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Green New Deal Virginia Coalition Applauds Virginia Council on Environmental Justice Call for a Fossil Fuel Moratorium, Urges Governor to Declare a Climate Emergency

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From the Green New Deal Virginia:

Green New Deal Virginia Coalition Applauds Virginia Council on Environmental Justice Call for a Fossil Fuel Moratorium, Urges Governor to Declare a Climate Emergency

On April 7, the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice called on Governor Ralph Northam to institute a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects and permits.  

The Council was established as a permanent advisory body to the Governor in legislation supported by Green New Deal Virginia and signed into law in March 2020.  Its purpose is “to advise the Governor and provide recommendations that maintain a foundation of environmental justice principles intended to protect vulnerable communities from disproportionate impacts of pollution.” 

As noted in the Virginia Mercury, the Council told Northam:

“When we move rapidly and boldly from fossil fuels to clean affordable energy sources, we will transform our economy to be more just and sustainable.  Widespread adoption of renewable energies will create new jobs, establish cleaner infrastructure, and ensure a healthier future for all.” 

The April 7 letter also called on the Governor to declare a climate emergency. 

Green New Deal Virginia, a coalition of more than 80 social justice, environmental and economic justice organizations, applauds the Governor’s Council for its bold call to action.  Formed in December 2018 by Delegates Sam Rasoul and Elizabeth Guzman, Green New Deal Virginia has consistently fought for legislation that would ensure a just transition in Virginia to a green energy economy.  Declaration of a climate emergency and a fossil fuel moratorium have been central elements of legislation developed by Green New Deal Virginia in cooperation with Green New Deal Virginia legislative “champions.”

Among other things, a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects and permits would effectively end construction of the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 303-mile climate busting corporate boondoggle that already has been fined millions of dollars for having committed hundreds of violations of Virginia’s environmental laws.  Billions over budget and years behind schedule, MVP still lacks federal and state permits required to cross hundreds of water bodies and protected national forest land.  

MVP should have been canceled years ago, just as the Atlantic Coast Pipeline was canceled.  A fossil fuel moratorium would do just that – and more!

Karen Campblin, co-director of Green New Deal Virginia, chair of the Environmental and Social Justice Committee of the Virginia State Conference of the NAACP and a member of the Council who signed the April 7 letter, urged Governor Northam to adopt the Council’s recommendations:  

“At a time when daily reports confirm what we already know – that we are in climate emergency – there is no time to waste.  Virginia has an historic opportunity to become a leader in both environmental justice and sane energy policy by recognizing that we are in a climate emergency and we need to stop building new fossil fuel infrastructure.”

Tom Benevento, a member of the Council who also signed the April 7 letter, said:
”As a social ecologist, community organizer, and  member of the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice I have come to realize that the climate crisis is humanity’s greatest challenge. It impacts all of us and our most vulnerable communities first and worst. The climate crisis is also our greatest opportunity to unite our voices for change. It was therefore imperative to organize the Council to call on the Governor to declare a climate emergency and moratorium on all fossil fuel projects and permits. The time to act is now. Together we can build a livable future for all.”

Barry O’Keefe, Organizer, Extinction Rebellion Richmond said:

“The UK, Canada, Ireland, Argentina, France, and 1,910 local governments (from NYC and San Fran to Kalamazoo and Alexandria, Virginia) have already declared states of Climate Emergency. We need our governments to prove that they understand the science by admitting we’re in a crisis. Then we need them to mobilize society.“

Jolene Mafnas Virginia Organizer, Food & Water Watch said:

“As the climate crisis grows more dire during a time of racial reckoning in our nation, environmental justice should be at the forefront of Northam’s legacy. Virginia has seen more than its fair share of environmental injustices and Northam has refused to use his gubernatorial powers to protect these communities, like the Buckingham Compressor Station in Union Hill and the ongoing fight against C4GT and Chickahominy gas plants in Charles City County. The climate crisis is going to hit communities of color and poor the most and these same communities are already at the frontlines battling dangerous fossil-fuel projects. It’s time Northam makes environmental justice a priority by declaring a climate emergency and enacting a moratorium on all new fossil-fuel projects and permits.”

Fionnuala Fisk, Co-director of Sunrise Virginia said:

”Having spent the last year in the coronavirus crisis together, it’s become clear that we could solve the climate crisis surprisingly quickly if we had the political will. Leadership matters, and Sunrise Virginia calls on Governor Northam to step up to the plate.”

Elle De La Cancela, Central Virginia Organizer for CCAN said:

“The tide is turning both here in Virginia and across the country: the age of oil and gas is out. Continuing to sink resources into extractive projects is kicking the ball down the road when the goal is on the other side of the field. Implementing a fossil fuel moratorium today is the first step to a just transition that brings everyone along in building an equitable and thriving future. Gov. Northam, act boldly and declare a climate emergency.” 

Cris Lagunas – Strategy Director, The Climate Mobilization & Climate Mobilization Project said:

“The Climate Mobilization stands in solidarity and support with the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice as they take further steps to address the Climate Emergency and ensure our future. Currently, our local leaders are not doing enough, and the only way to move forward is through people power. Both the COVID 19 Pandemic and the Climate Emergency have shown us that resilient communities are leading the way to a sustainable future. We support the EJ Councils actions and are honored to join the Green New Deal Virginia Coalition’s Climate Emergency efforts in the Commonwealth. May our demands be answered in time.” 

William Spencer, Coordinator and co-founder of Sunrise Movement Richmond, a member of the Green New Deal Virginia coalition, said: 

“In 2018, the IPCC stated that we only have 12 years to prevent irreversible impacts of climate change. Since then, we have seen insufficient half measures and general inaction from the Commonwealth. We need to declare a climate emergency if we want any chance of averting the worst impacts of climate change.”

To support this historic push for a fossil fuel moratorium and a climate emergency declaration, Green New Deal Virginia is circulating a letter to Governor Northam and Congress as well as a petition to the Mayor and City Council of Richmond  which it urges everyone to sign. 

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