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Thursday, July 19, 2018
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Sierra Club’s Top 10 Virginia Environmental Stories of 2012

As we move into 2013, it is important to take a moment and reflect on what we accomplished (and what we didn't) this past year.  It is amazing how many victories we achieved and with your help we can have even better 2013.  

Here, then, are our Top 10 Virginia environmental stories, both the good and the bad.  Expect several of these fights to continue into 2013

1.  The re-election of President Obama and Election of Tim Kaine to the Senate - Voters rejected climate deniers Romney and Allen despite BIG Coal and BIG Oil attack ads!

2. Uranium mining defeated in 2012  No bill introduced in the 2012 General Assembly Session but Governor McDonnell spends $1.2 million of taxpayer money in support of new regulations to allow uranium mining. Fight resumes in 2013 General Assembly Session  

3. ODEC Coal Plant in Surry County is defeated in September!  Potomac River Coal Plant in Alexandria closes Oct 1!

4. George Washington National Forest supports fracking ban in the forest (but frackers are working to allow fracking behind the scenes). Stadium Woods saved on the Virginia Tech campus for now.

5. EPA finalizes Mercury Rule that prompts Dominion and AEP to retire several old, obsolete and dirty coal plants.

6. Support for Offshore Wind in Virginia Grows American Wind Energy Association holds its Annual Conference in Virginia Beach, federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management process moves forward on Virginia lease block

7.  Public transit advances across Virginia:  Loudoun County votes to extend the Silver Line; Arlington and Fairfax approve the Columbia Pike transit line from the Pentagon to Baileys Crossroads/Skyline and Virginia Beach referendum on the extension of the Tide Light rail passes by 60%.

8. Governor McDonnell attempts to open up a 50 mile long corridor in southwest Virginia to mountaintop removal coal mining in the name of the Coalfields Expressway-a strip coal mine masquerading as a road.   Virginia's largest coal company, Alpha Natural Resources, named as the highway contractor.  Governor McDonnell attempts ram new US 460 highway thru southeastern Virginia. Sierra Club continues to fight both these boondoggle projects

9. Virginia General Assembly votes to further weaken Virginia's renewable energy law while Dominion rips off rate payers $76 million for phantom renewable energy.

10. State Corporation Commission approves Dominion's first solar project, a 30 MW pilot solar project. but NJ already has 900 MW installed--30 times what Dominion even proposes as a pilot.    

McDonnell’s New US 460 will never be built

Warning to prospective new US 460 contractors. McDonnell's new US 460 will never be built.

When Bob McDonnell leaves office this road is toast. Nobody wants this road but the Bob!  He's twisted arms, removed anyone in state government in his way and still no one knows why he is so attached to this highway in search of traffic.  

With a Public Private Transportation Act totally broken, the Gov can ink a horribly bad deal that could cost the next Governor millions to get out of.  But losing millions is better than losing billions.   This boondoggle road will never be built.  

And the Virginia General Assembly had best reform the Public Private Transportation Act before the tax payers are road kill  

Frankenstein, Frankenstorm and Climate Change

Hurricane Sandy's proximity to Halloween is no doubt responsible for the nickname Frankenstorm. But, the word wits that came up with that clever name may have been more descriptive than they knew.

In the classic story of Frankenstein, a human creation has gotten out of control. In the case of Frankenstorm, human caused climate change is having the unintended consequence of more frequent, more severe storm events to catastrophic effect.

Just how bad is George Allen?–One more reason to Vote for Tim Kaine

If you didn't live in Virginia when George Allen was Governor you may not understand just how anti-environmental he is.  In the US Senate he had an abysmal record but those were only votes.

It was as Governor where George Allen demonstrated his utter contempt for environmental laws.   Right after he was sworn in as Governor, he gutted the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.  Allen, bringing in what we then caused "wise users" at the time to run this key environmental agency is today's equivalent of putting the Tea Party in charge.  There were mass firings and mass resignations of agency staffers who refused to follow orders to ignore pollution violations.

Allen also interfered with an on going EPA lawsuit against Smithfield Foods for water pollution.  The CEO of Smithfield at the time, Joe Luter, gave Allen a $100,000 campaign contribution and after Allen was elected he had the state intervene in that EPA lawsuit, effectively neutralizing federal action against Smithfield.  As unethical as this may sound, it apparently is not illegal in Virginia where there is no limit on campaign contributions.

The Allen Administration even lied to the US EPA about the status of data collected on toxic emissions. When the EPA sought the toxic pollution data from the state, the response was that they did not have it, all the while it was actually locked in safe at the DEQ.

If elected to the US Senate, George Allen will continue his war against the environment, attacking EPA funding and regulations and voting as he has before to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling.  We must not let this happen.  

Hey Mark Warner! Stop Voting Against President Obama…and the Environment!

I got an e-mail this morning from a progressive group that in reference to the Senate passage of President Obama's tax package started out with: "Holy cow, the Senate actually PASSED something!" then urged me to thank Senator Warner for his vote.  

Yes, we should thank Senator Warner for his vote with the President on this critical issue because lately he as been voting against the President on important environmental bills.  So when you thank Senator Warner for his vote on the tax bill, I suggest you also express your disappointed with his recent votes against the President. Note that these votes against President Obama are coming in the middle of an election year in the critical swing state of Virginia--not very helpful to the President's re-election effort.

Senator Warner voted against not only the President but against children when he sided with the outspoken Oklahoma climate change denier, Senator Inhofe and the coal industry to strip the EPA's authority to regulate mercury pollution from coal fired power plants.

GOP Applauds Webb’s and Warner’s Inexcusable Anti-Environmental Votes

Predictably, the GOP applauds Warner's anti-environmental vote:
Both Democrat Virginia Senators And Three Other Democrats Joined 41 Republicans Supporting A Measure To Overturn New Obama-EPA Regulation That Targets Coal-Fired Power Plants

All of us should be deeply disturbed at the inexcusable vote yesterday by Senator Mark Warner (and Jim Webb) against the US EPA and for Big Coal when he voted with Oklahoma climate denier Senator Inhofe to roll back the EPA's new rule limiting mercury emissions.

Putting the interests of Big Coal and companies like Dominion over the well being of children whose intellectual capacity will be harmed for life by mercury is unacceptable. This vote was a breach of the public trust.

One has to question why Warner would vote against President Obama in an election year in our critically important swing state of Virginia. I suggest that you call his office at 202-224-2023 and ask him.  

Taliban Bob and Statutory Rape

I've never wanted to visit Saudi Arabia or other countries that treat women as chattel, and I view their policies that severely limit women's rights as a gross violation of human rights. Why do we buy oil from these sexist tyrants?

Regrettably, it now seems that Virginia, USA is on the verge of going further than even some of these anti-woman states by adopting legislation that would require a woman to under go a medical procedure with a trans-vaginal probe without her consent if she is seeking an abortion.  

From my law school days, I recall the common law definition of "rape" as non-consensual penetration. It would seem that the legislators who are voting for this bill to mandate a trans-vaginal ultra sound and the Governor who promises to sign it are guilty of and give new meaning to the term, "statutory rape".  

With legislation like this working its way through the General Assembly it may be time for a Virginia Spring similar to the peaceful uprisings that have spread across the Middle East.  

Voters’ Rights are Environmental Rights

A vigorous, healthy democracy with active voters is our best insurance against the special interest money of polluters who actively lobby to weaken our clean air and clean water standards. For that reason the Sierra Club considers voters' rights as environmental rights, and this legislative session we will oppose bills that attempt to restrict citizens' access to the ballot.

Requiring photo identification to vote is an effort by Republicans to suppress the vote in Virginia in advance of the November 2012 election.  SB 1 (by Senator Steve Martin) and HB 9 (by Del. Mark Cole) would require photo ids rather than other forms of identification like a voter registration card, a social security card or even a birth certificate. Ostensibly, this is to guard against voter fraud even though there is no evidence of voter fraud linked to false IDs.

On the other hand, as many as 11% of American adults do not have a photo ID, many of them elderly. When you stop driving, your license expires and many former drivers have no need to secure a new photo ID. These citizens and registered voters will now be denied the right vote the next time they go to the polls.  

For all Americans who believe in democracy this legislation is a affront to our basic right to vote, and you should let your state Senator and Delegate know you disapprove.

It’s official: Dominion is VA’s Biggest Global Warming Polluter

EPA's first inventory of Greenhouse Gas Emissions finds Dominion-Virginia Power to be the state's Biggest Climate Change Polluter

Following a year of bizarre and destructive weather, the US EPA has just released its first inventory of large emitters of greenhouse gas emissions. The data available on a searchable website shows Dominion-Virginia Power to be the state's largest emitter of greenhouse gases that cause climate change. The top three polluters in Virginia were all Dominion Virginia Power coal-fired power plants: Chesterfield, Clover, and Chesapeake Power Stations.

"We are pleased that Dominion is proposing to retire several of its oldest and dirtier coal units," said Glen Besa, Virginia Director for the Sierra Club. Last September, Dominion announced the retirement of both the Chesapeake and Yorktown coal plants which among the top ten polluters in Virginia.  

"The retirement of the Chesapeake and Yorktown coal plants is welcome news except that Dominion has announced its intention to replace that electricity with new gas-fired power plants," said Besa. "Natural gas is cleaner than coal but it still is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. For example, also in the top ten of the state's biggest polluters is the Tenaska Virginia Generating Station, a gas fired power plant in Fluvanna County ranked at number nine."

There’s Something Rotten in Richmond: Condemnation for Private Profit

Just yesterday, Governor Bob McDonnell announced that he was throwing more state money at the Coalfields Expressway in Southwest Virginia, a boondoggle road project of the first order.  Worse yet it is an abuse of the state government's power of condemnation to benefit coal companies like Alpha Natural Resources. Local property owners will see their land condemned so that coal companies can get at the coal under their land using the pretense of building a road.  Governor McDonnell is directing VDOT to condemn land for the benefit of private coal companies.  

The proof of this abuse is evident in the Governor's announcement in which he discloses that the developer of the Coalfields Expressway is not a highway contractor but the coal company Alpha Natural Resources. It is also important to note that Alpha Natural Resources made over $270,000 in campaign contributions in 2011, $192,000 to Republicans including $50,000 to Governor McDonnell's Opportunity Virginia PAC and $77,000 to Democrats.  This is the kind of shameful abuse and back dealing that erodes public confidence in the integrity of government.

For additional details see here.

Glen Besa

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