Michael Wenye Li / Sun Staff Photographer

November 1, 2016

University Assembly Endorses Pursuit of Alternative Energy Sources

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The University Assembly passed a resolution endorsing the Senior Leaders Climate Action Group’s recommendations for ways the University can reduce its carbon footprint with alternative energy sources at its meeting Tuesday. The measure passed 15-0-2.

The resolution was first introduced to the U.A. on Oct. 18 and is sponsored by employee representative Linda Copman, faculty representative Martin Hatch and faculty representative Bob Howarth.

“This is the culmination of several years of work, Copman said of the resolution. “It’s endorsing the planning that’s gone on for months now … It’s been in the Climate Action Plan for years, since 2009 … The actions themselves have been in our plans for years.”

The resolution calls for the trial-testing of Earth Source Heating, a $700 million project that requires exploratory drilling to determine its viability as a future primary means of energy on campus. Specific funding details will remain unknown until the energy source is deemed viable, Howarth said.

“It’s big money, and the University’s looking at it really hard because we’ve been in budget chaos forever and that plays out certainly in student aid,” he said. “It does in faculty hires, it does in deferred maintenance for our buildings.”

Howarth acknowledged that there will be “some conflict” in terms of the project’s funding, but he shared the administration and SLCAG’s hope that “other funding sources can be brought in.”

The cost to implement Earth Source Heating will end up being approximately the same as the University’s current energy expenditures, according to Howarth.

“Up to $400 million of that $700 million would be coming from grants and private sources, in which case it would actually be cheaper than what we’re paying for,” he said. “In my view the worst case on average over the next 20 years is that we end up about the same place as we are now.”

Student Assembly Representative Mitchell McBride ’17 voiced concerns about whether financial aid allocations would be affected by the cost of the initiatives.

“I think that, in my perspective, the two things that we have to deal with as a University, and us as a society, is the environment and inequality,” he said. “I guess I would like more perspective about exactly what the implications are because it’s such a large cost, with regards to financial aid for students.”

According to Copman, the plan requires that the University “aggressively pursue outside funding.”

“The idea is that this is an attractive proposal for external funders, government, private, all kinds of external funding for the really expensive resourcing,” she said. “[We’re] also asking the administration to report to us on an annual basis to hold them accountable for making progress to allocate resources, to look for external funding, to move forward.”

Hatch said this initiative embodies “what Cornell is about” as an “eminent research and teaching institution.”

“Thinking of new ways to do things, so that big problems can be solved — that’s what we’re talking about with this initiative,” he said.

The U.A. passed several amendments to update sections of its bylaws. Copman also formally introduced a resolution to endorse The Ithaca Plan, a drug policy and strategy report sponsored by Mayor Svante Myrick ‘09 and the Municipal Drug Policy Community.