delware environmental institute

Philadelphia Inquirer: Profs v. senators in datacenter/powerplant fight

The University of Delaware faculty senate voted 43-0 in May to recommend against a 279-megawatt, gas-fired power plant on a former Chrysler factory at the University of Delaware campus, as part of a $1 billion-plus proposal by West Chester-based Data Centers LLC -- which enjoys support from Gov. Jack Markell and UD president Patrick Harker.

On June 9 the Democratic-led state legislature's Joint Finance Committee retaliated, voting unanimously to stop $3 million in UD operating funds, pending a final UD decision to back the data center. The committee went too far in bullying UD, says State Sen. Greg Lavelle, leader of the minority Republicans. But Lavelle stands with Democratic leaders in backing the data center and power plant as job, tax, and spending magnets. (More on that vote, with links, here.)

Faculty members aren't against the data center, says Professor Michael Chajes, UD's engineering school dean from 2007 to 2011. The center's proposed seven-burner, off-the-grid power plant is the issue: It would run on natural gas, which Chajes agrees is cleaner than other fuels, but still a hydrocarbon, on a campus that had carefully drafted and adopted a plan to reduce its "carbon footprint."