Courtesy of the University

Climate Justice Cornell has started a petition that urges the University to release an environmental impact statement on the North Campus housing project.

September 23, 2018

Climate Justice Cornell Demands More Comprehensive Environmental Report on North Campus Expansion

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In response to the University’s plan to power the future North Campus dorms with natural gas, Climate Justice Cornell started a petition that urges the University to release a more comprehensive report on the potential environmental impact that the North Campus expansion will have.

The petition demands that the University release an Environmental Impact Statement on the new dorms on North Campus, whose construction is slated to begin in 2019. The EIS should present “all of the negative consequences a project could potentially have on the environment,” according to Julie Kapuvari ’19, CJC general body organizer.

The “negative consequences” may include “carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions” and design choices that reduce energy efficiency, Kapuvari added.

The City of Ithaca’s planning board, one of the main bodies that has to approve construction projects for Cornell, has not stated whether or not the University has to release an EIS for the North Campus expansion project.

Cornell has provided environmental assessment forms on the project, which covered general information about the environmental impact the project would have. However, these forms are not as comprehensive as an EIS, according to Jenny Xie ’20, CJC co-campaign coordinator.

“Cornell’s argument is that, ‘well, we’ve conducted these forms to an EIS standard, so it’s as if we’ve issued an EIS,’” Xie said.

“It would probably delay the project if they were to do that more comprehensive EIS, and they want those dorms to be done as soon as possible,” Kapuvari said.

Although the CJC still wants a resolution to go to all assemblies, it created the petition first because of the short timeline regarding the North Campus expansion project.

“Since … things are happening really fast, a petition would be more efficient and would get our point across to the public and get the community engaged in what’s happening here,” Kapuvari said.

CJC plans to attend a public hearing at the Ithaca Town Hall on Tuesday and submit the comments from the petition to the board ahead of time before the public hearing, according to Kapuvari.

The petition also focuses on addressing the design and efficiency of the buildings. Although Kapuvari said that the plans for the dorms “coincide with the [University’s] plans of carbon neutrality [by 2035], CJC doesn’t agree that the LEED Silver certification is “really the best standard.”

“LEED Silver is significantly too low for what we should be going for to reach carbon neutrality,” Kapuvari added.

Xie also said the administration “hasn’t done a really good job” in communicating information about the construction to students.

Although she appreciates the University’s effort in solving housing issues, “they need to make legitimate effort to reach out to students beyond just an email from the housing office,” Xie said.

“The way I see it, Cornell has the money, has the capability, has the engineers, has all the resources to do this project right and it seems to me they’re trying to accelerate it through without trying to innovate those new solutions of sustainability,” Ezra Stein ’20, CJC treasurer, told The Sun.