Not every Cats fan is a ‘friend of coal’

As a youngster growing up in rural Kentucky, the UK basketball program was everything. My first memories involve watching basketball games with my father. I had the privilege of being a young boy during the late 1990s, and watching the great teams with Jamal Mashburn, Cameron Mills, Jeff Sheppard and Heshimu Evans.

Patrick Johnson

I remember very distinctly crying after the Cats were beat in the 1999 Regional Final by Michigan State because I thought that UK was supposed to be in the National Championship game every season. The joy of watching UK basketball is something that can be agreed upon throughout our great state. Regardless of sex, race, political affiliation or religious beliefs, a UK victory is cherished by all.

It is forever engrained in our culture, and will continue to bring people together that would not have any reason otherwise to communicate. Some of the greatest friendships have been developed as a result of celebrating a good win, and the team brings great national and even international exposure to our state. I will bleed blue for the rest of my life, and my children and grandchildren will have no choice but to do the same.

Because of this deep reverence for the university and its teams, I want UK to be the best in every area — both on and off the court.

That’s why I, and many students on campus, have been urging the university to ramp up its investments in clean energy options that will mean cleaner air for Kentuckians and make UK a leader in the SEC. Already many of our peer institutions, including Clemson and North Carolina, have committed to stop burning coal on campus because it poses real health threats to students and the surrounding communities.

In Lexington, the university is doing great work investing in geothermal energy for our new dorms and ensuring they’re built with the top efficiency technologies to save energy and money. It’s time for UK to go all the way by ramping up their clean energy investments to include clean, healthy and renewable options like geothermal and solar energy for the entire campus that will move us off coal and make us a national champion in more than just basketball.

The reality is that coal is not cheap. The negative health impacts from depending on coal including cancer, heart disease, lung disease and severe asthma attacks cost Americans $100 billion in health care costs and 13,000 lives annually.

According to a 2009 study performed by Dr. Michael Hendryx, a professor at West Virginia University, the human cost of the Appalachian coal mining economy outweighs its economic benefits. This doesn’t account for the environmental destruction as a result of this industry, including thousands of miles of streams irrecoverably covered, hundreds of mountaintops blown off and species diversity that will be forever lost.

Coal is horrible for this state and is holding us back from building a prosperous clean energy economy for the 21st century. Right now, clean energy jobs and businesses in Kentucky are growing at a faster rate than jobs overall.  General state job growth was 3.6 percent last year, while renewable energy and efficiency jobs grew by 10 percent.

This trend is expected to continue. Additionally, studies show that with a greater mix of efficiency and renewable energy, over the next decade Kentuckians’ electric bills will stay the same or be even lower than they would otherwise.

I am very proud of the UK students who are continuously demanding that our school take progressive measures to move off coal on campus toward clean energy solutions and cut ties with the dirty and irresponsible coal industry.
In support of this movement, the Sierra Club sponsored the UK-Arkansas basketball game to bring awareness to the clean energy movement across the U.S. and show their support for UK basketball and the amazing students and fans on campus.

As a generation, we have the responsibility to not leave our children and grandchildren with a world that is decimated by extractive industries, and have sustainable energy solutions in place. As a state, solar and geothermal are viable options virtually everywhere. The political will to help get these programs in place must happen, but the feasibility does exist.

In mountainous regions of Appalachia, wind feasibility studies have also showed very promising results. The University of Kentucky has the opportunity to be on the cutting edge of these technologies, and I hope they listen to the student movement in future decisions.

I commend the Sierra Club for supporting this cause, and showing that Big Blue Nation is supportive of the end of the reign of coal in this state. Make your current students, alumni and state proud. Let’s move toward a sustainable future. Go Big Blue.

Patrick Johnson is a natural resources and environmental science senior and the Kernel’s assistant opinions editor. Email opinions@kykernel.com.

As a UK graduate (2005) and Lexington native, I wholehearted agree with Patrick.

I am disgusted by the Kentucky “Coal Lodge”, all the “Friends of Coal” propaganda and fundraising, the two coal plants we have on campus – all of it.

Never before has higher education been owned by corporations then at this current point. UK’s sold out to King Coal, and now each and every Wildcat is suffering.

To all the folks who have snarky remarks about “either love coal or get out of here”, please take a look at these photos and tell me you still love coal. That you still love how coal KILLS people.

http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2012/01/coal.html

The price of solar power is dropping substantially, coal plants are going offline in the US left and right. The renewable energy future is here, so it’s either invest in the future or be left behind. Rather than attack folks concerned about the public health and environmental costs of dirty energy like coal, folks need to come together to develop new renewable energy economies. We can lift eastern Kentucky and Appalachia out of poverty, stop blowing up mountains, poisoning people’s drinking water, and forever destroying the landscape of our beautiful Kentucky home.

However, this only happens if we work together. As people who want to live in a world with clear air and fresh water for our children and children’s children.

Kennedy wanted to put a person on the moon in 10 years. He didn’t know how it would happen, but he wanted to get it done.

If you’re worried about the economic impact of transitioning to renewable energy, why not worry about the $500 billion price tag coal costs Americans in health and environmental impacts. I’d much rather that goal toward new, clean technologies like wind, solar, geothermal, solar thermal, thermal energy storage. http://cleantechnica.com/2011/02/17/cost-of-coal-500-billion-year-in-u-s-harvard-study-finds/

It’s time we start thinking ambitiously, toward energy sources that don’t kill off life and this planet, and stop bickering with each other while coal companies make out with billions and our future generations.

Angela: nobody likes you go back to court. Your just as much to blame for your the “slanderous” comments caused your condescending ones. Quit shooting holes in the arguments because your court room arguments suck ass. As for fracking… Watch the HBO documentary gas land. That will tell you what this gas boom is actually doing to the envoriment. Looks far worse than coal. You would like it since your one of those damn environmentalist. I bet you support social welfare too.

R.L. Roberts: question, the 2009 incident. Any court records for suit or settlement by the family as well as state regulators with the coal company for negligence, wanton endangerment, etc? Where the sections ordered closed the same sections that collapsed?
Showing a history of “citations” for “violations” doesn’t do much good in helping anyone form an opinion if those violations were say, parking a forklift in front of an electrical access panel. The violations need a bit more context before I can accept them on their face value of being a pattern of intentional wrong doing and skirting laws etc. After having had a few run ins with OSHA and the like, that large of an organization with only 649 citations seems like a pretty good track record. The OSHA book I had to work from was about the size of a phone book, with itty bitty text, I can only imagine the mining regs.

As for Mills, which laws was Alliance violating? Again, a question of context. Considering the politicized and corruption of the EPA (as well as the gov’t on the whole) I figure it could go either way, or even both lol

I suppose I could google Mills, Alliance and the like, and I may add that to my list of things to do this week, but just asking the question b/c I was hoping you’d save me the time.

It is infuriating, to say the least, to see any facility on campus with Joe Craft’s name on it. His company has violated thousands of federal and state mining saftey regulations that have resulted in multiple catastrophes throughout several states including the one occupied by your campus.

On April 28, 2009 a roof collapsed at Alliance’s Dokiti Mine in Hopkins County killing two miners. Records show inspectors from Kentucky’s Office of Mine Safety and Licensing had issued 31 orders to close sections of the mine or to shut down equipment because of violations since January of that year. During 2009, Alliance was cited 649 times while being tied to the controversial firing of Ron Mills(Kentucky Division of Mine Permits Director). Mills said he refused about a half a dozen permits previously requested by politically connected Alliance because they refused to comply with federal and state mining law. Mills’ refusals were later overruled by state officials who probably had political and financial ties to Craft’s company.

It isn’t just about coal. It’s about corruption and people’s lives.

EPA and politicizing “fracking”: Pavillion, Wyoming, a metropolis of 126 souls in a remote region in the central part of the state has been the latest “poster boy” of the evils of fracking. The EPA released a study showing the contamination of groundwater.
EPA was aware, or should have been aware, of the fact that well water in Pavillion has been “contaminated” with polluting chemicals for half a century. (well before fracking)
More importantly, EPA says chemicals found inmthe system from drilling involved chemicals never used in fracking. (They are, however, used in the construction of water wells of the kind that might be found in Pavillion, not in oil and gas wells.) And yet the EPA persisted with its charges, knowing that the very chemical it discovered in well water could not have entered the wells in the manner suggested. (online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204026804577098112387490158.html?mod=googlenews_wsj)

There was an earlier case near Dish, Texas, which was found to have no basis in fact by the state authorities in charge of regulating fracking. Extensive testing revealed that the benzene purportedly migrating from drilling to the town’s water supply did not exceed levels generally found in the U.S. (online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303936704576398462932810874.html) Again, the real culprit was an overly zealous EPA bureaucracy that seemed determined to further the agency’s agenda of regulating, and shutting down, hydraulic fracturing — and with it most new oil and gas exploration in America.

“It’s our experience in Pennsylvania that we have not had one case in which the fluids used to break off the gas from 5,000 to 8,000 feet (1,500-2,400 m) underground have returned to contaminate ground water.” – John Hanger, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

I’m trying to find the EPA article that shut down a fracking operation, maybe TX maybe in PA because of it seeping into the towns water supply…what was never highlighted till much later is that they determined the natural gas was coming from a different shale gas deposit that was not being tapped, than the one they were fracking from.

Again, seems more about politics than any type of science, considering that the fracking “chemicals” are 90% water, 9.5% sand, and .5% of various chemicals that could have health consequences, but so are x-rays, then again, we use them all the time. (.energyfromshale.org/hydraulic-fracturing-fluid)

(try googling the links if they don’t pop up, trying to get around the “waiting on moderator to approve comment” due to links)

EPA and politicizing “fracking”: Pavillion, Wyoming, a metropolis of 126 souls in a remote region in the central part of the state has been the latest “poster boy” of the evils of fracking. The EPA released a study showing the contamination of groundwater.
EPA was aware, or should have been aware, of the fact that well water in Pavillion has been “contaminated” with polluting chemicals for half a century. (well before fracking)
More importantly, EPA says chemicals found inmthe system from drilling involved chemicals never used in fracking. (They are, however, used in the construction of water wells of the kind that might be found in Pavillion, not in oil and gas wells.) And yet the EPA persisted with its charges, knowing that the very chemical it discovered in well water could not have entered the wells in the manner suggested. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204026804577098112387490158.html?mod=googlenews_wsj)

There was an earlier case near Dish, Texas, which was found to have no basis in fact by the state authorities in charge of regulating fracking. Extensive testing revealed that the benzene purportedly migrating from drilling to the town’s water supply did not exceed levels generally found in the U.S. (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303936704576398462932810874.html) Again, the real culprit was an overly zealous EPA bureaucracy that seemed determined to further the agency’s agenda of regulating, and shutting down, hydraulic fracturing — and with it most new oil and gas exploration in America.

“It’s our experience in Pennsylvania that we have not had one case in which the fluids used to break off the gas from 5,000 to 8,000 feet (1,500-2,400 m) underground have returned to contaminate ground water.” – John Hanger, former secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

I’m trying to find the EPA article that shut down a fracking operation, maybe TX maybe in PA because of it seeping into the towns water supply…what was never highlighted till much later is that they determined the natural gas was coming from a different shale gas deposit that was not being tapped, than the one they were fracking from.

Again, seems more about politics than any type of science, considering that the fracking “chemicals” are 90% water, 9.5% sand, and .5% of various chemicals that could have health consequences, but so are x-rays, then again, we use them all the time. (http://www.energyfromshale.org/hydraulic-fracturing-fluid)

For every $1 (with all the tax breaks) the state makes off of coal, we spend $3 on pollution, oversight, and health care expenditures. Last time I checked, that doesn’t equal profit. Kentucky ranks 41st in overall health and coal isn’t helping the situation. The only way UK can use coal on campus is because the equipment is grandfathered in. If it were to break, they would have to update their energy source. While I’m a fan of supporting our coal miners, having them work at a job that is detrimental to their health & safety, the well being of our environment, and of those around us, why not employ them on renewable energy resources? You can teach a coal miner how to work in another field. Oh, and this whole “clean coal” BS. Google it. There is no such thing.

Jordan- It looks like the postings for my letter regarding UK’s coal-fired heating plants have maxed out, and the kernel is not allowing for any more posts. Unfortunately, I think much of the space was wasted on slanderous comments from young college students instead of substantive debate and conversation. It sounds like some of that has moved over to Patrick’s letter as well. I wanted to ask you if you could post the info, or at least a link to the info, regarding the fracking issue and water pollution. As the momentum against fracking seems to be quickly building, it would be interesting to see the other side of the story. Thank you!

Regarding Patrick’s letter, while I love the fact that there are at least a handful of students at UK who are being creative and thinking beyond coal, I would be interested in hearing from Patrick about the exact cost to UK if it did agree to transition to geothermal and/or solar. Specifics would be great, like “x” number of buildings on campus would undergo the transition, “y” number of dollars to retrofit each building, where the contractors are with the necessary expertise, etc. I would also like to know from Patrick when he believes these changes could realistically be implemented at UK? That is, when does Patrick honestly believe UK would be willing to make this transition (this is the real hurdle) and when would UK be financially ready to make it? If this debate centers on a solution that is too far removed in time, it loses a lot of its punch and persuasiveness. Three, I’d like to know why Patrick is not advocating a more realistic solution in the form of UK simply burning less coal in its heating plants and ramping up its use of natural gas, a change that could positively impact health and the environment now. Then, all interested parties could dialogue with UK about making the much larger leap and financial commitment to solar/geothermal down the road. Unfortunately, because UK is so intimately tied to big coal, and high-dollar sponsorship money speaks much louder than student activists, there has to be an understanding that any change at UK in this area is not going to be made in leaps and bounds but, rather, at a painfully slow snail’s pace. While I truly commend the students behind this movement and I give them all of my support, I don’t think they are taking this into consideration.

Reading the Hendryx report was (almost all of it, I mean, the UK game is on) was insightful and I encourage others to do so. I also encourage others to ask themselves questions while doing so. A fairly good critique of Hendryx can be found at http://nma.org/pdf/tmp/Hendryx_Critique.pdf

Much of the “health” costs of coal, cancers etc haven’t been shown to be any more statistically significant in those actually exposed to coal in coal counties as any other population in the country.

I would be interested to see the feasibility/cost/impact studies of geothermal for UK’s new dorms/facilities and how it compares to coal/natural gas etc. I don’t know that much about geothermal for larger facilities (greenhouses is another matter)

As for “renewable” energies, unless we’re looking at during another TVA and damning up some more rivers, wind and solar are a joke. If you’re willing to live like the Amish, then hey, they just might work. But unless you’re planning on putting everyone out of a job, from manufacturing to hospital surgeons…then looks like we’re stuck with those “dirty” fossil fuels. (as for clean energy jobs growing, hey, give me a few million dollars in “loans” i don’t have to pay back and I bet I can create a few jobs too)

As for energy prices…Um…which studies have you been reading? Just by the upcoming switch from “outdated” coal fired plants to “cleaner” natural gas is projected to raise our energy rates about 20% (so says the EPA). Energy providers think maybe as much as 40%, and the real doom and gloomers say it could be as high as 70% if we have other restrictions on energy (i.e., we go and blow up Iran)Here’s a neat link on why solar doesn’t have a prayer of competing with coal-barring an revolutionary innovations. (you have to add “www.” so as this post wouldn’t be considered spam) masterresource.org/2011/10/solar-power-cost-intermittency-too/

Honestly, look at Spain and Germany and anywhere else that “renewable s” have been implemented as a means of commercial power generation. It’s all going bankrupt. The technology doesn’t exist today. Thankfully, we have enough fossil energy sources to keep us going for another couple hundred years.

Wow, John, imagine finding you here, insulting yet another letter-to-the-editor from somebody who is questioning the university’s allegiance to big coal. You really are a one-trick pony.

To Patrick Johnson and all others who truly do think beyond the rhetoric and black bumper stickers and UK’s all-too-close and highly destructive relationship with Friends of Coal, please don’t listen to this “John” character. There’s no substance there. But please do keep up the good work.

Wow what a great article. I love the way you made me feel warm and cozy inside when you talked about your childhood and kentucky basketball and then somehow correlated it to the use of coal. keep up the good work.