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UMM's Johnson to speak with U.S. Senate committee

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

University of Minnesota, Morris Chancellor Jacquie Johnson will testify Thursday before the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works in Washington D.C. Johnson will speak at 9 a.m. (Central Time) in the Dirksen Office Building along with Richard C. Levin, President of Yale University, and Robert Birgeneau, Chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley.

The Environment and Public Works will meet in full committee to hear the presentation, "Examining Strategies to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions at U.S. Colleges and Universities."

Johnson joked that her testimony alongside campus leaders from Yale and Cal-Berkeley means "they're in good company."

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who sits on the EPW Committee, requested Johnson's appearance last week to talk about ground-breaking "green" initiatives in place and in planning at UMM, Johnson said. UMM has coordinated its efforts to implement conservation, recycling and alternative energy in an effort to make the campus carbon-neutral and energy self-sufficient by 2010.

UMM makes use of wind energy to supply electricity for more than half of its campus buildings and another wind turbine will be erected as soon as it can be purchased, Johnson said.

The campus, along with the West Central Research and Outreach Center, on schedule to begin operating a biomass gasification system this spring. that will eventually meet 80 percent of the school's heating and cooling needs.

In addition, the campus soon will embark on the construction of a "green" residence hall and in fall 2008 will offer an environmental studies major.

"We don't know everything that's going on at other campuses," Johnson said, "but what we do know is that we've developed distinctive ways to reduce greenhouse gases in an integrated system. We're not aware of other institutions that are doing things in that connected way. I really think it is quite a story, and it's great to tell Morris' story."

Klobuchar visited Morris and its "Research Triangle" -- UMM, WCROC and Soils Lab -- this winter, and heard about its programs and plans.

"I think her visit to UMM really made an impact on her and prompted the invitation," Johnson said. "(Klobuchar) is particularly interested because we represent the heartland and rural America."

Johnson said she will stress that what works in Morris might not work everywhere -- wind energy, for example, might not be a feasible option in some parts of the country.

But telling the story of Morris' and UMM's work might inspire other communities and campuses to begin seeking methods that work for them, she said.

"This is about Morris and all the good work that is happening here," she said.