Tuesday, November 16, 2010

UA students warn of boycott over mine

UA students warn of boycott over mine

UA Environmental Council protests controversial strip mine

Michelle Lepianka Carter | Tuscaloosa News
Members of the Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment and concerned citizens protest a proposed strip mine along the Black Warrior River back in September. Now, a group of UA students intend to boycott some UA services in protest.
By Adam Jones Staff Writer
Published: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 6:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 1:31 a.m.
TUSCALOOSA | A handful of University of Alabama students said they intend to boycott some UA services if university leaders lease land for a controversial strip mine in Walker County.

“If the university considers itself a business, the students will consider it a business right back,” said Elyse Peters, a UA sophomore.
Peters is a member of the UA Environmental Council and the Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment, which held a joint news conference Monday. Members have protested the controversial strip mine as it moved closer to regulatory approval.
After Shepherd Bend, a subsidiary of Drummond Co., was granted a mining permit by the Alabama Surface Mining Commission in October, opponents of the coal mine shifted their focus to UA, which owns the bulk of the land that would be mined. UA, along with most other landowners, has not granted a lease to Shepherd Bend.
“Our position has not changed: the university has not been approached about leasing the land, and has no current plans to lease or sell the land,” said UA spokeswoman Cathy Andreen in an e-mail.
Peters said that if the university approves a mining lease, it would be purely for money.
“I came here to protect my university’s reputation,” she said.
The strip mine is planned for a 286-acre site off the Mulberry Fork, which feeds into the Black Warrior River.
Jasper-based Shepherd Bend applied for a permit from the mining commission in May, three years after UA sought bids on leasing 1,300 acres of land it owns off the Mulberry Fork.

The Shepherd Bend mine plan attracted opposition from environmental watchdog groups concerned it would dump too much sediment into an already crowded stream. Also, the Birmingham Water Works asked the mining commission to deny the permit because discharges from the mine would be too close to a drinking water intake that serves about 200,000 customers in northwest Birmingham.
In granting the permit, the mining commission said it did not expect the mine to dump toxic pollutants into the Mulberry Fork, and that the mine would be far enough from the Birmingham Water Works Board intake to dilute discharge. Still, the commission stipulated more monitoring should take place than normal.
Despite the mining commission’s report, Wesley Vaughn, a UA junior from Vestavia Hills, said the strip mine will be a scar on the environment. The university should protect the interests of the entire state, he said.
“The University of Alabama should join with students in opposing this mine,” said Vaughn, also a columnist for the campus newspaper, The Crimson White.
Mallory Flowers, president of the Environmental Council, said the organization has just begun signing up students for the boycott of some services, which could include paying to live on campus, paying to eat on campus and buying books on campus. No student mentioned withdrawing from UA.
“Any money we put into the university, we can also take out,” said the sophomore from Dallas. “We want the university to remember that students are the largest shareholders of the university, and when the trustees vote, they vote for us as students.”
Andreen said university leaders respect students’ right to expression.
Reach Adam Jones at adam.jones@tuscaloosanews.com or 205-722-0230.