Those who have not attended the minimally publicized meetings regarding the administration’s plans to build a new natural gas power plant on campus—it is time you paid attention.
After the Snowpocalyspe of last October, President Roth mandated that the University strive to reduce the risk of losing schooldays in the event of a similar weather emergency in the future. Some administrators and Physical Plant staff developed a plan to construct a natural gas co-generation power plant near Freeman Athletic Center to supplement a similar plant that Wesleyan built in 2008 on the corner of Williams and High Streets. This new plant, they claim, is necessary to allow us to go into “island mode” and avoid a blackout during the increasingly common extreme weather events. For a combination of logistical, budgetary, and moral reasons, I argue otherwise.
First, some background. The plan was set on trajectory behind closed doors, without input of the community or students, until Evan Weber ’13 gleaned through a comment made in passing at a sustainability meeting that this was being proposed. In fact, Wesleyan’s new Sustainability Coordinator, Jen Kleindienst, hadn’t heard of it either until about a week before Weber. By the time Weber organized an emergency organizing meeting, Wesleyan had already hired a firm to site and start designing the plant. As Weber told the Argus, “I want to start a conversation about the power plant with all constituents because students, professors, and other members of the community have been largely left out of the discussion.”
So why not have that discussion now?
There are many problems with the proposed plant, which are laid out in a recent Wespeak written by a few concerned students, including Weber and myself. These are what I believe to be some of the most compelling issues at hand: