HEAT letter asks for Aoun support

The Husky Energy Action Team (HEAT) called for Northeastern to sign on to the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment by June 30, 2007 in a letter sent to President Joseph Aoun in February. HEAT is asking for a greenhouse gas (GHG) management plan.

When HEAT wrote the letter to President Aoun there were 70 universities signed on to the commitment. Now, more than a month later, the number of schools has increased to 152, said Jennifer Wolfson, co-director of HEAT. These schools include Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania, New York University, Massachusetts Art Institute, University of Massachusetts-Boston and Syracuse University, among others.

Jack McCarthy, senior vice president of administration and finance, met with HEAT members March 30. McCarthy said signing on to the Presidents Commitment by the end of June is a “realistic timeframe,” Wolfson said.

In the letter to Aoun, HEAT, along with the other 23 student groups who sponsored it, said “Instituting a Greenhouse management plan is an opportunity for Northeastern to excel.”

According to the letter, this plan will provide the university with opportunities for interdisciplinary research and scholarship, experiential learning, organizational innovation and technological leadership.

Other universities are responding to global climate change by instituting policies to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas production.

Cornell University committed to reducing GHG emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2008, Tufts University committed to reductions of 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012 and Yale University has committed to reductions of 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

In the letter, the student groups request a plan to initially inventory Northeastern’s greenhouse gas emissions and calculate the cost of various options for their reduction. Students, under faculty supervision, would complete this phase of the plan.

In the meantime, the university would agree to ensure all new buildings and major renovations use state-of-the-art energy efficiency measures, achieving certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.

The letter also requests the university obtain at least 50 percent of its electricity from wind, solar and clean biomass or micro-hydro power by 2012.

HEAT representatives presented the letter to the Student Government Association (SGA) and senators Michael DeRamo, Imanuela Costiner, Joey Fiore and Susan Dye, submitted a Sense of the Senate endorsing it.

“I certainly hope [the Sense of the Senate] has an impact. [The letter] represents the students; administration should listen,” Wolfson said.

In the presentation to SGA, HEAT representatives said reducing Northeastern’s GHG emissions could save the university millions of dollars.

Other schools are already saving money by implementing the GHG management plan. SUNY Buffalo’s energy conservation project saves the school $4 million a year. Penn State committed in January to reducing GHG emissions 17.5 percent by 2012 and predicts it will save $20 million in utility costs. University of California at Santa Barbara calculated there are many savings involved in increased efficiency, and even after paying for offsets and achieving carbon neutrality, the school still saves $4.3 million.

HEAT has not yet heard back from Aoun, Wolfson said, though McCarthy is meeting with him today to present information on HEAT’s goals, and in particular on the Presidents Climate Commitment.

The other student groups who signed the letter include National Lawyers Guild, Legal Environmental Advocacy Forum, NU Unitarian Universalists, Alpha Delta Phi, Students for Environmental Action, Delta Zeta Sorority, Latino/a Law School Student Association, NUSTAND, Progressive Student Alliance, Northeastern University Huskiers and Outing Club, Society of Women Engineers, NUDanco, American Society for Mechanical Engineers, The Great White Way, Legacy 2000, College of Northeastern University Cultural and Language Learning Society, NU Terra Society, NU Baseball, American Red Cross of NU and the Society of Physics Students. Twenty faculty members have also signed the letter.

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