Breaking: Purdue University Cancels Coal Project Thanks To Student Pressure

Today, Purdue University students, community members, faculty, alumni and staff breathed a sigh of relief as the Board of Trustees voted to nix plans to build a new coal boiler on campus.  For nearly a year, a broad coalition including Campuses Beyond Coal fought the university’s plans to build a new coal boiler on campus, and today their hard work paid off. 

Prior to today’s cancellation, Purdue was the only university in the United States that still planned to expand its coal power plant.  While school officials touted the upgrade as “green”, students, activists and community members weren’t convinced.  They feared that University officials were keen to cling to the “coal is clean” myth while other universities were leading the shift to cleaner power sources. (The coal industry cooked up the “clean coal” myth and continues trying to convince the public through a $40 million astroturf advertising and PR campaign by organizations like the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity”.  But the public, especially young people, are seeing right through the industry’s propaganda.)

Purdue was initially hesitant to revisit its plans.  But effective grassroots organizers at the university and in the community hosted protests, rallies, and several events to convince the school to move away from its reliance on dirty coal.  

According to Kim Teplinksy, National Campaigner for the Sierra Student Coalition, this is a major victory for the campus and student activist community, but their work is far from complete.  The University is still burning coal on campus - one of 60 U.S. universities that still operates a coal plant.

Purdue has committed to the creation of an Energy Master Plan, but few specifics have emerged.  Teplinsky hopes the process will be open and transparent, and that the University will commit to investing in clean energy and becoming a leader on clean energy both in Indiana, and nationally.

Other universities have recently caught on to the move to nix dirty coal.  Campuses Beyond Coal has already encouraged eleven universities to kick the coal habit, including Penn State and Missouri University of Science and Technology, which has plans to build a geothermal system to power its campus.

Back in Indiana, the community is applauding Purdue for taking this first step, but the Sierra Student Coalition plans to continue advocating for clean energy solutions for the whole campus.  In the short term, the decision not to expand the coal plant will help campus residents breath a little easier -  there will be less SO2, mercury and particulate matter in the atmosphere that would have resulted from the coal pant expansion.  Hopefully Purdue will continue moving away from coal and towards a clean energy future.