This Summer, one decision can determine UGA's energy future

For four years the students of UGA Beyond Coal have pushed the Administration to retire the aging campus coal boiler in favor of clean energy solutions. They’ve garnered support from over 5,000 students, 150 faculty members and 200 community groups and have been continually met with opposition from outgoing President Adams. 

This summer, one decision could determine the fate of UGA’s energy future. The boiler’s Title V Operating Permit is up for renewal and the Georgia Environmental Protection Department holds the power to reissue the permit.

UGA Beyond Coal and the local Sierra Club acted quickly to organize students, alumni and community members to push the EPD on two fronts. Over fifty people wrote individual letters to the director of Georgia EPD demanding a voice in the permitting process through a public hearing this summer. And hundreds more submitted comments urging the EPD to only re-grant the permit with a clear and timely path to retirement.

The response from Georgia EPD was immediate and promising. Because of the outpouring of comments to Georgia EPD, local residents will likely have the opportunity to participate in a public hearing as soon as mid-July.

Public hearings this summer are only the first of many important landmarks that can mark the way this fall to phasing out coal use for good at UGA.  School administrators took an important first step calling for studies of alternatives to coal, and extending the life for this dirty coal boiler doesn't fit into that plan.

Coal is expensive and unhealthy, and UGA's continued coal use affects all Athens residents. The Georgia EPD and UGA Administration must lead now to get UGA off of coal and prioritize a clean energy future for the very leaders UGA is educating today.