The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday December 1st

Town asks UNC to fast-track coal cuts

The towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro are looking to channel citizen concern for UNC’s energy practices into a shorter time line for reducing its coal consumption.

The Chapel Hill Town Council and the Carrboro Board of Aldermen are acting on a petition from a group of 25 residents requesting that the University eliminate its coal use by 2015, 35 years sooner than the University’s current deadline of 2050.

The Carrboro Board of Aldermen passed the petition as a resolution in Tuesday’s board meeting but did not plan for any future action.

UNC’s commitment to climate neutrality

In 2007, Chancellor James Moeser signed the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, an initiative calling campuses to model strategies to achieve climate neutrality as soon as possible and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050. The commitment asks signers to:

-Create an action plan, open to the public, for becoming
climate neutral with a target date and mechanisms to track progress on goals and actions.

-Conduct an inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions and update the inventory every other year.

Chapel Hill received the document a week ago and has referred it to town staff, Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said.

“There’s a lot to say about our community’s commitment to coal reduction,” he said. “We would like to continue to work together with the University like we have in the past to achieve a common goal.”

Olga Grlic, co-chairwoman of the Orange-Chatham Group of the Sierra Club and organizer of the petition presented to Chapel Hill, said the group is looking to gain more community support before seeking a response from Chancellor Holden Thorp.

Grlic, who works in UNC’s Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, lives less than a mile from the Cogeneration Facility on Cameron Avenue, which uses coal and other energy sources to power UNC.

“We are also approaching both Orange and Chatham counties to help push the date forward,” she said. “There is no time to burn coal any more, not just nationally but locally.”

Grlic said that while the University has already made significant progress in its sustainability efforts through measures like appropriating hot and cold air flow in residence halls and installing proper insulation and solar panels, it still has work to do in reducing its carbon footprint.

She said the most immediate solution is to use more natural gas, which has almost 50 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than coal.

Giles Blunden, a local architect who organized the Carrboro petition, said the Cogeneration Facility creates 320,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.

“Medical research has yielded compelling evidence that toxic chemicals, including mercury, arsenic, lead and particulate matter emitted by coal-fired plants can adversely affect human health,” Blunden said at Tuesday’s meeting.

Petitioners calling for shortening the coal reduction time line said they expect cooperation from the school.

“The chancellor I think is taking it seriously,” Blunden said. “The coal plant is going to eventually run out.”

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