For Immediate Release
March 8, 2019
Frederick E. Kowal, Ph.D., president of United University Professions—the nation’s largest higher education union, representing more than 37,000 faculty and professional staff at the State University of New York—said he agreed with SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson’s decision to leave her board of director’s post at AES Corp.
UUP, which has long been a strong supporter of green energy initiatives, called on the chancellor to “reconsider” her board post in a Feb. 20 media release.
“We welcome the news that the chancellor has chosen to step down as a member of the board of directors at AES Corp., a Virginia-based company that operates a coal-burning power plant in Puerto Rico that a number of published media reports say produces toxic coal ash,” Kowal said.
“UUP believes this was the right move for the chancellor to make, given how much Puerto Rican residents—particularly those who live in Guayama, where the plant is located—have suffered over the last few years,” he said.
News outlets such as PBS News Hour Weekend, New Republic, and The Huffington Post, have reported on the AES coal plant and its questionable methods for discarding toxic coal ash produced by the plant.
According to the Physicians for Social Responsibility, coal ash can contain heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium. If ingested, these toxicants can cause a range of health problems, including cancer, kidney and lung disease, and heart damage.
“We look forward to working with the chancellor, who has been a proponent of renewable, clean energy at SUNY, on green energy initiatives at our campuses and in our communities,” Kowal said.
UUP has a decades-long history of speaking out on environmental issues.
Kowal sits on the National Wildlife Federation's board of directors. The union is a member of New York Renews, a coalition of labor unions, faith and community groups, and environmental organizations. UUP is also a part of the national BlueGreen Alliance, a coalition of labor unions and environmental organizations working to create good jobs and a clean environment.
The union’s Feb. 20 media release from Kowal called on the chancellor to rethink whether she should remain as an AES Corp. board member. The release came a day after a story about the chancellor’s board post appeared in the Albany Times Union.
UUP was the only group that publicly urged the chancellor to consider stepping down from the AES Corp. board.
On March 7, Eyes on the Ties, the online news site of the watchdog group Public Accountability Initiative, reported that the chancellor had stepped down from the post, which was confirmed by SUNY spokesman Leo Rosales in a Times Union news story March 8.