On May 11, 2012 the Purdue University Board of Trustees approved funding for the departure of two old coal-fired boilers at the campus steam plant. The steam plant has been releasing emissions of dangerous toxins like arsenic, lead and mercury into the air.
Thirty three million dollars was approved by the board to convert the coal-fired boilers to natural gas. This leaves one boiler burning coal, when, as of two years ago, there were plans to build another. “This is a significant shift for the university who, only two years ago, was considering building a new coal capacity for the plant,” Janice Ringler, President of the Purdue Sierra Coalition, said. “However, it fails to engage the talent and knowledge of the Lafayette community and our own research centers in finding sustainable long-term solutions for the campus.”
Some students feel the university is still not willing to invest in a real tangible plan that offers energy efficient solutions. The university offered a response to community members after more than 1,000 comments on the current plan had been issued, and they made little mention of any investment or plant to invest in renewable energy.
“Burning coal on campus contributes to dangerous air pollution here in Indiana. We’re glad the school is moving away from coal, but we know natural gas isn’t a healthy long-term solution for a university that is supposed to be a leader in engineering and innovation,” Ringler said.
When discussions about a new coal boiler happened two years ago, students and community members rallied together and stopped the proposed plant.
During the 2011 fall semester a drafted energy plan was rejected by the Purdue Student Government for lack of evidence that the school would not still be relying heavily on coal. To supervise long-term sustainability planning for Purdue a new committee of students and faculty was forged. A campaign for a green revolving loan fund that will pay for energy efficiency projects at Purdue was recently won by the newly formed committee.
If the Boilermakers ever get away from coal-fired boilers, they may think about changing their mascot.