Lombardi blocks climate bid at LSU

Published: Friday, February 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 31, 2008 at 9:11 p.m.

University of Florida President Bernie Machen was among the first university leaders to sign a pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but one of his predecessors isn't so enthusiastic about the proposal.

Louisiana State President John Lombardi, who served as president of UF from 1990 to 1999, has blocked plans by the outgoing chancellor of the Baton Rouge campus to join the college "Presidents Climate Commitment."

Chancellor Sean O'Keefe, whose last day is today had planned Wednesday to commit the campus to efforts to become a more eco-friendly campus before stepping down.

He said he was disappointed Lombardi chose to block the efforts of the LSU Environmental Conservation Organization, which put a lot of hard work into the effort.

Lombardi said he wanted to take a look at how the commitment affects the flagship campus and if it could involve LSU's other academic campuses.

"The document commits the institution to take actions that, while desirable, have significant costs associated with them," Lombardi said in an e-mail response. "Until we can assess these costs and include them within the budget, it would not be appropriate to sign such a pledge.

"Also, our commitment to energy efficiency is systemwide, and thus we want to approach these critical issues in a coordinated way," he said.

The climate commitment calls on schools to form task forces to find ways to become more eco-friendly, such as more energy-efficient appliances, less university air travel and greenhouse gas emissions, more public transportation, more recycling and less overall energy consumption.

O'Keefe said he does not believe signing on now would have cost LSU any more because the university already is working on ways to be more energy efficient.

O'Keefe resigned recently, not giving specific reasons, but suggesting in his resignation letter that he no longer had the support of Lombardi or the university governing board.

O'Keefe said Wednesday that the change in plans is another sign of the philosophical differences with Lombardi that led to his resignation on Jan. 16.

He said he had worked with the ECO student members and the university's facilities planning office to see how the climate commitment could seamlessly fit into LSU's master plan.

Hundreds of schools have signed on, including Southeastern Conference members such as UF, the University of Tennessee, University of Arkansas and the University of South Carolina.

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