In what activists characterize as an uphill battle to end mountaintop coal removal, local organization Gainesville Loves Mountains has planted its next flag.
Following months of negotiations, the group will present a proposed ordinance to ban the use of mountaintop-removal coal to the City Commission on Sept. 12. The ordinance would prohibit Gainesville Regional Utilities from buying coal mined from mountaintops, which uses less manpower to harvest the resources.
Jason Fults, co-founder of Gainesville Loves Mountains, said because the commission acts as the board of directors for Gainesville Regional Utilities, its approval is crucial for banning mountaintop removal.
The group has been circulating a petition that has collected about 1,200 signatures.
Gainesville Loves Mountains has also set its sights on the energy provider contract for UF — an issue Kaydrianne Young, a volunteer for the group, said is related to mountaintop coal removal.
“There’s actually a connection between what we’re doing in the larger community and what we want to see at UF,” she said. “We have to realize how we’re connected to other people and things. We can’t stay in the UF bubble.”
Young, a UF sociology senior, said students need to understand what their tuition money is funding because UF’s energy contract is currently provided by Duke Energy — the same company engaged in mountaintop coal removal.
Fults said that because UF’s long-standing contract with Duke Energy, previously Progress Energy, soon expires, he is attempting to meet with UF’s Sustainability Committee to get the conversation about contract renewal brewing.
“A lot of the UF community doesn’t know what they should know about Duke before they make a contract,” he said. “UF has ambitious sustainability goals, and they can’t meet those goals with Duke.”
Duke Energy is not the same as Progress Energy was, Fults said, and people should understand what they are agreeing to before they vote to renew the contract.
Commissioner Thomas Hawkins said he’s supportive of the ordinance, but it has a long way to go before it could pass.
“Mountaintop removal mining is very destructive to environment and to communities to which it occurs,” he said. “If we can stop … we should do to our best to investigate it fully. There needs to be more conversations and details that need to be worked out that affect how we would implement a policy.”
A version of this story ran on page 8 on 9/3/2013 under the headline "Activists link UF energy, mountaintop removal"