OU pipeline & consultant choices contradict ‘green commitment’

Note: This open letter that was signed by more than 130 members of the Athens community, including residents, students, faculty, alumni, and others.

The letter was published in the Reader’s Forum of the Athens News on June 3, 2015 (at http://www.athensnews.com/ohio/article-45139-ou-pipeline-consultant-choices-contradict-lsgreen-commitmentrs.html)

Humanity is now grappling with the greatest crisis in its history. If it is not able to rapidly end its addiction to fossil fuels, tipping points will be crossed and a climate catastrophe will spin out of control. The ecosystems that sustain our very lives are going to collapse, leading to the immense suffering of millions and societal chaos.


Ohio University has set a lofty goal of becoming a “top tier” school not just in Ohio, or the United States but on the international level due to the high enrollment of international students. An ambitious goal requires ambitious actions. Hope was kindled when President Roderick McDavis signed the University Presidents Climate Commitment back in 2007. But that hope has been stalled. Despite the exhortations of students, faculty and community residents, OU has inexplicably dragged its feet for eight full years in making any serious shift away from the fossil fuels devastating our planet. Now it has approved construction of a gas pipeline across campus, with the rationale that natural gas is a “greener” fuel source that produces just 50 percent of the carbon emissions associated with coal.

Unfortunately, this rationale is erroneous, and as OU made its decision in a non-transparent way without benefit of healthy debate, there was not ample opportunity to present this case. First of all, gas obtained from deep-shale hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is anything but “green” and substantially contaminates water. Secondly, a large amount of methane is leaking out from fracking operations.

According to the global scientific community (IPCC), methane is no less than 86 times more potent than CO2 within the first 20 years. Direct satellite measurement reveals the significant scale of the leaking. Thirdly, a society-wide conversion to renewables must take place quickly before climate tipping points are crossed. When natural gas is used instead of alternatives such as solar, wind and geothermal, the precious time available for true conversion is squandered.

Another action also casts serious doubt on the sincerity of OU’s commitment to the “green path.” OU is hiring an energy consultant. This position is quite substantial, its definition being to “manage the electricity supply for the university.” In an email from Ohio University Procurement Services on April 29, OU narrowed its options down to a “short list” of three “finalists.” Despite a stated intent in OU’s Request for Proposals (ID #OU021915LLN ) to give “preference to bidders who can effectively speak to their commitment to sustainability,” the three “finalists” not only fail to have any such qualifications but one actively lobbies the state government AGAINST clean renewable energy.

Stunningly, Brakey Energy, the first consulting group on the list, actually lobbied on behalf of Senate Bill 310, the tragic bill that made Ohio the first state in the country to freeze its commitment to renewable energy. The second finalist is Texas-based Delta Energy Services, which prides itself on promotion of nuclear power and sub-sea drilling for oil and gas. The third is Step Resources, with 25 years of serving the biggest multinational corporations and whose website does not even utter a word about “renewable” or “solar” or “green.”

How is it that OU – after signing the Climate Commitment – would even consider hiring a firm that actively lobbied AGAINST clean energy and does not even choose one “finalist” with experience guiding institutions to a green path? Would someone in the administration answer this question?

Despite its acknowledgement of the climate danger by signing the 2007 Commitment, OU took five years to come up with a plan. That original plan in 2012 then announced a “soft goal” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by the year 2032, a full 20 years into the future! Now an “intermediate” goal states that OU will implement 20 percent renewable energy by the year 2020. While this update is indeed positive, the history of little action for eight years makes it incumbent upon OU to provide official verification that this is a “hard” goal rather than a “soft” one.

Rather than pour money into a pipeline that fails to address the problem, OU should immediately begin a genuine shift to the green path. Energy consumption can be significantly reduced by implementing efficiency measures. Heat can be provided by geothermal. Electricity can come from a solar farm. There is nothing radical or unprecedented about implementing either geothermal or solar. There is not even any need to engineer a solar array. All it takes is a commitment to purchase the electricity.

Just up the highway from Athens, Ohio State University is already obtaining 25 percent of its electricity from a completely clean, renewable source – the wind farms in Northwest Ohio – while saving a million dollars per year on its electric bill.

Resources are now available for building a large solar farm in western Athens County. If OU were to commit to buying 25 to 35 percent of its electricity from this source for the next 20 years, the economics would be in place to build it.

The signers below call upon OU to step up to its moral responsibility and finally begin the serious shift. The Ohio University Climate Action Network (OU CAN) invites all concerned readers to join us in a vigil outside the Cutler Hall office of the OU president at noon on Monday June 8.

If delays continue, how can the OU president, administrators and Board of Trustees continue to look into the eyes of the students on campus – and young people everywhere – who will suffer the consequences, knowing that they have done the least, instead of the best, that they could do?

“The eyes of the future are looking back at us and they are praying for us to see beyond our own time.” – Terry Tempest Williams

Signed by:

Gary “Spruce” Houser  (proponent of Athens Community Center solar array, producer of climate documentaries, OUCAN)
Austin Babrow, Ph.D. (Professor, School of Communication Studies)
Dr. Bernhard Debatin, (Professor of Journalism)
Loraine McCosker  (Chair of Appalachian Ohio Group of the Ohio Sierra Club, Ohio Univ. Climate Action Now – OUCAN – member )
David A. Drabold, (Distinguished Professor of Physics)
Dina L. Lopez, Ph.D. (Professor and Chair, Geological Sciences)
Dr. Geoffrey L. Buckley, (Professor and Undergraduate Chair, Geography)
Geoff Greenfield (President, Third Sun Solar)
Michelle Greenfield (CEO, Third Sun Solar)
Michele M. Papai (Athens City Council 3rd Ward Representative)
Joseph Carver (OUCAN, eLearning Advising Coordinator & doctoral student)
Michael H. Rowe, Ph.D (Professor Emeritus, Neuroscience)
Philip D. Cantino, Ph.D. (Professor Emeritus, Environmental and Plant Biology)
Ellengene H. Peterson (Professor Emeritus, Biological Sciences)
Donald Miles, Ph. D. (Professor, Biological Sciences)
Willem Roosenburg, Ph.D. (Professor, Biological Sciences)
John N. Howell, Ph.D. (Emeritus Associate Professor of Physiology, Department of Biomedical Sciences)
Christine Hughes (OUCAN Member, owner of Della Zona and Village Bakery)
Mathew Roberts (Information and Outreach Director, UpGrade Athens County)
Zak Blumer (OUCAN, undergraduate student)
Ari Blumer  (OUCAN, undergraduate student)
John Strohl  (graduate student, Environmental Studies)
Daniel Kington (undergraduate student, Sierra Student Coalition officer, Food Matters executive, HTC senator)
Caitlyn McDaniel (OU Alumna, former Student Sierra Coalition officer)
Robert Maher (Athens Catholic Community)
Athens Friends Meeting (Quakers)
Lauren Goldberg (Assistant Director, Hillel at OU & community member)
Heather Cantino (Chair, Athens County Fracking Action Network steering committee)
Robert J. Sheak (Professor Emeritus, Sociology)
Richard McGinn (Associate Professor Emeritus, Linguistics and Southeast Asian Studies)
Katherine Jellison, Ph.D. (Professor of History)
Kathleen Sullivan  (Associate Professor, Dept. of Political Science)
Alyssa Bernstein (Associate Professor, Philosophy)
Gene Amarrell, Ph.D. (Associate Director, Center for Southeast Asian Studies)
Stephen J. Scanlan, Ph.D. (Associate Professor of Sociology)
Joseph McLaughlin (Associate Professor, English)
Molly Schoenhoff (Lecturer, School of Art and Design)
Katharine Sprecher, Ph.D. (Educational Studies)
Lara Wallace, Ph.D. (Department of Linguistics)
Thomas Costello (Visiting Lecturer & Faculty in Residence, School of Communication)
Tish O’Dell (Co-founder of MADION and Coordinator of Ohio Community Rights Network)
Harry J. Coffey, Ph.D. (Treasurer, Appalachian Renewable Energy Consumer Cooperative)
Wendy McVicker (Poet and Educator, Ohio Arts Council, Athens Community Center)
Beverly Flanigan (Associate Professor Emerita, Linguistics)
Amy E. Chadwick, Ph.D. (Assistant Professor, School of Communication)
Dr. Theresa Moran (English Dept)
David Bell, Ph.D. (Linguistics)
Margaret R. Hummon, Ph.D. (Retired OU Professor in 80’s & 90’s)
Joseph Viny (VP of Business Development, Ecolibrium Solar)
Chris Pyle (Owner, Donkey Coffee)
Joyce Strohl (BSS student, University College)
Dick Hogan (community regeneration design group)
Melissa Wales (Executive Director, United Campus Ministries & Lecturer, Women’s gender and Sexuality Studies)
Mary Nally (OU Alumna, community member, & masters of science in Environmental Studies)
Mageda Merbouh-Bangert (local business owner and mother)
Michelle Ajamian (Shagbark Seed & Mill, Athens Regional Food Policy Council,  Food & Energy Working Group)
Brandon Jaeger (Shagbark Seed & Mill) %u2028John Knouse (Greater Athens Sustainability Project)
Elizabeth Rhodes (Owner, Bodhi Tree Guesthouse & Studio)
Deanna Schwartz (Owner, West End Cider House)
John Gutekanst (Owner, Avalanche Pizza)
Karen Dahn (Retired Assistant to the Dean, College of Arts and Sciences)
Rudy Leatherman (CEO, The Energy Office)
Suzanne Knauerhase (Retired Professor, Hocking College)
Milena Miller (MAIA ’98, member of Athens County Bill of Rights Committee)
Victoria Taylor (Co-owner of Snowville Creamery)
Warren Taylor (Co-owner of Snowville Creamery)
Rebecca Rondy (OU Alumna, organic farmer, & community member)
Milt Greek (OU Alumna & 20-year OU employee)
James Lee Kopczinsky (OU Alumna & The Athens News)
Virginia Cottrill (Retention Coordinator, eLearning OHIO)
Paula Dayhoff (OU Alumna, IT Professional)
Lynn Gedeon (OU Alumna & community member)
Helen S. Horn (OU Alumna)
David L. Horn (OU Alumna)
Zella L. Nisley (OU Alumna, ACFAN Steering Committee Member)
Bob O’Neil (OU Alumna)
Stephen Richter (OU Alumna & community member)
Mark Sakach (Alumna & local business owner)
Helene Wilson (OU Alumna)
Alexander M. Jones (MSES student, BS in Environmental and Plant Biology)
Tenia Bannick (community member)
Seth Brooks (undergraduate student & community member)
Evan Cooper (undergraduate student)
Rachel Baker (undergraduate student)
Matthew Helm (undergraduate student)
Evan Leonard (undergraduate student)
Caitlin Morgan (undergraduate student)
Maddie Pinney (undergraduate student)
Jordan Riley (undergraduate student)
Margaret Rose (undergraduate student)
Grant Stover (undergraduate student)
Collin Geddis (Student Union)
Lisa M. Heinz (Graduate student, college of communication)
Leah Vincent (OU Alumna, MA in Latin American Studies)
Melanie Moynan-Smith (RN, CNP)
Jeanette Ammon (LMT)
Barbara Campagnola (Executive Director, Paper Circle)
Erin Hogan (local farmer, Squeaky Duck Farmstead)
Francis Carey Lea III (community member)
Shannon Carver (community member)
Berry C. Dilley (community member)
Mara Giglio (community member)
Deborah McCall (community member)
Debra Spangler (community member)
Benjamin Stewart (community member)
Jimmy Stockwell (Owner of Little Fish Brewing Company)
Virginia Sustarsic (community member, masters degree from OU)
Shawn White (Owner of Little Fish Brewing Company)
Clarissa Hitchon (community member)
Michael Rinaldi-Eichenberg
Paul Eselgroth
Thelma Seto
Adam Lindner
Joshua Cash
Andrew Franz
Josh Green
Olivia Miller
Katie Roberts (Accounting Manager, Snowville Creamery)
Marc Russo
Chris Seymour
Celeste Taylor
James Winch
Laura Winch
Paul Eselgroth
Thelma Seto
Marcia Goldstein
Delfin Bautista (Director, LGBT Center)
Carol Hector-Harris (graduate student)
Miranda McKinney
Jo Merkle
Nancy Walker (Appalachian Ohio Group of the Sierra Club)
Lea Harper  (Managing Director, Fresh Water Accountability Project)

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