For well over 50 years, the coal-fired Charter Street Heating and Cooling Plant has been responsible for providing electricity and cooled water for most of the UW-Madison campus. The power plant, constructed in 1954, is recognizable for generations of student and Wisconsin football fans for its foothills of coal and the regular train deliveries providing the fuel.
An object of acrimony just over two years ago during state budget deliberations, when the Republican legislature proposed privatizing it, the plant is more recently the subject of a lawsuit filed by the Sierra Club on May 3. The environmental group alleges that the university violated the Clean Air Act during the course of renovations to keep the aging plant in operation and is seeking the addition of more emissions-cutting technology or even the construction of a new, cleaner facility.
This past weekend, local participants in the climate movement group Step It Up organized a rally outside the plant as part of the "National Day of Climate Action" on Nov. 3. "Over 100 people rallied outside of this ugly little eyesore of a coal plant, conveniently located in the heart of the university campus," wrote organizer Maia Donohue in a report following the demonstration. "People wrote a whole lot of postcards to the Board of Regents, the chancellor, and the governor, urging them to take action."
Along with numerous photos from the rally, there is also a brief video report on the event.
This rally was held in the midst of opened on Friday night with a talk by Bill McKibben and a screening of the global warming documentary Everything's Cool. During this kickoff, McKibben urged listeners to attend the Step It Up demonstration, one of hundreds held around the nation.
In addition to the picket in Madison, there were several other events in Wisconsin, including a rally in Fort Atkinson, where several dozen activists gathered to support efforts to reduce energy consumption in the Jefferson County town.