Monday, July 24, 2017
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Why Ralph Northam Should Oppose the Proposed New Gas Pipelines

by Glen Besa, immediate past director of the Sierra Club's Virginia chapter I’m voting for Ralph Northam for a lot of reasons but not for...

Liars, Damn Liars and Dominion Power

by Glen Besa It's May 1st, not April 1st, but Dominion Power still is attempting to play us for fools with its publicity blitz around...

Tom Farrell and Bob Blue: Dirty Politics and Dirty Dominion Power

Dominion, Virginia’s largest utility, has a state monopoly to provide electricity to much of the Commonwealth, and, overall, it does its job keeping our...

We Are All Americans First: The Failure of Identity Politics

by Glen Besa Throughout the presidential campaign, we heard pundits and pollsters focus on identity politics: Hillary's strength and Trump's relative weakness with the women's...

Come Clean Mr. Blue! What is Dominion trying to hide?

An Open Letter to Robert Blue:

Robert Blue, President
Dominion Virginia Power

Dear Mr. Blue:

On behalf of the Sierra Club and also as a Dominion customer who received your letter regarding SB1349, we are calling on you to fully discuss the financial information required by the State Corporation Commission to analyze Dominion electricity rates, possible overcharges and the costs of implementing the EPA's Clean Power Plan.

Dominion's entire justification for SB1349 was that costs of implementing this EPA rule would be high, and that Dominion wanted its shareholders to absorb those costs rather that passing them on to your customers.  As absurd as that argument was and is, the General Assembly passed your legislation on your representation that you would continue to give the SCC full access to Dominion's financial records.  

In your letter, you said, ""Nor would Dominion's books be closed to SCC inspection, as some contend. The base rate review scheduled for this year would go on. Beyond that, we would continue to provide the SCC with full access to our financials."

Additionally, your lobbyist John Rust at the House hearing on SB1349 in responding to a question from Delegate Tom Rust about the audits said  "In terms of the review by the commission, the commission has the authority to do the audit, do the inspection of the books, to get the reports from the utility during this period, but the rates stay frozen during this period."

Now we learn that you want to withhold the financial information that would permit the SCC to evaluate the very claims you asserted to justify passage of SB1349. We find that position unconscionable.

What exactly is Dominion trying to hide. Mr. Blue?  Come clean Mr. Blue and give the SCC full access your books as promised in your letter.

Glen Besa, Director
Sierra Club-Virginia Chapter

Virginia – So Corrupt We Don’t Keep Score Anymore

I frequently visit for information on campaign and lobbying expenditures; data that is required to be filed with the state and which the Virginia Public Access Project ( then puts up on its user friendly website.

When I looked for lobbying expenditure data on the VPAP website the end last year, perennial top spender Dominion VA Power had been bumped from the #1 position in 2014 by the Koch Bros' Americans for Prosperity which was out to kill "Obamacare."

If you visit today that data is gone, and the only lobbying related data provided is for gifts and entertainment lavished on our legislators. The total cost of lobbying programs is no longer up on the site, even though this data is reported to Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.

When I inquired with VPAP about the absence of this data, their response was: "We made a decision to no longer include the total expenditure numbers on the site. They are essentially meaningless because of inconsistencies in the way lobbyist compensation is reported." In other words, the law is so poor that data is not reliable.

After seeing our immediate past Governor convicted of corruption, another way to look at it is that Virginia is so corrupt that it is no longer worth keeping score.

However flawed the data, it is what the registered lobbyists report to the Secretary of Commerce, and that data deserves to be accessible.  

At least for now, campaign expenditures are still reported on And Virginia's largest polluter, Dominion Virginia Power, remains the #1 non-political party affiliated spender at over $1.2 million for 2014-- over 5 times more than the next largest contributor--coal giant Alpha Natural Resources at $224,000 and cancer facilitator Altria at $220,000.

I'm not sure how we'll fill the data gap now that VPAP has stopped reporting lobbying expenditures. At least for the dirty energy polluters like Dominion and Alpha, Sierra Club will be pulling the reports from the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and putting the data on our website. Look for that data on our website in the near future.      

Filipino Climate Delegate asks: “If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

As I watch the devastating death toll rise in the Philippines as a result of Typhoon Haiyan, I recalled the impassioned speech of the Philippines delegate to the United Nations Climate Conference in Doha, Qatar last December when another Typhoon was bearing down on his island nation.  

He posed the question to the UN Climate Assembly:
"If not us, then who? If not now, then when?" I urge you listen to his speech:  

How many Katrinas, how many Sandies, how many Haiyans will it take before we come together as a nation and as a community of nations to talk bold action on climate change?  

Cuccinelli Abused the Office of Attorney General to Advance Fossil Fuel Interests

The Associated Press reports:
A Federal Court judge has issued an opinion stating she was "shocked" that Cuccinelli's office was assisting natural gas companies in a law suit between those companies and Virginia land owners who have alleged that the gas companies removed gas from under their land without compensation, bilking the land owners out of natural gas royalty dollars.

In response, Glen Besa, Sierra Club-Virginia Chapter Director, issued the following statement:
Frankly, we at the Sierra Club are not shocked at all by this latest revelation.

Almost from first day he was elected, Attorney General Cuccinelli has abused his office on behalf of fossil fuel polluters.  Hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars have been spent in unnecessary litigation costs as Cuccinelli pursued frivolous suits against the Environmental Protection Agency and even the University of Virginia, all in the name of publicity, climate denial and political gamesmanship.

Just this year Cuccinelli issued an official advisory opinion siding with the natural gas industry over local governments.

So, one has to wonder, whose interests are Attorney General Cuccinelli representing? The people of Virginia or the fossil fuel industry?

Everything you need to know about E.W. Jackson but didn’t know you’d need to!

So the Republican Party had one hell of a party in Richmond last night; and one hell of a hangover this morning. His name is E.W. Jackson.

Put another way. Is E.W. Jackson Ken Cuccinelli's Sarah Palin?

As I set out this morning to find out just who is E.W. Jackson,  I found the most insightful information on the Rightwing Watch Blog of the People for the American Way website:

I urge you to go there and then search for E.W. Jackson.  Here are some of his greatest hits:  

E.W. Jackson: Gays and Lesbians are 'Very Sick People Psychologically, Mentally and Emotionally'-you can actually listen to E.W.'s rant against gays.

E.W. Jackson: God will turn Black Voters 'Overwhelmingly' against Obama and Democrats in November - He's obviously not the best prognosticator.

Bishop E.W. Jackson Vows To Rescue Black Americans From the "Coalition of the Godless"

E.W. Jackson: Blacks are Selling Themselves into Slavery By Supporting the Democratic Party

So congratulations are in order to the radical right wing of the Republican Party because they got what the wanted!  On Wednesday, November 6th, they should not be complaining that they lost because their ticket was not conservative enough.  But for your sake and mine, it better be that they lost anyway!


The Party of Lincoln

An Open Letter to Virginia State Senators and Delegates:

Last Friday evening I went to see the movie "Lincoln."  In that film the portrayal of "politics as usual" in the service of a higher end,  the passage of the 13th Amendment freeing the slaves, is every bit as relevant today as it has been at least since the early Greek experiments in democracy.

Throughout the history of our great nation, politicians every so often harness "politics as usual" to do something meaningful or more often to stop harmful measures that undermine our freedom and democracy.

Now before the General Assembly are two measures, SB 1256 requiring photo identification for voters despite the absence of fraud in our elections and SB 1077 requiring a check of immigration status.  The generally unstated motivation behind this legislation is the desire by some to limit the voting franchise most likely impacting the elderly, particularly those who have surrendered their drivers' licenses, students , the poor and naturalized citizens.

That some would see advantage in suppressing the vote is not uncommon.  Politicians at all levels of government and of all parties would rather see their supporters turn out rather than their opponents'.  In Virginia, voter suppression was refined to a crass art by Democrat Harry F. Byrd, Sr. whose virulent racism is a sad chapter in our state's history.

However, since the beginning of our nation, the 'arc of history has bent toward justice' with the extension of voting rights, first to male slaves by President Lincoln with the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and then to women with the passage of the 19th Amendment.   The passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally put the enforcement powers of the federal government behind the rights of African-Americans to vote bringing with it the decline of the Byrd organization and the election of a Republican Governor, Linwood Holdon, Jr.

Today, virtually all Americans embrace these extensions of the voting franchise as essential steps in the evolution of our modern democracy.  So why then is the Party of Lincoln today seemingly intent on eroding citizens' rights with unnecessary restrictions on voting?

In the next week Republicans in the Virginia House and Senate must decide whether politics  will be put in service to a higher end with the defeat SB 1256 and SB 1077, or whether "politics as usual" will just be" politics as usual".  Before Virginia's Senators and Delegates vote they would all benefit from watching the film "Lincoln".

Glen Besa, Director
Sierra Club-Virginia Chapter

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