Evansville community rallies for clean energy


Josh Meredith

Josie Ault, president of USI’s vegetarian club, speaks at Saturday’s Face the Future Rally.

Hayden Olberding, Staff Writer

A crowd, young and old, stood atop the stairs in front of the Evansville Civic Center on Feb. 29, voicing their opposition to Vectren’s coal power plants.

“Getting this many people to come out to ask for clean energy is pretty amazing,” said Mary Stoll, associate professor of philosophy. “I’m really excited for the young people I’ve seen so far, and I’ll be even more excited if we see enough critical mass of youth to really make a difference.” 

Students, alumni and professors united at the Civic Center protesting for stronger clean energy policies in the community.

Stoll said Evansville needs to start planning for a smarter infrastructure going into the future. 

Seven coal-powered plants lie within 30 miles of the city, according to the Center for Public Integrity

These plants make up 40% of the state’s electricity, yet only 6% of Indiana’s population lives in this area. This energy produced then has to be transferred throughout the state.

“The United States is definitely behind the curve in terms of innovating forward with renewable energy, and we believe Vectren can do it,” Stoll said. 

Sam Talbert, a senior philosophy major, said he went to both Climate Strike events in October with similar attendance. 

“I think there is a dedicated group of people in Evansville who are students and who are older adults who care a lot about the future of our environment and the health of the people who live in our city,” he said. 

Talbert said it’s the responsibility of the younger generation to take the torch from the older generation and educate themselves about the climate. He said where people spend money along with their diets are large influencers impacting the environment. 

Josie Ault, a senior philosophy major, attended the rally to speak her views on clean energy. 

Ault said the turnout to events similar to the Face the Future Rally only increases as time passes.

She said young people are the most important group to come out and show support because they are the ones who will see the effects of the choices of large energy companies. 

Southern Indiana is not taking any action to lessen the use of fossil fuels. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management approved a permit for Riverview Energy in June to start building a $2.5 billion coal-to-diesel plant in Dale, Indiana, roughly 50 miles from Evansville, according to the Dubois County Herald

“Fossil fuels and fracking are releasing too much carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and this has led to terminal effects on our air quality, our water quality, like look at the Ohio River, that’s all from pollution,” Ault said. “It’s not only important but absolutely detrimental that they make the switch. If these visible changes are not enough, I don’t know what is going to push these companies to put people, the environment, our health and safety over profit.”

Crystal Steltenpohl, assistant professor of psychology, said going to protests and rallies, getting educated on the climate and contacting state and federal representatives are ways young people can voice their concerns.

“Sometimes I feel like there’s not really a lot of activism and advocacy in the Evansville area,” Steltenpohl said. “But this, I thought, was a great turnout.”

She said pollution doesn’t only have an impact on the climate, but on the economy.

“Even if you don’t buy into climate change, the pollution, the impact on our air and our water, people aren’t going to want to live here if it’s incredibly dirty,” Steltenpohl said. “There can’t be any economic growth without people.”