Students Refusing Coal-Funded and Coal-Powered Buildings

At the University of Kentucky, students are fighting back against Alliance Coal's sponsorship of a new dorm for basketball players.

MSNBC reports that the $7 million dorm will be called the "Wildcat Coal Lodge," though it will be powered to at least some extent by green energy. According to the school, it will also meet LEED standards, though it is unclear which level of certification. But that doesn't appease students: At a Board of Trustees meeting, the vote was 16 to three in favor of naming the building after coal, but a small group of  student protesters (about 30, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader) gathered to make their objections known before being asked to leave by board members. The three votes against the lodge came from Ernest Yanarella, a faculty representative; Robynn Pease, the staff
representative; and Ryan M. Smith, the student representative.

UK's students are part of a growing movement targeted specifically against coal, which is still cheaper than many renewable options, but levies its own taxes on the climate and to mining regions' land, water, and communities.(It's Getting Hot in Here frequently covers student-led campaigns against coal mining in Appalachia.)

It's these externalized costs on health and living ecosystems that are the primary reason for protest. A recent National Research Council report notes that "In
2005, the total annual external damages from sulfur dioxide, nitrogen
oxides, and particulate matter created by burning coal at 406
coal-fired power plants, which produce 95 percent of the nation’s
coal-generated electricity, were about $62 billion; these nonclimate
average about 3.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour (kwh) of energy
produced.  A relatively small number of plants—10 percent of the total number—accounted for 43 percent of the damages" (emphasis added). The climate damages, of course, are well-documented elsewhere.

The Leadership Campaign, which had some students in Massachusetts sleeping outdoors between late October and Thanksgiving, also takes a stand on coal and climate. Students for a Just and Stable Future (formerly known as Power Shift Massachusetts), along with Jim Hansen and Bill McKibben, who each spent a night with the protestors, have been receiving citations (misdemeanor trespassing charges) for sleeping in tents on the Boston Commons, trying to convince legislators to pass a bill to power Massachusetts with 100 percent clean electricity by 2020. So far, more than 20 of the 200 state legislators have agreed to sign on to a letter asking Governor Patrick to introduce such a bill. Students at Western
Massachusetts U., Clark
U., Tufts
and Northeastern also "slept out" on their campuses to register their support.