An organizer for an Arkansas citizens' group yesterday presented President Bok with a petition signed by 1741 undergraduates designed to persuade Bok to use Harvard's influence to ensure that a proposed power plant in Arkansas is environmentally safe.
William L. Kitchen, an organizer for the Arkansas Community Organization for Reform Now (ACORN), said in a letter accompanying the petition, "If this petition in any way helps to convince you that Harvard should act positively and quickly on ACORN's requests, then it will have served its purpose."
Harvard is the largest single stockholder in Middle South Utilities Inc., a holding company that owns Arkansas Power and Light (AP&L), the company planning to build the 2800-megawatt coal-burning plant.
The petition, distributed in House dining halls by Harvard-Radcliffe Ecology Action, asks Harvard to:
*try to make Middle South promise to pay farmers near the proposed plant for any crop damages the plant may cause;
*exert pressure on Middle South to install sulfur dioxide controls on the plant; and
*set up and finance a student-faculty committee to determine the environmental impact of the plant, and whether it is needed at all.
ACORN also announced yesterday that 16 national organizations--including the United Steelworkers Union and Friends of the Earth--have sent or "will send in a day or two" letters to Bok asking him to help ACORN in its fight against the plant.
The 16 organizations will all say that Harvard should quickly take action on ACORN's request, and that "people all over the country are awaiting Harvard's decision," ACORN said.
Bok has not seen the petition yet, his secretary said yesterday.
Kitchen wrote Bok that he thought 1741 signatures was "a respectable figure," but that "if we had the time we could get a vast majority of all the students at Harvard to sign the petition."
ACORN says that the plant will, through carbon dioxide emissions, pollute the air and crops around it. The Arkansas Public Service Commission will hold a hearing sometime in January to learn the validity of ACORN's claims.
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