warming are in no way related.
Dattner said the best way to combat pollution is with human innovation, new technologies and sound science.
"By … regulating energy use, all we are doing is stifling human innovation," Dattner said. "In the long run, that is all that can help the environment."
Dattner added that CFACT is pro-nuclear power because it is inexpensive and environmentally safe.