Students Demand University Transparency Regarding Commitment to Sustainability in New Petition | #students | #parents

Georgetown University undergraduate students plan to launch a petition demanding the university disclose the nature of its relationship with a privately owned electric utilities trade association.

The petition, created by student environmental advocacy groups GU Fossil Free and Georgetown Renewable Energy and Environmental Network, asks administrators to disclose information about a conference hosted by Edison Electric Institute at the McDonough School of Business and the extent of Georgetown’s relationship with EEI.

KIRK ZIEZER / THE HOYA | Student groups GREEN and GUFF say that Georgetown affiliating with the EEI at a recent conference contradicts their sustainability initiatives.

EEI is a trade association that represents all of the nation’s investor-owned electric companies. 

The conference, titled the EEI Campaign Institute and hosted on Georgetown’s main campus in February 2019, was billed as a weeklong “Campaign Institute” meant to teach electric utility lobbyists and executives how to defeat political initiatives that promote clean energy.

EEI is committed to increasing profit for fossil fuel companies and stands in opposition to Georgetown’s stated commitments to sustainable financial and campus policies, according to the petition.

“At the Campaign Institute, EEI worked to train utilities executives to justify investments in fossil fuels, fight referenda that would increase renewable portfolio standards, and sanitize their records under the scrutiny of climate activists,” the petition reads.

The petition asks Georgetown to provide information about whether its partnership with EEI extends beyond the campaign institute event. The petition also demands that Georgetown end its partnership with EEI because the company promotes environmentally hazardous practices and campaigns against clean energy.

Petition organizers hope the petition calls attention to the university’s hypocrisy in supporting EEI, according to Victoria Boatwright (COL ’22), the president of GREEN.

“In agreeing to our terms, Georgetown will reject the ‘business-as-usual’ approach that permits corporations and special interests to profit off environmental degradation and carbon emissions, resulting in disastrous environmental consequences and social inequity,” Boatwright wrote in an email to The Hoya.

According to Boatwright, EEI members FirstEnergy and Arizona Public Service promoted environmentally damaging campaigns, and in some cases, illegal practices. In July, a grand jury indicted former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder (R) and four other Ohio lawmakers for allegedly accepting $60 million in bribes from FirstEnergy in exchange for bailing out two nuclear power plants.

“It is harmful to sit by as bad actors advocate for and spread their malpractices,” Boatwright wrote. “To advocate for a clean, just future and live up to our value of ‘Care for our Common Home’, Georgetown must condemn anti-clean energy campaigns.”

However, the university’s relationship with EEI does not extend past the conference, as it was part of the MSB’s Executive Custom Programs, which are hosted at Georgetown but sponsored by organizations that are not affiliated with the university, according to a university spokesperson. 

“Both EEI programs were initiated by EEI and Georgetown faculty developed their own individual content as part of the conference. No Georgetown students took part in this programming,” the spokesperson wrote in an email to The Hoya.

The MSB typically hosts between 30 and 40 executive custom programs each year with a wide range of organizations and industries, according to the spokesperson.

EEI chose to host its campaign institute program at Georgetown because of the MSB’s reputable executive education programs, according to EEI Executive Director for External Affairs Brad Viator.

“EEI’s goal was to find an academic institution that could help us to develop a curriculum to teach the current tools, technologies, and strategies that are being used to develop successful campaigns and effective partnerships for today’s public policy issues,” Viator wrote in an email to The Hoya.

Although the university said it has no relationship with EEI aside from the conference, GUFF and GREEN plan to proceed with the petition. Organizers plan to contact Director of the Georgetown Environmental Initiative Pete Marra, the Office of Sustainability and Chief Operating Officer Geoffrey Chatas, according to Boatwright.

Last semester, GUFF successfully pushed for the university to divest from fossil fuels. The club hopes the petition will convince administrators to further commit to sustainability, according to Boatwright.

“If Georgetown truly is governed by this value, it will recommit to the fight against climate change,” Boatwright wrote. “If not, Georgetown will clearly be justifying harm against its students in opposition to its ‘Jesuit Values.’” 

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