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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities
The last coal train

The last coal train

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Sep. 2, 2015

More than 6,800 tons of coal was recently unloaded at Michigan State University’s power plant, marking the final train delivery as it begins the transition to all natural gas over the next year.

The decision to stop burning coal was announced by President Lou Anna K. Simon in April and follows a university-wide energy transition plan adopted in 2012 that sets a goal of using more renewable energy while removing emissions from the T.B. Simon Power Plant. Over the past five years, the plant has scaled back its coal use and the majority of it will end this year.

Coal has been around MSU’s campus since 1855 when coal stoves warmed buildings before a central plant was created in 1900 to reduce fire risks. Coal has been used at the university’s T.B. Simon Power Plant since 1965, said Nate Verhanovitz, and engineer at the plant.

"It’s a step in the right direction and reduces our carbon footprint,” Verhanovitz said. “Given the environmental concerns with coal emissions, it’s absolutely wonderful to officially begin the transition to natural gas. This is good for MSU and the community.”

Robert Ellerhorst, director of utilities for MSU’s Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, agreed.

“The last train is really a symbol of the commitment to change the emission footprint for the campus,” Ellerhorst said. “We’ve been working with our supplier since the announcement in April… it’s really the symbolic end to what will be the end to burning coal here.