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‘Beyond Coal’: Sierra Club senior director speaks about renewable energy to Shepherdstown Community Club

By Staff | Nov 29, 2019

Beyond Coal Campaign Senior Director Mary Anne Hitt, left, speaks with new SCC members Jim West, center, and his wife, Susan Hall-West, after the dinner on Nov. 19. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — For Shepherdstown resident Mary Anne Hitt, living in a town that values environmental consciousness has helped her flourish in her career as the senior director for the Beyond Coal Campaign.

The campaign, which was launched in 2002 by the Sierra Club, calls coal “an outdated, backward and dirty 19th-century technology,” according to the club’s website. However, its goal to close all U.S. coal plants has been combined with some practical measures, to make sure coal miners who lose their jobs have a promising future ahead of them.

“As we’re making this shift of transitioning from coal to clean energy, it’s important we don’t leave behind workers in communities. Which is especially true in West Virginia,” Hitt said on Nov. 19, when she spoke as the feature speaker for the Shepherdstown Community Club’s monthly dinner in the War Memorial Building.

Hitt called the transition of training miners for new careers, as their coal plants close, “just” transitioning.

“As we transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, there must be justice for workers who rely on coal,” Hitt said.

Beyond Coal Campaign Senior Director Mary Anne Hitt speaks at the Shepherdstown Community Club dinner on Nov. 19. Tabitha Johnston

According to the Sierra Club’s website, the campaign has led to over half of U.S. coal plants being retired or committed to retirement in the pas 17 years. In place of coal, Hitt said the U.S. can use a number of clean energy options, including wind, solar and geothermal energy.

“There’s a lot of positive clean energy solutions that are good for our health and environment,” Hitt said, mentioning she hopes her audience walked away with a new purpose.

“I hope people got out of it, that all of us working in our own communities can make a bigger difference than we realize. If you’re concerned about something, look at the city or county and work to make a difference,” Hitt said. “When it comes to air and water pollution and climate change, people can feel powerless, that they can’t make a difference. But that is far from the truth.”

Hitt encourages community members to educate themselves on climate change, which she believes will empower them to help change the world for the better.

“People are worried about what kind of world we’re leaving for our kids, and that we don’t have a lot of time to turn things around, with climate change,” Hitt said. “Learning about the advances in clean energy solutions is making a difference.”

For more information about the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, visit content.sierraclub.org/coal/.