Almost three years after a local organization began its fight to end Gainesville support for mountaintop-removal coal mining, its work and advocacy are beginning to pay off: A city commissioner has joined the charge.
For years, activist group Gainesville Loves Mountains has been pushing for Gainesville Regional Utilities to stop using coal mined from the tops of the Appalachian Mountains. The practice uses less manpower but strips natural resources. The group asserts the process destroys the environment and nearby towns with explosions and contaminated water.
City Commissioner Lauren Poe, who said he has supported the initiative since 2008, will give a presentation in a commission meeting Thursday, where he will urge GRU to sever connections with mountaintop-removal coal. Instead, it could switch to deep-mined coal.
Poe said one of the issues that could cause opposition is the possibility of a price increase.
But, Poe said, the proposed ordinance has a restriction written in that could curb increases.
“I think there’s starting to be concerns about upward rates or circumstances where deep-mined coal is more expensive than MTR coal,” he said. “Ultimately, I have a safeguard in there that says if deep-mined coal is more than 5 percent (more) expensive than MTR coal, then staff can bring that to city commission and can override that policy.”
Jason Fults, co-founder of Gainesville Loves Mountains, said the motion will be successful if four commissioners vote for it.
Fults said the “escape clause” in the motion gives the city flexibility.
“If GRU is complying with that, (only purchasing deep-mined coal) and it increases prices by more than 5 percent, they can come back to the city and ask about it on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Fults said he thinks the ordinance will be successful if those who support the cause attend the meeting.
[A version of this story ran on page 5 on 4/14/2014 under the headline "City commissioner joins fight against GRU’s coal mining"]