EAST LANSING-Michigan State University, known nationally for its college of natural resources, was recently embarrassed by revelations-aired by its own students-that its T. B. Simon power plant had failed to monitor its air emissions and may be releasing harmful pollutants into the atmosphere.

"What's going on shows a lack of concern for students' health," Lisa Bergmann, leader of ECO, an MSU student environmental group, told the Detroit News. State inspectors are taking measures to ensure that the school take the necessary steps to measure emissions of nitrogen oxide, produced by burning coal. A public hearing on the issues involved is being scheduled for late May. Compliance with all local, state and federal requirements is currently estimated at nearly half a million dollars.

As long as reform of the plant operations are being considered, why not look at contracting with a private utility for management or ownership of the plant?

In Great Britain during the 1980s, Margaret Thatcher encouraged the sale of state-owned electric power in Great Britain, which resulted in lower costs and an improved environment. The sale of utilities resulted in the use of a different and more efficient mix of energy providers, which generated fewer pollutants.

One option would be to outsource with a private company for management of the plant under a contract with specific guidelines for emissions output. If the private management firm failed to live up to its agreement, it could lose its contract and its profit from operating the plant. Another option is to shut the plant down and "wheel" the energy in. Current Michigan law allows customer choice in the purchase of electric generation services. This way, MSU may effectively shift pollution away from MSU students while providing the same level of energy services.