UT Students Buy Pollution Rights, Help Reduce Acid Rain

Published: Apr 6, 2012
The UT Environmental Protection Coalition successfully bid in the U.S. EPA Clean Air Markets Auction in March and purchased the pollution rights for 774 tons of sulfur dioxide, keeping them out of the hands of polluters.
The UT Environmental Protection Coalition successfully bid in the U.S. EPA Clean Air Markets Auction in March and purchased the pollution rights for 774 tons of sulfur dioxide, keeping them out of the hands of polluters.
Kealy McNeal ’13 and Kristine Koran ’13, both environmental science majors, have taken enough courses on pollution and global warming to know the impact air pollution has on the environment.

So when they got the opportunity to make a real difference in the matter, they felt empowered. Their organization, the UT Environmental Protection Coalition, successfully bid in the U.S. EPA Clean Air Markets Auction for the fourth consecutive year. They purchased the pollution rights for 774 tons of sulfur dioxide and keeping them out of the hands of polluters.

“What we did really has an impact,” said McNeal, president of the organization. “If everybody does something little, it can become this huge thing.”

The group holds two fundraisers a year, selling small bamboo plants and beta fish, which amount to about $1,000 that is matched with funding from Student Government to be used in the auction.

The organization has been able to increase their purchase each year, from 74 shares (each share equates to a metric ton of sulfur) in 2009 to 774 shares this past March, said Dan Huber, associate professor of biology and the organization’s advisor. This makes the UT EPC the single largest holder of sulfur dioxide pollution rights among academic/nonprofit organizations in the United States over this period of time.

“That’s more than 700 tons that is not admitted into the atmosphere this year,” said Koran, vice president of UT EPC. “I personally won’t change the world by myself, but it starts with just one person.”

Koran’s comment reflects Huber’s intention for participating in the auction.

“This was a tangible way for students to have a way to participate in the big picture,” said Huber. “It’s one thing to teach about pollution in class, and it’s another to see government regulation in action. This is application of the knowledge we’re trying to give them in the classroom.”

Huber said there are 250,000 pollution rights available to the public in the annual auction, which amounts to about 2.8 percent of the total rights available.

“The important thing isn’t the quantity of shares we purchase, it’s the message to students that you can make a difference,” said Huber.

UT EPC recently merged with the honors biology organization Beta Beta Beta Biological Honor Society and is open to anyone with an interest in the environment. They recently hosted a documentary and discussion on sea turtle conservation, will take part in the national beach cleanup on April 21 on the Courtney Campbell Causeway and will host an Earth Day event with tie-dying in the Vaughn Courtyard.


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