Ohio PIRG Seeks to Up Fee, Improve Program
By Blake Wilder

Ohio PIRG is campaigning once again to renew their funding, but this year they’re pushing a referendum signed by two-thirds of the student body to raise the student fee from six dollars per student each semester to eight dollars.
Unlike other student organizations, Ohio PIRG gets funding from the alternative student group funding procedure which requires them to get support from the majority of the student body every two years.
“What this money is going to do is it’s going to allow us to have more staff working with the students,” Ohio PIRG Board Chair Senior Winston Vaughan said. “Raising the fee will allow Oberlin students to make a difference on the issues they care about the most. The bottom line is we are raising the fee so we can do better work on our campaigns.”
Vaughan urged students to support the group, pointing out that Ohio PIRG has its sights on statewide and even national objectives for environmental policy.
“In a lot of ways Ohio PIRG has a very different mission than other student groups,” Vaughan said. “In a lot of ways we are a statewide public interest group. We have a chapter on campus but it is our job to be the advocate for the public statewide.”
The national campaign, “America’s Environment at Risk,” is being undertaken by student PIRG groups across the country. “We’re trying to stop the Bush administration from weakening our environmental laws,” Vaughan said.
The campaign, for now, focuses around three basic initiatives: The Clean Air Act, the “Roadless Plan” and “Superfund.”
The Bush administration, Vaughan said, is trying to weaken the Clean Air Act by eliminating the new source review, a major provision of the Clean Air Act. This would allow some of the worst power plants to pollute more, according to Vaughan.
The “Roadless Plan,” put in place in the last days of the Clinton administration, is designed to protect 58.5 million acres of roadless areas and national forests. The original legislation came amidst a flood of 2.2 million postcards and letters to the government — the largest number of public comments ever delivered to the government on a single issue. PIRG played a part in the campaign.
“A lot of those came from Oberlin,” Vaughan said.
Another piece of Clintonian legislation, Superfund, is the common term for a law that makes polluting companies pay for cleaning up public waste sites. So far, Bush has failed to renew the program.
“The whole idea behind Superfund is it works as a deterrent,” Vaughan said. “If you know you’re going to have to pay for it, you’re going to be a whole lot less likely to make a mess in the first place.”
On the local front, Ohio PIRG has three main goals: to defend Lake Erie from oil and gas drilling, to make higher education in Ohio more affordable and to fight hunger and homelessness.

A laundry list of other student groups have already endorsed the reaffirmation drive, including the Sierra Student Coalition, Climate Justice, Newman Catholic, Socialist Alternative, OC Democrats, Global AIDS and Animal Rights.



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