CSU trustees approve new clean energy policy

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The California State University Board of Trustees approved a sustainable energy and building policy that will increase the system’s procurement of renewable energy resources to 20 percent of consumption by 2010.

The CSU Sustainability Policy, which was aggressively pursued by the student group Renew CSU over a two-year period, would also require individual campuses to increase energy efficiency, onsite renewable power generation and the implementation of green building standards.

“I apologize for making anyone feel like a punching bag,” said Tylor Middlestadt, environmental affairs officer for the California State Students Association. “At the start we didn’t feel like we were welcome at the table. But, I don’t think it would be a long shot to say this policy was a great example of shared governance.”

Upon the trustees’ unanimous approval of the Sustainability Policy, applause filled the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach Sept. 21. After the meeting adjourned, a luncheon was provided for the 20 CSU students that drove rented vans from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and CSU Monterrey Bay.

“Now it’s up to us to stress (the policy) to our individual campus administrators and student groups,” said Middlestadt, who is also student body president at Cal Poly SLO.

The students also presented the trustees with sunflowers to symbolize their joint commitment to energy and building sustainability.

“I think it is of critical importance that students let trustees know what they think is important. Sometimes trustees are too far removed to know what that is,” said Murray Galinson, chair of the Board of Trustees. “If not for student persistence, I don’t think it would’ve happened as quickly and as well thought out.”

The CSU policy, which will significantly increase the amount of renewable energy that universities obtain nationwide, is the largest of any energy and building sustainability policy in the country, said Josh Lynch, national campus coordinator for Greenpeace.

By committing to secure 20 percent of their energy needs through renewable resources such as solar and wind technologies, the total megawatts of self-generated energy in the CSU system should double from 26 to 50 MW, he said.

“It’s not just about saying what’s wrong, but moving quickly to the next step to say this is what we can do about it,” Lynch said. “What the CSU system has done has surpassed all other national institutions. It’s really amazing to see such leadership in the CSU system.”

Prior to the CSU Sustainability Policy approval, campus implementation of sustainable energy practices was not completely unheard of.

“Some campuses are already way out front. CSUN has one of the largest photovoltaic panels in the system,” said Len Pettis, chief of plant, energy and utilities for the Chancellor’s Office, regarding solar power sites located in two CSUN parking lots. “It is a good model because of its large size and the faculty and staff have experience collaborating with the labor force. Other smaller campuses might not have all the resources for projects. The policy reinforces what we’re already doing and gives support to new initiatives.”

Pettis said the October 23-26 CSU Facilities Management Conference will provide students with an opportunity to interact with the facility planners from participating Green Campus Pilot Programs at CSU and UC campuses.

The conference will include student participation and presentations for the first time, which is welcome news for some students.

Jesse Churchill, CSU Monterrey Bay architecture student, said that CSUMB has qualified faculty certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design that have been excluded in past planning projects.

“One of our arguing points to our administrators was that experts were getting left out of the design process,” Churchill said. “The newest housing dorms are on a hillside, cost big bucks and did not use any sustainable building practices.”

Churchill, a member of CSUMB’s student Environmental Committee, said he expected that the CSU Sustainability Policy would influence other university systems in the United States.

While sitting with students during the luncheon, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed said he encountered support for the CSU Sustainability Policy in other states.

Recently, while visiting a university in South Carolina, Reed said a local student who heard about the sustainability policy approached him and implored him to support the proposed policy.

“I thought the CSU student’s campaign was pretty impressive. They fried one of our fax machines,” Reed said to the students sitting at the table.” It’s very rare to get applause when a policy is passed.”

The Board of Trustees also approved a revision to the student conduct code at the Sept. 21 meeting.

For those involved, the Renew CSU campaign was one of intense lobbying that required frequent trips to the Chancellor’s Office as well as convergence meetings that ended with crashing on student’s couches and carpets throughout the 23-campus CSU system, said Shakti Maisen, former CSUN student.

“When I started out in the campaign I was really ignorant,” she said. “I thought it would take a semester, but it ended up being two years.”

Julio Morales can be reached at julio.morales.605@csun.edu.