St Johns pulls plug on coal in favor of natural gas

Saint John’s University in Collegeville is pulling the plug on its coal fired power plant and will be switching to cleaner burning natural gas to power its campus.

University officials are touting the move as a sustainable measure that is possible now because the cost of natural gas has dropped significantly.

“Having coal on campus — it’s dirty, and everyone knows it,” Derek Larson, an environmental studies professor at St. John’s told the Saint Cloud Times. “Students will say, ‘Great, you have a solar farm, but what about that coal?’ Saying goodbye to coal, even temporarily, is a pretty big victory.”

But every energy source has drawbacks and concerns are mounting over the extraction process used to collect natural gas.

The Washington Post reports “Negative publicity about water contamination at drilling sites in the Chesapeake Bay region and out west in Texas, Wyoming and Oklahoma is raising concern even among those who support gas exploration.” These concerns have recently stopped the drilling process in West Virginia.

Objections to natural gas have been muted in part because some environmental groups favored natural gas over coal as an interim energy source while the nation moved to more sustainable sources.

Time magazine reports “that between 2007 and 2010 the Sierra Club accepted over $25 million in donations from the gas industry, mostly from Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy — one of the biggest gas drilling companies in the United States and a firm heavily involved in fracking — to help fund the Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.”

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