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Recapping 2010: Despite Legislative Setbacks, Grassroots Wins

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Cross-posted at Article XI.

In recapping 2010, most impactful to our march towards a clean energy future was the failure to pass federal climate change legislation. While it is significant that the U.S., whose citizens each contribute the world’s largest levels of CO2 pollution, at least participated in international climate discussions in both Copenhagen and recently Cancun, in the end we again failed to lend any teeth to the fight.  

And, while we celebrated the climate bill’s passage through Congress in June 2009, Virginia was about to embark on a path backwards with elections of Bob McDonnell as Governor and Ken Cuccinelli as Attorney General in November that year.  Our legislative hopes dashed on both the Federal and state level, we welcomed 2010 knowing that our campaigns needed to instead shift focus to possible regulatory actions.  

Here in Virginia in 2010, the Sierra Club and our friends in the environmental community had a remarkable track record of winning the old fashioned way, i.e., with boots-on-the-ground, grassroots activism.  Let’s recap:

• Over 1,700 of us joined hands on five beaches in Hampton Roads to say “no” to offshore drilling and “yes” to clean renewable energy like offshore wind.  We earned those celebrations as a result of Obama’s reinstatement for at least seven years its moratorium on drilling in the Atlantic.

• We played a part in pushing the Old Dominion Electric Cooperative to delay its plans for the Surry coal plant by 1.5 years.

• Our advocacy for offshore wind in Virginia will likely see a “Request for Interest” proposal from the Feds next month.

• Sea level rise is no longer just topic de jour of a handful of environmental wonks, it’s now mainstream.  Through numerous town hall meetings and promotion of key reports produced by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and Old Dominion University (The State of the Region Report), we’ve helped elevate public awareness to the issue of sea level rise and its significant impact on Hampton Roads to a point where jurisdictions from Poquoson to Chesapeake are taking steps to mitigate its impact and adapt to its inevitability.  

There’s lots of work ahead for us in 2011 to include fights against uranium mining in Virginia, protecting the Chesapeake Bay and ensuring that our community moves along with green transportation plans and beyond our addiction to oil.  

As always, we kick off the New Year in Richmond with the good, bad and ugly bills making their way through the General Assembly.  And again with too many Flat Earth Society members in the House and too many led by the ring through their noses by Virginia’s biggest polluters, we’re playing defense more than we do offense.  All the while haunting our work this January and February is the fact that all 140 seats in the General Assembly are up for grabs come November 2011.  And for this reason, please consider making a donation to the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club PAC.  Help us bounce from office the environmental zeroes and defend our champions.