Coal meeting canceled after student-led protest
A National Coal Council meeting in downtown St. Louis was canceled following a protest from Washington University Green Action.
Directly after council members had finished taking roll call on Tuesday, students from Green Action and Missourians Organized for Reform and Empowerment entered the meeting at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark. The students unfurled a banner proclaiming, “Coal is never clean” and sang, “Clean coal is a dirty lie.”
“Clean coal doesn’t exist, and we’re opposed to the lie that there’s any way to use coal safely without hurting communities,” said Green Action member Harry Alper, a senior.
The group was escorted from the hotel by two officers from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The Hilton’s head of security had not yet arrived at the event.
According to Officer Mana, the situation was “no big deal,” and students were polite and peaceful as they left the building.
Following the disturbance, the council chose to cancel the meeting, but members stayed to enjoy the private lunch they had already ordered.
The National Coal Council is a federal advisory committee to the U.S. secretary of energy. The meeting, which was open to the public, was intended to review an ongoing study on the use of Carbon Capture and Sequestration technologies.
The CEOs of St. Louis-based Peabody Energy and Arch Coal are both on the council and are members of the University’s board of trustees.
Sophomore Claire Christensen of Green Action urged students in an e-mail to join the rally.
“[T]here is NO SUCH THING AS CLEAN COAL and the coal industry should not be operating AT ALL,” Christensen wrote. “As students of Washington University, we need to ‘clarify’ our position to our Board of Trustees members and let them know we condemn their actions.”
Because of an error on the Federal Register, Green Action arrived to the Hilton more than an hour early and arrived back at campus later than expected.
“I missed the first half of my class on the civil rights movement, but my professor knows I’m there to learn from that movement and apply it to the climate justice movement,” Alper said. “There are other people who have to make much bigger sacrifices than being late for a class.”
After being escorted out, Green Action members continued their protest outside of the Hilton, where they engaged with passersby and various news outlets.
Members of the council declined to comment.