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Using A Kentucky Gem to Talk Coal

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January 12, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. - A lot of people who live in Kentucky may not share the same opinions on coal, but many do share a love for University of Kentucky basketball. With that in mind, the Sierra Club hopes to get people connecting the dots on leading in sports and in the clean energy economy.

Senior Patrick Johnson says the idea is to let people know about the two coal-burning power plants on campus, and about their potential health and environmental hazards.

"In a state that has so many political issues that really push people apart, U.K. basketball is one of the things that really brings people together who would normally not be in the same room and having discussions."

The Sierra Club says since its campus-based "Beyond Coal" program started, 19 schools have made a commitment to stop burning coal on campus. Johnson wants U.K. to be next.

"We have been trying to lobby the administration to look at other potential options for energy on campus."

Johnson, a native Kentuckian, predicts that without a change in philosophy on coal, the school stands to lose ground with its most valuable commodity: current and future students.

"They need to stop burning such a dirty fuel source on campus. We are going to continue, as a student movement, to make prospective students aware of what health impacts exist if they decide to come to the University of Kentucky."

The Sierra Club is sponsoring the Wildcats' upcoming matchup with Arkansas on Jan. 17.

The popularity of the program is one both sides of the coal issue recognize. At the start of the season, the pro-coal group, Friends of Coal-Kentucky, sponsored first practices for the U.K. men's and women's basketball teams.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - KY