Saturday, November 16, 2019
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tolbejr

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Right Place, Right Time: Bringing Offshore Wind to Virginia

Cross posted from Article XI

It is cliché to use the phrase, "I was in the right place at the right time," but today more than 300 people gathered in Virginia Beach because it is the right place and right time for Virginia to move forward with the development of offshore wind.

Offshore wind represents clean, renewable energy for Virginia.  The winds blowing off our coast could power 750,000 homes in the Commonwealth within the next 15 years, but clean energy is not the only benefit of offshore wind.

Harnessing the energy of the wind has the potential to create thousands of good jobs for Virginians.  From the building and maintenance associated with turbines in the seabed to the supply chain that manufactures the parts, if Virginia acts now we stand to reap huge economic gains from this burgeoning industry.

It's for these reasons that the Virginia Sierra Club has partnered with some unlikely allies, including Dominion Virginia Power and McGuire Woods, to host this wind conference.  We realize the opportunity that offshore wind gives Virginia and we're committed to making it a reality.

Our number one priority at the Sierra Club is addressing climate change.  To mitigate the worst impacts of climate change the United States, and indeed the entire world, will need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels in the near future.  To accomplish this requires that we bring renewable energy to scale.  This means that we want to see major investments in efficiency, solar, wind and biomass that will gradually displace older more polluting sources of energy.

Building a clean energy future will require new ways of doing business for all of us.  It means groups like the Sierra Club need to partner with and support the clean energy industry.  That's why the Club took the lead on Virginia's first offshore wind conference.  We are hopeful that today's conference will be an important step along the way to realizing a clean, renewable, profitable energy revolution in the Commonwealth.  

When it Comes to the Environment, Don’t Let the Tea Party Fool You

Cross posted from Article XI

We've all seen the scene in a movie, and some of us have even seen it in action.  At a little league baseball game the first baseman walks up to the pitcher to give him advice. When he returns to first he acts completely normal, the runner takes a lead and it turns out the first baseman had the ball all along and tags the runner out.

What do the Tea Party and the future of the planet have to do with baseball?

I wish it was a simple answer, but it's not. The Tea Party has decided that the concept of sustainable communities and developments is a Trojan Horse created by the environmental community to rob you of your property. It's an interesting theory.

Tea Partiers are convinced that environmentalists are working to advance a United Nations plot to turn our cities into communist collectives. The UN plot they reference is Agenda 21, which was developed in the early 1970s when the Cold War was still raging.  

They've decided that in Virginia this plot has taken hold in the form of urban development areas and comprehensive planning. It's a novel idea even if Republicans were the ones who helped lead the charge on urban development areas. Urban development areas were created in the Commonwealth in 2007 as part of the transportation legislation from that year.  

The reason behind these development zones is simple. Sprawling communities cost more money to maintain, connect to water and sewer sources, etc. than do planned communities where development is centered on a core.

That's right, urban development areas were created to save taxpayers money.

Uranium Mining Poses Serious Threat to Roanoke River Basin

Cross-posted from www.articlexi.com

Today the Roanoke River was included in American Rivers' 26th annual list of the 10 most endangered waterways in America.  American Rivers says lifting the ban on uranium mining would threaten the Roanoke River as well as drinking water supplies in the region with radioactive pollution and toxic chemicals.

The river flows from the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia to North Carolina's Outer Banks.  It provides drinking water to more than one million people in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and other communities.  Raleigh, North Carolina has also expressed need to use water from the basin.

The River is also a center of tourism and cultural heritage for the region.  Once a passageway for the Native Americans and early European settlers, it is now enjoyed by local and visitors who enjoy trout fishing, kayaking, swimming and so much more.

BP Oil Disaster Still Haunting the Gulf Coast

Cross posted from Article XI

Shhh... Do you hear that?  The silence is deafening.  It's the sound of the mainstream media covering the one year anniversary of the BP oil disaster.

One year ago today, the largest oil spill in American history took place in the Gulf of Mexico.  For four months, the nation's attention was focused on a geyser of oil coming up from the ocean floor.  Then one day the oil stopped flowing and the well was capped.

I had the good fortune to meet some fantastic people during the BP oil spill.  Working with Sierra Club and Environment America we flew up three victims from the Gulf Coast to tell their story to folks in Virginia.  They were here the day the oil stopped flowing.

Chris Seaman, who owns a chain of restaurants along the Gulf Coast of Florida was in my car when the well was capped.  He turned to me and told me how happy and worried he was at the same time.  

He was happy because the oil had stopped flowing and the American public would come back to his beaches again. He was worried because he knew the media crews were leaving, and along with them the commitment to restoring the Gulf Coast that had just began to take hold across the country.

The worries that Chris had that day were well-founded.  The media stopped covering the BP oil tragedy, most folks assumed the oil disappeared and politics as usual returned to Washington, DC.  In the year that has passed since this unspeakable tragedy occurred off the Louisiana coast, the United States has not taken meaningful action to break our addiction to oil.

1st Quarter Money Reports Are In…

Cross posted from Article XI

April 15th represents more than tax day in Virginia politics.  It's also the day that first quarter fundraising reports are due for candidates and Political Action Committees across the Commonwealth.  Over the course of the weekend, the good folks at VPAP pulled together the data and the results are now posted online.

Not that anyone is surprised, but the results show what we all already know, that the Energy and Natural Resources industry provides a huge amount of the political capital generated in Virginia.  Some of these numbers are astounding.  A few quick highlights:

- Energy and Natural Resources funding ranks second behind funding from political committees and the state parties. This number is a little hazy, however, since the parties and so many of the candidates get their money from the Energy and Natural Resources industry.

- Electric Utilities donated more than one-quarter of a million dollars in the first quarter of 2011.  Approximately, 80 percent of this funding was from Dominion Resources, but have no fear the electric cooperatives and Appalachian Power also spread their largesse around.

- King Coal made its presence known through $221,633 in gifts in the first quarter.  Most of this money went to Governor Bob McDonnell's PAC, but Senator Phil Puckett was handsomely rewarded for carrying the coal industry's polluted water with $10,000 from Alpha Natural Resources.

It's the final bullet on the coal industry's giving that I find the most telling.  The two largest contributions made by the coal industry went to Governor McDonnell.  Their total value was $150,000.  This left $71,633 from the coal industry to members of the General Assembly, or Political Action Committees.  Two members of the General Assembly ranked high above everyone else when it came to filling their coffers with dirty money, Senator Phil Puckett and Delegate Will Morefield.

“Fairfax’s Own” Chooses Polluters Over Fairfax

Cross posted from Article XIWhat happens in Virginia when the state legislature passes legislation to protect the environment with unanimous bipartisan support?

Well, in the case of Senator Chap Petersen's SB 843 the governor deletes the language that would require the polluter to clean up its act.
Senator Petersen's bill would have tank farms, like the TransMontaigne farm on Pickett Road in Fairfax City, meet modern storage standards.  The TransMontaigne facility is infamous for its record of oil spills and overflows.  Last month, they were fined $114,000 for their inability to stop spilling oil in Fairfax City.

This common-sense bill would have given these facilities ten years to meet standards, and Bob McDonnell could not stand it.  Fairfax's own Governor Spill, Baby, Spill is willing to let polluters off the hook at every turn, and now he's asking Fairfax City residents to pay the costs.

This is one more example of how reckless Bob McDonnell is when it comes to the environment.  His administration doesn't understand, or even worse seem to care, that citizens suffer when polluters are given a free pass.

“Containment Vessel, We Don’t Need No Stinking Containment Vessel!”

Cross-posted from www.articlexi.com

Question:  What's worse than lifting the ban on a radioactive industry in Virginia?

Answer:  Lifting the ban on the radioactive industry if they have no plan to contain the radioactive waste their industry produces.

I know it may seem crazy but, that's the scenario that could play out if Virginia were to lift a near 30-year ban on uranium mining during the 2012 legislative session.  According to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests which uncovered emails between Walter Coles, Sr of Virginia Uranium, Inc. and Peter Pommerenk, Ph.D who works for the city of Virginia Beach.

Virginia Uranium, Inc. is pushing to have Virginia's existing ban on uranium mining lifted and has a 2012 legislative session target date for achieving this goal.  In the meantime, the National Academies of Sciences, Danville Regional Foundation, Chmura Analytics and the city of Virginia Beach are studying the effects uranium mining would have on portions of the state.

The key word here is "portions." The Virginia Beach study is looking at downstream impacts of uranium mining on the water supply while the other studies are all studying the impacts on Southside Virginia.  It's from Virginia Beach's efforts to study the safety of uranium mining that these emails originated.

Virginia Citizens Call for Clean Air Protections

Today is I love mountains day.  For many activists in Virginia today represents an opportunity to protest the injustice of mountaintop removal, and for others it represents one more opportunity to call on Senators Webb and Warner to support the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act has a more than 40 year history of cost-effectively reducing air pollution and protecting public health.  Unfortunately, legislation that was passed with bipartisan support in 1970, and signed into law by Richard Nixon, has become political fodder.  It all stems from a 2007 Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA where the court ruled that the EPA must conduct proceedings to determine if carbon pollution is a threat to public health.
The process began under the Bush Administration, but was not completed until the Spring of 2009 when the Obama EPA found that the science does show a link between greenhouse gas emissions and public health.  In the time that has lapsed since then, Republicans have cried foul arguing that the EPA doing its job to protect public health is federal overreach.

Unfortunately, they've found support in a few coal state Democrats like Virginia's own Jim Webb.  That brings us to the events of today, and the pleas of more than 100 Virginians that Senator Webb stop obstructing the EPA and let it do its job.

Don’t Let King Coal Buy Virginia’s Elections

Who pays for elections?  In Virginia, we're pretty lucky since we know who pays for our elections.  The good folks at the Virginia Public Access Project do a great job of keeping us up-to-date on who is donating money to whom, and how that money is spent.

Today is no different as VPAP reported a $100,000 donation from former Cumberland Resources President & CEO Richard Gilliam to Governor McDonnell's political action committee. Now for most of us $100,000 seems like an awful lot.  

Let's take a quick moment to put that amount of money into perspective:

In 2007, the average winning campaign for Virginia State Senate spent $490,950.98.  Off the top, this $100,000 gift would be a little more than one-fifth the costs to win a Senate race.  Now, I know it cost more to win a competitive Senate race so if we take out all those races where the winner received more than 75% of the vote the average becomes $684,338.47.  For this hefty price tag a $100,000 contribution only buys 14.6% of a Senate seat.

To take it one step further, Mr. Gilliam has donated $235,000 to Republican PACs or candidates since the beginning of 2010. That's more than 33% of the cost of a competitive seat in the Virginia Senate.

That's what we're up against. One founder of one coal company that was bought out by Massey Energy in 2010 has donated almost one-quarter of a million dollars to Republican efforts to reclaim the Senate.  

Jim Webb: Whose side are you on?

Cross posted from ArticleXI

For more than a year, the environmental community has been asking Senator Jim Webb, “whose side are you on,” when it comes to addressing carbon pollution.  Time and again, he has forced us to ask this question as he has flirted with different efforts to strip EPA authority when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  

Here’s the quick background:  

In April 2007, the Supreme Court determined that greenhouse gases are air pollutants subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act. The Court authorized the EPA to determine whether emission of greenhouse gases pose a threat to public health.  This process began under the Bush Administration, and was concluded under the Obama Administration when in the spring of 2009 EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced that the science supported a link between increased greenhouse gas emissions and threats to public health as a result of the increased air pollution.  

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