For Immediate Release, September 10, 2019


Jovita Lee, (919) 946-6799,

Thursday Rally in Raleigh to Urge Public Hearing on UNC’s Push to Renew Permit for Dirty Coal Plant

RALEIGH, N.C.— Conservation and climate justice groups will rally on Thursday in Raleigh to demand greater public input into the University of North Carolina’s request to continue operating its coal-burning power plant indefinitely.

The groups will gather at Halifax Mall to demand that the North Carolina Division of Air Quality hold a public hearing and extend the comment period on UNC-Chapel Hill’s request to renew the state permit for its outdated plant.

The groups involved in Thursday’s rally include NC WARN, Environment North Carolina, the Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Climate Reality Orange County and - Triangle.

The rally was triggered by UNC’s decision to abandon its plans to close the coal plant by 2020 and by the state’s disregard of requests from elected officials, conservation groups, community members and students for greater public involvement.

The coal plant’s existing permit allows the emission of four to six times the levels of nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide pollution found to be safe under the Clean Air Act, according to an analysis by the Center for Biological Diversity.

The analysis found that such high levels of toxic air pollution pose health hazards across nearly the entire UNC campus, as well as several Chapel Hill neighborhoods. Overexposure to these pollutants is linked to respiratory diseases and premature death.

What: Rally featuring speakers, a musical performance by the popular local group The Raging Grannies, displays of banners and signs, and chants for environmental justice

When: 12:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 12

Where: Halifax Mall, near Archdale Building, 300-512 N. Salisbury St., Raleigh, NC 27603

Media Availability: Jovita Lee, North Carolina state campaigner for the Center, is currently available for interviews. She will also be available at the Sept. 12 rally.

Statements From Groups

“It’s disgusting that the state’s flagship institution of higher learning is threatening the health of UNC students and neighbors,” said Jovita Lee, North Carolina state campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity. “A school that touts itself as the nation’s first public university is the last in the state to stop spewing filthy coal pollution across its campus and community. We won’t stop fighting until the state agrees to listen and respond to the people being harmed most by this disgraceful injustice.”

“Continuing to burn coal — one of the dirtiest forms of energy — at an iconic state institution such as UNC flies in the face of Gov. Cooper’s commitment to reduce our state’s greenhouse gas emissions, as expressed in Executive Order 80 and the draft Clean Energy Plan,” said Jennifer Eison, youth climate justice organizer for NC WARN. “We demand real leadership from our politicians and state agencies to implement meaningful solutions now to address the urgent climate crisis.”

“Universities are expected to be at the forefront of innovation and education to improve our planet. UNC-Chapel Hill has taken a different route, by choosing to break a promise and renew a poisonous coal plant over the well-being of their students and surrounding neighborhoods,” said La’Meshia Whittington-Kaminski, North Carolina democracy campaigner for Friends of the Earth. “We stand in solidarity with the people, in demanding the North Carolina Division of Air Quality grant the community a public hearing and that the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill will join other institutions on the path to clean energy for the health of their students, community and our environment.”


UNC-Chapel Hill is the only institution of higher learning in North Carolina still operating a coal-burning power plant. In 2017 the university reneged on its 2010 pledge to stop burning coal and replaced it with a goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050.

In October 2018 the North Carolina Division of Air Quality initiated proceedings to renew the long-term air permit for the university’s coal plant, igniting a wave of dissent from students, town residents, conservation groups and town officials. Chapel Hill’s mayor, Pam Hemminger, and the Carrboro Board of Aldermen complained about the lack of notice and meaningful opportunity for public input.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.