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Letter to the Editor: Student raises concern about WE Energies report

Jonathan Roberts, Students Allied for a Green Earth (SAGE) Co-President

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On March 5, residents of Oak Creek woke up to black dust covering their homes, cars and the neighborhood playground. Many already knew that the culprit was the coal-fired power plant less than a mile south. Three days later, independent testing done by Aspen Consulting confirmed this assumption.

The Oak Creek Power Plant co-owned by We Energies, Madison Gas & Electric and WPPI has showered surrounding neighborhoods with toxic coal dust, and it isn’t the first time. Another report was released on Monday, March 26 stating that for the second time in March, coal dust was found yet again covering homes, cars, and the same playground just north of the power plant.

We Energies is the predominant owner of the Oak Creek Power Plant and responded after the first occurrence on March 5 by saying, “This event was a rare occurrence. However, we are re-evaluating our operating procedures and will be making modifications to ensure this never happens again.” Despite their claims, just twenty days later the coal dust continues, with harsh consequences.

There is no safe level of coal dust exposure. Breathing in toxic coal dust that contains lead, mercury and arsenic causes adverse health effects such as chronic respiratory issues and asthma. The inhalation of the dust is also linked to increased hospital emissions and increased mortality from cardiovascular and, respiratory diseases and from lung cancer.

This is a human health issue as much as it is an environmental issue. Young people, like students at UW-Whitewater, know that burning fossil fuels, such as coal, makes us sick and is responsible for one-third of US carbon emissions, which is the main contributor to climate disruption.

Young people will continue to face more threats from climate disruption. The EPA states, “A warming climate will bring changes that can affect our water supplies, agriculture, power and transportation systems, the natural environment, and even our own health and safety.” This is the truth behind our fossil fuel dependent society, and UW-Whitewater is not apart from the problem.

UW-Whitewater purchases its energy from We Energies. The dirty energy we use is impacting the people of Oak Creek, as well as contributing to the global climate crisis. We as a university have an opportunity to be a leader in our society’s transition to an economy free of fossil fuels. We can choose to transition to just localized and clean energy. Providing job opportunities and better health to our peers.

Students at UW-W are working on a nationwide campaign called “Seize the Grid.”  And have already obtained 500 signatures in support of the goal for our campus to transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. We urge our administration to sign on to carbon neutrality commitments; to start this conversation on campus and actively work towards a reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions. As students representing ourselves and future generations, we want to see UW-Whitewater tackle the challenges of our fossil fuel dependence head-on. To get involved – contact [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “Letter to the Editor: Student raises concern about WE Energies report”

  1. Abby Luther Gabby Gregorip Leah Koppelmann Tanner VanDrisse Avery Hafer and Mitch Kroening on April 9th, 2018 10:08 pm

    The University of Wisconsin – Whitewater
    Tobacco-Free Campus Policy

    Purpose
    The purpose of proposing this policy on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus is to prevent tobacco use and to support those who are attempting to quit and/or maintain a tobacco-free lifestyle, as well as reducing the environmental impact tobacco use causes by establishing a tobacco-free campus.

    Scope
    This policy would apply to students, faculty, staff, clients, contractors, and all visitors on the UW-Whitewater campus grounds during and after normal hours of operation and business.

    Background
    The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater supports the findings of the Surgeon General that tobacco use in any form is a significant health hazard, both to the user of the product, others around them, as well as their environment.

    The American College Health Association as adopted a NO TOBACCO USE policy and encourages colleges and universities such as UW-Whitewater to work to achieve a 100% campus-wide tobacco-free environment.

    Due to the health risks and recommendations, UW-Whitewater is looking to establish a 100% tobacco-free campus policy.

    Dear Editor,

    Earth Day is on Sunday, April 22nd and is a day that various events are held to show support for protection of the environment. There are many ways that we can help our Earth and health and one way to start is to make the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater a 100% tobacco-free campus.

    Worldwide, about 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are littered each year, which classifies them as the most littered item on Earth. Additionally, cities annually spend approximately three to sixteen million dollars on cigarette clean-up. Smoke and tobacco-free policies on college campuses reduce this litter and risk of fire on campuses, as well as cut down on maintenance costs.

    Tobacco-free policies are a growing trend on college campuses across the United States. There are currently almost 500 colleges and universities across the country that are 100% tobacco-free, and more join the list every year. As Health Communication students at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, we are advocating to join the growing list of tobacco-free campuses. There is an abundance of evidence that shows that going tobacco-free is beneficial to both our health and the health of our environment.

    Growing tobacco and its production, as well as the surrounding marketing and consumption of tobacco products, has devastating effects on not only our health, but also our environment. Cultivating tobacco requires deforestation and the utilization of harsh chemicals. Not to mention the fact that the waste from its production is toxic and the disposal of its packaging and cigarette butts pollute the Earth’s fragile ecosystems on which we depend.

    By converting to a 100% tobacco-free campus, the members of the Whitewater community as well as UW-Whitewater students and staff members will enjoy a toxin-free learning and working environment. We ask for your consideration at this time to alter UW-Whitewater to a tobacco free campus so we can ensure this positive change to the environment.

    Thank you for your time, and we look forward to seeing how these changes will positively affect the environment of the UW-Whitewater campus and Whitewater community.

    Sincerely,

    Abby Luther,
    Gabby Gregorio,
    Leah Koppelmann,
    Tanner VanDrisse,
    Avery Hafer &
    Mitch Kroening

    Corporate & Health Communication Seniors at UW-Whitewater

    [Reply]

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Letter to the Editor: Student raises concern about WE Energies report