Smile Politely

“Beyond Coal” Campaign

Parker Laubach
Lead Organizer, Students for Environmental Concerns
[email protected]

Students for Environmental Concerns and Sierra Club Announce “Beyond Coal” Campaign in Front of Abbott Power Plant

Representatives from the organizations Students for Environmental Concerns, Sierra Club and Prairie Rivers Network held a press conference this morning to kick off the “Beyond Coal Campaign” in front of Abbott Power Plant on the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign campus. Students for Environmental Concerns, the oldest environmental organization on campus, organized the coalition and hosted the press conference. Members of SECS delivered a Freedom of Information Act Request to University administrators regarding operations at Abbott. The event was to announce the beginning of a statewide partnership to lobby the University to make the transition from burning mostly coal at Abbott to burning natural gas.

The coal systems at Abbott power plant date back to the 1930s, and require extremely high levels of investment to keep operating reliably―The University of Illinois Energy Task Force commissioned a report that anticipated a need of approximately $205 million over the next 15 years, mostly needed for the coal system. Abandoning coal use would allow this money to be used to retire the campus energy debt, fund aggressive energy conservation, and install renewable energy.

Students for Environmental Concerns’ lead coal organizer Parker Laubach said, “It makes no sense for the University to shovel money into the coal boilers when it has made a commitment to climate neutrality. Schools across the country, like UW-Madison, Cornell and Stanford have committed to stop burning coal―it is past time for us to show leadership here.”

“The economic case for ending coal burning at Abbott is abundantly clear as the deferred maintenance costs are so high.” says Students for Environmental Concerns’ President, Anthony Larson, “This case can be made without even discussing the climate impact.”

These maintenance costs are an opportunity for the University to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability by breaking its reliance on coal. Recent events show that sustainability is important to Illinois students. Last week, a referendum to raise the campus green fees passed last week with 77% of the student vote.

Transitioning to natural gas at Abbott is an important step in cutting the University’s carbon footprint, will avert hundreds of millions in maintenance costs at the power plant, and is necessary in order to meet the University’s goal of being carbon neutral by 2050.

More Articles