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Q&A with environmental policy professor Pete Andrews

	Pete Andrews has taught environmental policy at the University since 1972. He is a professor in UNC’s department of public policy.

Pete Andrews has taught environmental policy at the University since 1972. He is a professor in UNC’s department of public policy.

Professor Pete Andrews has taught environmental policy at UNC since 1972.

Staff writer Randy Short sat down with Andrews to discuss his thoughts on the Beyond Coal campaign, which calls for UNC to divest its endowment from the coal industry. In a Feb. 12 referendum vote, 77 percent of student voters supported divesting some of the endowment.

Daily Tar Heel: What harmful effects does coal mining have on the environment?

Pete Andrews: It used to be mined with deep-mining methods, but in recent years it’s come much more from surface mining, which essentially takes the top off mountains and ridges and so forth and deposits a lot of the overburden in the valleys, which is pretty hard on the environment, as well as on a number of communities.

DTH: Do you know how much coal the plant at UNC burns every year?

PA: The plant at UNC is a more specific issue — I can’t tell you that off the top of my head — but that’s easily discoverable for the University.

I served on a task force several years ago established by the chancellor to advise him on whether UNC should reduce or eliminate the use of coal in its own power plant, and the committee recommended that it do so. Chancellor (Holden) Thorp adopted a goal of UNC getting off the use of coal by 2020.

Whether we can do that or not is a question they’re still working on. They’ve been trying to do test burns of alternative fuels or alternative fuel mixes.

DTH: What factors did you look at as part of that task force?

PA: The question that coal has the environmental and social effects that we’re talking about were the major considerations.

It was discovered in the process of that task force’s work that a great deal of the coal that UNC was using was in fact from strip mine sources — mountaintop removal mining as it’s called — despite claims to the contrary … by the suppliers.

The University had not been aware of the way they were sort of redescribing this in ways that made it less obvious that that was what was happening.

These were factors in it, as well as the belief that UNC could at least attempt to find alternate fuels. I believe the UNC power managers told us that basically for technical reasons they need 50 percent of some kind of a solid fuel as part of what gets burned there, so they’ve been trying to find a source of what’s called torrefied wood as an alternative.

DTH: Would divestment benefit any efforts to move toward sustainable energy alternatives?

PA: I would love to see the University seriously investigate whether they could solve the legal problems involved in developing more actual renewable energy capacity on their own campuses.

That’s probably a separate issue from the endowment unless there were attractive investment opportunities within the kind of range of investments the endowment is allowed to make.

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