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Members of a young campus group declared Thursday night that the University of Wisconsin needs to take more responsibility in protecting the environment, starting with the Charter Street coal plant.
The Action for Environmental Justice warned a small group of students about the harmful effects using coal for energy has on the environment, saying the cost to the environment is larger than the monetary cost is to convert to a different fuel source.
UW senior and AEJ member Kristen Roewer said she wants to make sure UW does not just reestablish the use of coal at the Charter Street plant when it makes changes to comply with clean air regulations.
UW was ordered by a United States District Court last September to renovate the plant and upgrade the equipment after the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit because the plant violated clean air laws.
According to the ruling, UW has to produce a plan to clean up the plant by July.
“Coal is something that is on its way out, and we are hoping that Madison will be progressive and maybe set an example for the state of Wisconsin to start using a cleaner more reliable energy source,” Roewer said.
According to Roewer, the town hall meeting held by Madison in February allowed community members to weigh in on alternative fuels for the coal plants in Madison, including Charter Street, and it produced several interesting ideas.
“Obviously it’s not feasible to say to just stop using coal,” Roewer said. “We’re just hoping Madison will take a progressive approach.”
UW sophomore Boomer Bain said the main goal of the group is to make students aware of the problems with coal and UW’s reliance on it. He said AEJ wants students to hold the university responsible for caring for the environment.
He added he believes the biggest challenge will be convincing money-strapped college students a possible raise in tuition now to make the initial investment will change the plant and save many costs down the road.
“What this change would give us back in the future. … That pays for itself,” Bain said.
Roewer said AEJ differs from other campus conservation groups like UW’s We Conserve because it focuses on holding the university responsible while We Conserve focuses more on spreading good conservation practices to students.
UW freshman Natalia Washington said it is important students make it known to the university that it is being held accountable for its actions.
“We have to make sure we’re showing the university we won’t stand for these sorts of things,” Washington said.