Center for Biological Diversity

Media Advisory, February 11, 2019

Contact: Perrin de Jong, (828) 595-1862,

Chapel Hill Council to Hear UNC Defense of Coal Plant on Wednesday

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. University of North Carolina officials on Wednesday will try to explain to Chapel Hill town councilors why the college is indefinitely postponing the shutdown of a coal-fired power plant that threatens public health on and off campus.

The hearing was triggered by UNC’s decision to abandon plans to close its coal plant by 2020. The college is now seeking to renew its state permit and operate the coal-burning facility indefinitely.

The coal plant’s existing permit allows the emission of four to six times the levels of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution found to be safe under the Clean Air Act, according to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The analysis found that such high levels of toxic air pollution pose health hazards across several Chapel Hill neighborhoods and nearly the entire UNC campus. Over-exposure to these pollutants is linked to respiratory diseases and premature death.

“We’re glad to hear from UNC’s leadership, but they need to understand why the community is so opposed to this polluting power plant,” said Perrin de Jong, a Center attorney. “There’s no valid excuse for letting this outmoded facility continue to contaminate the air we breathe.” 

What: Presentation on the coal-fired plant by Bradley Ives, UNC’s associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises and chief sustainability officer.

When: 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 13.

Where: Town Hall, Council Chamber, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill, N.C.

Media Availability:
Perrin de Jong, staff attorney for the Center, is currently available for interviews. He will also be available at Wednesday’s Town Council meeting.

UNC-Chapel Hill is the only institution of higher learning in North Carolina still operating a coal-fired power plant. In 2017 the university reneged on its 2010 pledge to stop burning coal and replaced it with a goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

In October 2018 the North Carolina Division of Air Quality initiated proceedings to renew the long-term air permit for the university’s coal plant, igniting a wave of dissent from students, town residents, conservation groups and officials from the town of Chapel Hill. Mayor Pam Hemminger complained about the lack of notice and meaningful opportunity for public input.

The Center is urging the Division of Air Quality to hold a public hearing to allow residents to air their concerns about the renewed permit.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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