Last night at a fundraiser for the Virginia Progressive Caucus (organized by Del. Patrick Hope) in Arlington, prior to a showing of the powerful, anger-inducing (against the rapacious natural gas industry) documentary film Gasland (on the hazards of natural gas “fracking,” of which there are many!) two important environmental leaders – JR Tolbert from the Sierra Club and Jeffrey Painter of the League of Conservation Voters spoke about Virginia energy policy.
JR Tolbert focused on fracking in Southwest Virginia, as well as Governor McDonnell’s foolish focus on making Virignia the “energy capital of the East Coast” solely through fossil fuels. Tolbert pointed out that fracking injects chemicals into the ground that have an impact on local communities. The question, in Tolbert’s mind, is “do you choose corporations and corporate profits over public health and safe drinking water?” Sadly, it appears that Bob McDonnell sides heavily with corporate profits over public health. Tolbert also emphasized the crucial importance of maintaining our “Virginia State Senate environmental firewall” against the climate science deniers and “radical, anti-environmental agenda” of Bob McDonnell et al. So, get out and vote and protect that firewall!
Jeff Painter reiterated Tolbert’s point about the crucial importance of keeping Democratic control of the Senate “firewall” against the Republicans’ radical, anti-environment agenda. Painter then talked about uranium mining, and the need to keep the ban in place. Virginia Uranium, which is actually a Canadian company, has been lobbying hard, and spending boatloads of money (including to buy people off), to convince Virginia legislators to lift that ban. Painter emphasized the importance of contacting your legislator and letting them know what you think about this issue (e.g., oppose lifting the ban!). I asked Painter whether Virginia Uranium’s lobbying efforts, including flying lawmakers to France and Canada, have been effective. According to Painter, they haven’t been particularly effective, “for all the money that they have spent.” So now, they’re looking at other alternatives, maybe through the budget process and/or through the governor’s office via regulations. In other words, these people are relentless, and they get paid good money to do this, so they’re not going to stop until they get their way – or, better yet, are defeated once and for all.
P.S. The music in the background is the intro to the film Gasland. I actually think it’s appropriate that it was playing during Tolbert’s and Painter’s remarks.