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The Daily Tar Heel

The renewable energy student fee is up for renewal.

Students will determine whether to renew a $4 student fee used to fund environmental projects on campus — if Student Congress votes next week to place the referendum on the Feb. 10 ballot.

The fund raises almost $200000 a year for environmentally sustainable projects such as the solar panels on the roof of Morrison Residence Hall the use of biodiesel in P2P buses and geothermal wells under the N.C. Botanical Gardens.

Originally instituted in 2003 the fee was renewed in 2005 with 85 percent of the vote. The renewable energy special projects committee determines which projects to fund.

 Students gain a better understanding of environmental issues by putting their fees toward tangible projects on campus said Cindy Shea" director of the sustainability office.

""It helps people see firsthand benefits"" she said. It renews the message to students that we need to work quickly and aggressively to mitigate the effects of climate change.""

The rules and judiciary committee of Student Congress met Tuesday night and gave the fee initial approval. Next week" the full Congress will vote on whether the measure will appear on the ballot.

Student Body Vice President Todd Dalrymple said he thinks because the group is not requesting a fee increase" Congress will most likely approve the measure.

""There's no increase" so I don't anticipate a whole lot of resistance he said. If there was an increase" that might be a different story. I'd be pretty surprised if it didn't make it to the ballot.""

In addition to the fee renewal" the renewable projects committee is requesting a broader interpretation of its oversight and responsibility.

Currently the committee's primary purpose is to fund renewable energy projects but committee chairwoman Shannon Mentock said the group hopes to expand to cover energy efficiency projects" environmental education and general advocacy.

""We're collecting fees every year"" so to see more immediate results we want to include efficiency because it will give us cheaper short-term projects that will have a big impact.

""One of the biggest problems we've run into is that these projects take such a long time to be completed" she said.

The Morrison project took four years" so students who started it were gone by the time it was finished.""

Shea said the fee is a small price to pay for the benefits it produces.

""Students investing $4 a semester can help to stimulate markets for renewable energy technology and help  raise awareness about the benefits of reducing climate change.""

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