UConnPIRG’s “lead” campaign strives to create renewable energy future for CT

Student activist group UConnPIRG will strive to keep further gas pipelines from being built in Connecticut and to move the state toward an 100 percent renewable energy future with its new “lead” campaign.

UConnPIRG is “a nonprofit student activism and advocacy group dedicated to working in the public interest and bringing about social change,” according to its website. Some of the group’s recent campaigns included registering approximately 2,500 University of Connecticut students to vote in 2016 and collecting hundreds of signatures last semester in an effort to ban single-use water bottles as part of its “ban the bottle” campaign, UConnPIRG campus organizer Shawna Upton said.

Powerful gas companies are currently pushing to construct additional gas pipelines in Connecticut, according to Upton.

“(UConnPIRG) doesn’t care if Connecticut wants to go 50 percent solar and 50 percent wind, as long as it’s all renewable energy,” Upton said. “We want to get Connecticut legislators to commit to going 100 percent renewable energy, and will support legislation that gets us closer to this vision. We just don’t want fracking or natural gas.”

The student activist group will encourage state officials to produce legislation which ensures Connecticut’s 100 percent renewable energy future through meeting with Hartford legislators, publishing “letters to the editor” in Connecticut newspapers and engaging the UConn student body, Upton said.

“[The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s] three-year environmental plan is being presented soon,” Upton said. “[Connecticut] legislators don’t vote on the plan, but create policy based on it.”

UConnPIRG also aims to collect 4,000 petitions from UConn students calling for a 100 percent renewable energy future in Connecticut.

“4,000 is about 20 percent of the UConn student body, so hopefully that’ll be enough to catch state officials’ attention,” Upton said.

One way in which the group may achieve its goal of gathering 4,000 petitions is through its present student recruitment drive, Upton said.

“We’re now in our recruitment drive, presenting in classrooms and tabling in dining halls,” Upton said. “Our kick-off meeting on Feb. 1 at 6:30 p.m. will feature local officials talking about the importance of being involved.”

The Sierra Club and 350 Connecticut are some of UConnPIRG’s partners in the lead campaign, according to Upton.

“We’re calling on state officials because we don’t have time to wait when it comes to climate change,” Upton said.