About 100 Michigan State University students carried signs and chanted today outside the administration building. They want MSU trustees and President Lou Anna Simon to close the coal plant that’s been operating for decades on campus. The nation’s first land-grant college has many programs and courses of study about clean energy. But so far, officials have not set a date for converting to it 100%.
For several months, MSU Greenpeace and a group called MSU Beyond Coal have been organizing, gathering petitions and trying to pressure the university’s leaders to close the coal plant on the south end of campus. It was built in stages. First in1965. Its last modification was in 2006. The plant cranks out 61 megawatts of power for 500 buildings and 45,000 students. Talya Tavor is from Chicago. She’s now a senior in English focusing on environmental justice.
“MSU’s coal plant, the T.B. Simon coal fired power plant is the largest on-campus coal fired power plant in the entire nation. It burns about 220-250,000 tons per year. It’s about 600 tons a day. It’s a huge problem because it’s incredibly bad for our health.”
The pollution can cause asthma, heart disease and the death of fish. Even in the 1970’s, researchers had found that Midwestern car and steel factories spewed clouds that turned into acid rain in the Adirondacks of eastern New York. Talya Tavor says coal plant pollution travels near and far.
“Yeah it absolutely gets ingested here because coal releases things like mercury, arsenic, lead, selenium, cadmium, carbon monoxide, so2, Nox and we are all breathing that in because we’re standing about a mile away from it. But that doesn’t really make a difference because people 600 miles away are still breathing in that air because that’s how far it disperses.”
Tavor argues that energy efficiency could be wrung from dorms and academic buildings.
Under former Governor Granholm, by August of 2010, the eight coal plants that had been proposed were canceled, put on indefinite hold, or had been denied air pollution permits. But, the Snyder Administration appears coal friendly. It has given new life to coal plant projects in Holland, Bay City and Rogers City.