Posts Tagged ‘Virginia’

Virginia Power Shifters intend to organize and win on climate

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 - posted by hannah

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Building up communities, empowering people to overcome oppression and standing up to polluters with grassroots strength: these were among the central themes of Virginia Power Shift, which took place at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond last weekend. Students worked tirelessly to involve campuses from all over the state, and delegations traveled from every corner of Virginia to join in the hard work (and, yes, also the play) that constitute this amazing young leaders’ summit.

An eye-opening and inspiring convergence of developing leaders and newly-born activists and loads of young reformers in between, the event showcased a movement on the rise, bringing social justice, climate and energy, pro-democracy and equality campaigns into one space to share skills and generate new approaches to problems.


Words don’t seem to capture the Power Shift ethic and attitude of heightened awareness and an open-minded way of caring for all people struggling for fairness and equity, but the picture above captures some of the substance and spirit of the weekend of learning and action.

Workshops given on the issues of the moment ranged from student debt to mountaintop removal mining, renewable energy to voter suppression, privilege and discrimination to corporate campaigning against greenwashing and unethical practices. Remarks by climate movement and environmental justice leaders like Energy Action Coalition’s Lillian Molina, Virginia New Majority’s Tram Nguyen, and the Hip Hop Caucus’ Reverend Lennox Yearwood capped off the conference on a high note.

The weekend of action and leadership is just the beginning of a redoubled effort to expand participation of students on campuses in the many organizing opportunities highlighted in Richmond, and in many other fights that this generation takes seriously.

Are you a student ready to engage in this powerful movement? Get with the active organizations on your campus, or check out the top-notch student coalition behind Power Shift 2014!

McAuliffe can pave the way for a cleaner future for Virginia

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 - posted by cat

{ Editor’s Note }This post ran as an op-ed in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday, April 8 — the first day of the annual Environment Virginia Symposium, an environmental conference that brings together regulators, business people and entrepreneurs, elected officials, and citizen groups like Appalachian Voices.

In his keynote speech at the symposium, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he plans to diversify Virginia’s economy by boosting the clean energy sector, which would not only create jobs but also address climate change: “I believe humans contribute to climate change. I think it’s pretty much settled. I think the impacts are felt today.”

In his keynote address at the Environment Virginia Symposium, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he plans to diversify Virginia’s economy by boosting the clean energy sector.

In his keynote address at the Environment Virginia Symposium, Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he plans to diversify Virginia’s economy by boosting the clean energy sector.

In almost every campaign speech, Terry McAuliffe told the story of how he started a driveway-paving business in his neighborhood when he was 14 to earn money to help pay for his college education. Now Virginia’s 47th governor, McAuliffe is clearly proud of the moral: Work hard, invest in your future and you’ll go far.

As Gov. McAuliffe begins to apply these values to his gubernatorial agenda, there’s no better place to start than by paving the way for a stronger, more equitable economy for all Virginians by investing in a 21st-century clean-energy sector for the commonwealth.

Wind and solar power and energy efficiency have not only proven to be cost-effective, they can provide long-term jobs throughout the state, stabilize energy costs for families and businesses and strengthen Virginia’s economy. As a first step, McAuliffe should require that all state-owned buildings in Virginia derive at least 20 percent of their power from renewable energy sources, and direct his agencies to become 20 percent more energy efficient.

McAuliffe has numerous other options at his disposal to put forth a clear vision for clean energy and take concrete steps to fortify the clean-energy business sector here in Virginia.

Energy efficiency:

Increasing investments in energy efficiency programs could create nearly 10,000 jobs and save Virginians over $2.2 billion annually on their electric bills by 2025.* But Virginia is far from realizing this opportunity; in fact, we rank 36th nationally for energy efficiency.

Seven years ago, the General Assembly set a voluntary goal to cut energy use by a modest 10 percent by 2022 (from 2006 levels). The state’s two largest electric utilities, Dominion Virginia Power and Appalachian Power, are on track to meet just one-half and one-quarter of that goal, respectively. McAuliffe should press the utilities to invest in more ambitious energy-efficiency programs to benefit the economy, the public and the environment. He should also adopt improved statewide building code standards that could increase efficiency of new home construction by as much as 27 percent.

Solar power:

The solar industry is booming across the country — except in Virginia. Last year, the industry added 14,000 new jobs, while fossil fuel companies cut nearly 4,000 workers. North Carolina has installed enough solar to power more than 25,000 homes and is ranked third for solar installed in 2013 — much of which powers data centers. Virginia trails far behind, with not even enough solar to power 1,000 homes.

Virginia could catch up, or even surpass our neighbors. McAuliffe can jumpstart solar projects by discouraging penalties imposed by utilities on homeowners and businesses who install solar panels, and by supporting policies that allow all Virginians to easily finance solar installations on their homes and businesses.

Wind power:

Virginia has some of the strongest potential for offshore wind energy in the country and holds the first federal license in the mid-Atlantic region, with the potential to produce enough electricity to power 700,000 homes. Dominion holds the lease, but is currently planning to develop just a fraction of that potential, enough to power roughly 4,200 homes, by 2028. McAuliffe should urge Dominion to fully develop this resource, which could create 10,000 additional new jobs over the next 20 years.

Diversifying Southwest Virginia’s economy:

McAuliffe should take immediate and significant action to expand and diversify economic opportunities in Southwest Virginia, especially in communities where coal is mined. Investments in clean energy, tourism, education and manufacturing will help secure a stronger economic future for families that have unfairly suffered poisoned drinking water and streams, soot and dust in the air, severe health problems and other impacts of mountaintop-removal coal mining.

McAuliffe can lead Virginia toward a stronger, healthier, economically just future by championing positive clean-energy policies like these. Our organizations stand ready to work with the governor, his staff and administration to help make that happen.
As a boy, Terry McAuliffe aimed high when he started his first business to invest in his future. He should do the same now for Virginia.

Cat McCue, communications director with Appalachian Voices, on behalf of Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club of Virginia, Southern Environmental Law Center and Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. Contact her at

* Information for this article was drawn largely from an August 2013 report, “Changing Course: A Clean Energy Investment Plan for Dominion Virginia Power, by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis and Optimal Energy.

Tennessee Invests in Main Street

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - posted by meredith

By Nolen Nychay

The Main Street Festival of Gallatin, Tenn., celebrates its 16th anniversary this October, keeping community traditions alive with local music and homemade food and craft vendors. Last year, the event drew more than 25,000 visitors looking to enjoy the rustic charm that the small communities of Tennessee pride themselves on.

The Greater Gallatin Inc. nonprofit organization hosts the annual festival to stimulate local businesses. The Tennessee Main Street Program, a statewide resource for communities revitalizing their downtowns, aims to preserve the authenticity of such small towns through their new “Ignite Downtown Economic Action” Initiative. “We’re excited about the potential of this new initiative to set realistic, economically prudent goals for Tennessee’s culturally unique towns,” says Todd Morgan of the Tennessee Main Street Program.

Launching this April, the IDEA Initiative will be a one-year program designed to help 27 Tennessee Main Street towns identify areas of economic opportunity. Economic development experts will visit each town, including mountain communities such as Bristol and Kingsport, to identify what most effectively attracts visitors and how that might be expanded. Afterwards, small business owners, city officials and local residents can gather for a public workshop to hear these expert opinions and offer their own suggestions for improvement. A final report with recommendations will be presented to each town hall to use for future projects.

2013 Marks Banner Year for Open Space in Virginia

By Emmalee Zupo

This past year marked the fourth most successful period for land conservation by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation — a state agency responsible for preserving open space and areas of cultural significance.

Nonprofit organizations such as New River Land Trust, based in Blacksburg, Va., have been helping local landowners place their properties into permanent conservation under the stewardship of VOF. The 56,697 acres of land protected from development in 2013 included more than 900 acres added to the state’s New River Trail State Park.*

Conserved properties also included historical landmarks such as the Shot Tower Historical State Park in Wythe County, Va., which protects one of the only remaining shot towers in the United States — and the remnants of what was once a major industry for the state. Shot towers are tall buildings that were used to create lead shot for firearms by dropping molten lead from a height of 150 feet into water, where the lead was then cooled.

John Eustis, executive director of the New River Land Trust, attributes the success of this past year to strong outreach efforts. “We couldn’t do our work without the support of our community,” Eustis says. “Thanks should always be given to those landowners and those community members who support conservation.”

*CORRECTION: The print version of this article incorrectly stated that 900 miles were added to the New River Trail scenic route. We regret the error.

Volunteering in Virginia

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - posted by meredith

Photo courtesy New River Bike Kitchen

Photo courtesy New River Bike Kitchen

New River Valley Bike Kitchen

This all-volunteer organization located in Christiansburg supplies cheap, recycled bikes to underprivileged citizens. With 19 percent of the New River Valley population under the poverty line and half of the population living within a 10-mile commute to work, New River Valley Bike Kitchen embarked on a mission to provide a reliable source of transportation to those in need. The program depends on volunteers with “mad bike mechanic skills” as well as untrained do-gooders to keep the organization running. Get Involved! Visit: nrvbikekitchen.comM. Warfield


Anyone can help serve Charlottesville’s elderly community at Jefferson Area Board For Aging through a variety of volunteer positions ranging from social gatherings coordinator, craft activity leaders, musicians and tutors for adults. Volunteers can also participate in the Friendly Visitor and Phone Buddy programs. Scheduling is flexible. Get Involved! Call 434-817-5222 or visit jabacares.orgM. Warfield

Plenty Local

This Floyd County community organization provides a hands-on approach for anyone looking to help those in need and learn about organic farming. Plenty Local seeks volunteers to help plant and harvest once a month at their farm and garden. For those more interested in cooking or working with the community, Plenty Local also recruits volunteers to help with weekly picnics, winter Souper Douper lunches and their Food Bank bag lunch program. Get Involved! Contact 540-357-5657 or visit plentylocal.orgM. Warfield

A Small (but important) Step: Appalachian Power’s New Energy Efficiency Proposal

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 - posted by hannah
Appalachian Power Company recently announced two energy efficiency initiatives that will benefit ratepayers and the environment.

Appalachian Power Company recently announced two energy efficiency initiatives that will benefit ratepayers and the environment.

April began with a bright item of news in Virginia: Appalachian Power plans to begin providing energy efficiency programs for customers!

The proposal for which Appalachian Power is seeking approval from state regulators has a couple of parts, and the first is much-needed weatherization for low-income households.

According to the company’s news release, the program will serve rural inhabitants “who often have few resources or opportunity to invest in efficient homes or technology.” The intent is for local energy service companies weatherize homes and the program also includes distribution of compact fluorescent lightbulbs at area food banks.

This move befits a utility that wants to be a good neighbor; home weatherization assistance can help a family’s budget go farther, and it’s the kind of program that every utility should be expected to offer, especially in rural areas where it’s essential to relieve the burden of higher energy costs on residents.

Appalachian Power is also seeking approval for an A/C cycling program which would allow customers to opt in to a program to relieve demand on the grid during peak usage. These program typically work by installing a smart control on a home’s A/C unit that the utility can then control to turn off and on your unit during the hottest part of the day to reduce the amount of electricity that needs to be provided. The customer benefits by saving money on their electricity bill.

While utilities often try to market these types of programs as efficiency measures, it’s arguable whether that is accurate. Efficiency programs reduce overall energy consumption and therefore impact generation needs, whereas an A/C cycling program offers “peak shaving” which better distributes existing demand to eliminate the need to fire-up expensive coal plants during particularly hot parts of the day. The nuances of that can wait, but the bottom line is that both of the programs proposed by Appalachian Power Company are a step in the right direction and will benefit ratepayers.

Finally, if Appalachian Power sees the potential for cost-effectively balancing energy generation and demand through efficiency, it shouldn’t stop with these initial steps. Hopefully the company will soon be ready to take a bigger leap and offer a wider range of energy efficiency programs. With support from customers, Appalachian Power can be influenced to reduce wasted energy in a way that benefits families and the environment.

Be part of the effort to push for more robust energy efficiency programs from Appalachian Power.

Advancing Community-owned Energy in Blacksburg

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - posted by hannah
Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam announces Solarize Blacksburg to a crowd at a local farmers market.

Blacksburg Mayor Ron Rordam announces Solarize Blacksburg to a crowd at a local farmers market.

If you’ve ever wished that purchasing a solar array for your home could be more like shopping for food in bulk at a big box store, then the new program Solarize Blacksburg is right up your alley.

For the next three months, Blacksburg, Va., is using financial tools and focusing the public’s interest in clean energy to encourage scores of potential rooftop solar customers attracted by discounts to sign up all at once. The more people sign up, the bigger everyones’ savings will be.

It began with a plan: the Blacksburg Climate Action Plan outlined goals to reduce the town’s carbon dioxide emissions, and generating electricity with solar means burning less coal. This Blacksburg program is based on a concept that was implemented recently in Oregon to fantastic success.

It’s understood that when undertaking a big investment such as whether to adopt solar, loads of questions go through the consumer’s mind. How long until my investment pays for itself? Am I better off pulling the trigger now or waiting another year for the price to come down?

In this case, between federal tax credits currently in play and the price cut available through the Solarize Blacksburg program, the cost to the consumer comes down by as much as 45 percent. This reduces the payback period to an unprecedented 10 years, after which solar panels will supply essentially free energy to the customer.

Part of the value of owning a solar system is that when customers generate more energy than they need, the extra power feeds on to the grid and customers are metered so as to receive a credit on their next energy bill for the energy they gave back to the utility. There is even financing available to pay the cost of the system in installments, making solar more accessible for everyone. And, the jobs involved in site assessment and installations are local to the community: Baseline Solar and Solar Connexion are the two companies involved and are both centered nearby.

So, if you’re a Blacksburg resident with south-facing rooftop space and you’re wondering about going solar, the site assessment is free when you sign up now through the end of May 2014 at and spread the word to neighbors and friends that there has never been a better time in Blacksburg to take advantage of the sun for your home.

Virginia Legislature Ends with Modest Progress on Solar

Monday, March 10th, 2014 - posted by guestbloggers

{ Editor’s Note } Ivy Main is a writer, lawyer, and environmental advocate based in Virginia. In addition to lobbying in the Virginia General Assembly for stronger clean energy policies, she writes the energy policy blog Power for the People VA, where this post was originally published.

According to guest contributor Ivy Main, the past few years have produced glimmers of hope that suggest a shifting mindset among legislators.

According to guest contributor Ivy Main, the past few years have produced glimmers of hope that suggest a shifting mindset among legislators.

Advocates of enlightened energy policy march into session every January bright-eyed and optimistic, only to become mired in the slough of despond. We watch the best bills die, while bills we thought too backward to survive the light of day flourish like an invasive species. Yet even in Virginia, the past few years have produced glimmers of hope that suggest a slowly shifting mindset among legislators.

There is, for example, a growing movement in favor of solar energy that is as strong on the Republican right as it is on the Democratic left. They haven’t quite formed a Solar Caucus yet, but you might say we are beginning to see a Solar Consensus.

Last year, after a long battle, this consensus produced a law specifically allowing some third-party-owned solar and wind projects, a critical step for nonprofits to install solar economically. This year, the legislature removed the second major hurdle to these projects, local “machinery and tools” taxes on solar equipment that would have made third-party-owned projects impossible in most Virginia jurisdictions. Assuming the governor signs, SB 418 and HB 1239 take effect January 1, 2015.

In a near rerun of two years ago, Senator Chap Petersen’s SB 222, nullifying homeowner bans on solar, passed the House and Senate. Back then Governor McDonnell surprised us all by vetoing similar legislation, an action not expected from Governor McAuliffe.

This year, too, the legislature voted to establish a grant program to help fund renewable energy projects. Originally conceived as an ambitious, $100 million tax credit, the legislation was quickly scaled back to $10 million and turned into a grant, causing it to run into trouble when money couldn’t be found in the budget to fund it. (Sorry, we spent it all on coal.) So SB 653 won’t take effect until fiscal year 2015-2016, and even for that to happen the bill must be reenacted in 2015. Too many contingencies, you say? Well, yes. But passing the bill at all is a remarkable milestone for this legislature. Let’s appreciate this moment.

Solar advocates also tried for a second year to pass a bill that would require the State Corporation Commission to set up a registration system for Virginia renewable energy certificates. While the bill did not pass, the SCC has agreed to examine whether it can do the job administratively, and if legislation is required, to suggest the necessary language for the 2015 session. Again, it’s a small victory, but it reflects an increasing acceptance of solar energy as an inevitable part of our energy mix.

Okay, sure, the defeats were far more numerous. Reforms to our farcical Renewable Portfolio Standard were whittled down to why-bother status before passage (SB 498 and HB 822). Efforts to ensure that both utilities and regulators take account of the long-term costs of fossil fuels (HB 808) and their climate change impacts (HB 363) never made it out of the House subcommittee. Every effort to expand residents’ access to solar energy by opening up net-metering failed (SB 350, HB 879, HB 906 and SB 350).

One of the net-metering champions, Senator John Edwards, put in a resolution in the final days of the session to organize a study of the value that distributed solar generation provides to utilities and the grid. The bill was introduced on March 3 and scuttled three days later (surely some kind of record), but advocates expect the study to go forward administratively. The study will make use of the Small Solar Working Group that formed last year, facilitated by the Department of Environmental Quality and consisting of solar advocates, utilities, local governments and others.

This value-of-solar issue is at the heart of the national battle over the expansion of distributed solar and the effort by utilities to nip it in the bud to preserve their monopolies. We expect Virginia utilities to continue their push for a very low valuation, one that would justify the barriers currently in place and add new ones like standby charges.

There were other disappointments, too, like the failure of HB 766, a bill that would have allowed localities to form service districts for energy projects, just as they do for things like trash collection, and HB 1001, which would have required electric utilities to offer on-bill financing of energy efficiency improvements.

But as I wrote in my last post, the worst news for consumers this year was the passage of SB 459, a bill allowing Dominion to write off hundreds of millions of dollars it has spent developing plans for a third nuclear reactor at Lake Anna. Last week we spoke with lawyers at the Attorney General’s office about this boondoggle, which they also oppose, and received confirmation that our reading of the bill is correct. In spite of the propaganda coming from Dominion about “no ratepayer impact,” customers of the utility will indeed pay these costs.

Worse, while we know Dominion has spent $570 million so far, the company has not disclosed how much more it intends to spend — and charge us — in the future. The AG’s office told us Dominion has this estimate but won’t disclose it publicly, insisting the figure is confidential. Apparently it is not for the likes of us customers to know such things.

Legislators not only signed us up for this open-ended boondoggle, they specifically rejected an amendment offered by Delegate Ware that would have ensured we got our money back if Dominion doesn’t build the nuclear plant.

Given the lopsided vote tally, the governor is not likely to veto the bill. Knowing this, the AG’s office is recommending amendments that would allow the State Corporation Commission to review the money spent (the bill as written jettisons even that minor consumer protection), but isn’t suggesting a wholesale rewrite.

Looking for a silver lining? There are two. First, Dominion may have pursued this legislation not because it wants to build North Anna 3, but because it intends to abandon the project and figures it might as well get ratepayers to cover the sunk costs while it’s still possible to pretend everything is full speed ahead. That would actually come as a relief; not building a financially uncompetitive nuclear plant on an earthquake fault line is way better than building it.

Second, the bitter pill of this legislation comes with a little chaser of sugar in the form of a second bill, SB 643, that provides the same treatment for the costs of developing an offshore wind farm. So far these costs have been tiny in comparison to what’s been spent on North Anna 3, but putting them into the rate base will lower the cost of building turbines offshore.

Some people have suggested it’s inconsistent to like the wind bill while hating the nuclear bill, but surely it’s only reasonable to fish a pearl out of a dung heap. There are good reasons to distinguish the bills, beyond the dangers of nuclear and the planet-friendly qualities of wind power. Most obvious is that there is real doubt whether the federal government will approve a nuclear plant with the serious siting issues confronting Lake Anna, while it has already approved the site of the offshore wind farm and given Dominion a lease.

Since my last update, a few other bills have seen action. Senator Stuart’s bill to control fracking in the Tidewater area, SB 48, died in the killing fields of House Commerce and Labor. SJ3 and HJ16, Virginia’s first bills to deal with the effects of climate change, had to go to conference on the question of who would be part of the subcommittee studying “recurrent flooding” and how much power they would have. The compromise calls for three senators and five delegates to be part of the 11-member subcommittee. Absurdly, it gives the majority of either the senators or the delegates veto power over any recommendation. Senators Locke, McWaters and Watkins, and Delegates Stolle, Knight and Hester have already been appointed.

NCDENR Defends NCDENR, Not the Environment

Monday, February 24th, 2014 - posted by Kimber
In a press briefing to address the Dan River coal ash spill, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla revealed that he’s still not convinced that the agency should require the cleanup of coal ash ponds.

In a press briefing to address the Dan River coal ash spill, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla revealed that he’s still not convinced the agency should require the cleanup of coal ash ponds.

With the finesse of a bulldozer, North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary John Skvarla plowed through a Feb. 19 press briefing on coal ash and the Dan River coal ash spill, hurrying from the room after less than an hour with the protests of reporters and their unanswered questions echoing behind him.

While the public has been eager for DENR to discuss their plans to prevent future coal ash disasters, Skvarla instead spent the majority of his time striking back at allegations that his agency has not done enough to prevent such disasters from occurring.

Since the Feb. 2 collapse of a stormwater pipe at Duke Energy’s retired coal plant in Eden, N.C., DENR has been making national headlines. The 39,000 tons of toxic ash that have coated more than 70 miles of the Dan River mark the spill as the third largest incident in U.S. history. Now, the media spotlight has brightened as both Duke Energy and NCDENR have been called to testify before a federal grand jury in March.

Coal ash, the byproduct of coal burned to produce electricity, contains an ugly lineup of contaminants that include arsenic, selenium, mercury and lead. Often stored in unlined pits, the potential for coal ash to mingle with ground and surface water is not just speculation — it’s a time-tested reality.

Yet according to Skvarla, the wisdom of cleaning up leaking coal ash ponds is a matter of debate. Lamenting that environmentalists keep pushing a “one-size-fits-all” option of digging up the leaking coal ash ponds and moving the waste to lined and covered landfills, Skvarla went on to insist that, “There are environmental scientists who say that’s the worst thing that can happen to the environment. The answer is, nobody knows at this point.”

It was six days before Duke Energy successfully plugged the leaking pipe that has contaminated more than 70 miles of the Dan River with coal ash.

It was six days before Duke Energy successfully plugged the leaking pipe that has contaminated more than 70 miles of the Dan River with coal ash.

In truth, nobody knows what uncertainty Skvarla was talking about. NCDENR has been unable to provide any scientific evidence backing up Skvarla’s claim that moving coal ash to lined landfills would damage the environment. When asked if such studies exist during an interview with WRAL reporters, Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University, was dumbfounded.

“Of course not,” he said. “If there is evidence of groundwater contamination and surface water contamination at the coal ash pond, then leaving it as-is obviously isn’t an option if the environment is something you care about. You don’t need to be Joe Chemist to figure that out.”

Skvarla is no stranger to making claims that are downright bizarre. In a statement that seemed to border on delusional, Skvarla aligned himself with the very same groups he had previously accused of inventing environmental problems in order to initiate lawsuits and pad their coffers.

“Somehow or another this perception has been created that we are adversaries to the citizens groups when in fact we are all on the same side of the table,” Skvarla claimed at the press conference. “We are partners. We all have the same outcome in mind.”

Despite being “partners,” no members of the citizens groups have been invited to join discussions with NCDENR. In fact, in a statement to Indy Week’s news blog, a spokesperson from the Southern Environmental Law Center — which represents the various citizen and environmental groups in their suit against Duke Energy — confirmed that the agency has tried to block their participation every step of the way.

Even with the pressure mounting on NCDENR to address the continued threat of haphazardly stored coal ash, the agency is insisting that they need more time to review just how dangerous the situation really is. Responding to allegations that Duke and NCDENR have known for years about the extent and hazard of coal ash contamination, Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources, assured the press that while this is true, Duke has not received any special treatment.

Sidestepping the point about health concerns entirely, Reeder stated that “Duke is not the only permittee in North Carolina that has contaminated groundwater. We have these sites all throughout the state.” It’s not clear whether Reeder expected the public to be relieved upon hearing that NCDENR has been just as lax with every company polluting groundwater in North Carolina. What is clear is that the time for debating the safety of coal ash is long over — when it comes to clean water and a safe environment, NCDENR needs to realize that “one-size-fits-all” is the right fit for everyone.

Powering Our Communities as an Olympic Event and Utilities as the Competitors

Friday, February 21st, 2014 - posted by hannah


Our plans and achievements can always be measured against our past performance and our potential. Take Olympic figure skating: the judges might remark, “That’s the best she’s ever skated!” or “He would have to beat his personal best by twelve points to medal.”

But what about assessing how an electrical utility performs? If utilities were athletes, we might see ourselves as their fans, their sponsors paying our monthly bills, and even as their coaches, pushing for specific areas of improvement like investing in efficiency and renewable sources.

Appalachian Power Company, for example, currently generates more than 80 percent of its power from coal. The company has built no large scale renewable energy to date, and does not offer any efficiency program for customers to reduce their energy consumption. To earn a spot on the medal podium for clean energy, the company needs to make serious changes to its long-term plans. Like an old athlete learning new tricks, the Old Dominion has an opportunity to score big points with our abundant renewable energy sources.

The challenge for utilities in Virginia is not simply to plan to power their territory for the next fifteen or more years by whatever means is cheapest on paper today. But, like a skier on her way down a mountain, utilities need to prepare for the sharp turns and rough terrain ahead.

In our energy system this translates to federal regulations that will impact the cost of operating fossil-fuel-burning power plants and will make investing in renewables and energy efficiency even smarter choices for meeting future demand. And regardless of federal-level action, spikes in coal and natural gas prices mean that utilities should hedge against those energy sources by branching out into renewables and efficiency programs in order to protect customers from increases on their bills.

Utility customers can stand up and say we won’t applaud a business-as-usual, go-through-the-motions approach. We can cheer Appalachian Power on to live up to our hopes for energy that’s healthier for our communities and reliable and affordable for customers.

Urge Appalachian Power Company to invest in renewables and efficiency. Send your message now in less than the time is takes a two-man bobsled team to win the race for gold (56.25 seconds).

Bringing New Power to the Old Dominion in 2014

Friday, February 14th, 2014 - posted by hannah

By making energy efficiency a priority and investing in renewable energy sources we can bring New Power to the Old Dominion.

By making energy efficiency a priority and investing in renewable energy sources we can bring New Power to the Old Dominion.

New Power for the Old Dominion has kicked off 2014 in a strong way, hitting the road to illuminate the path toward clean energy development and engage Virginians from across the state in the movement to turn the commonwealth to cleaner energy.

In recent weeks, our New Power tour visited Front Royal, Staunton, and Christiansburg, and found overwhelming community support for safe, reliable, affordable electricity. To those who attended recent presentations, thank you for engaging in our discussion with your honest reactions and probing questions! If you belong to an organization you think would like to hear about the New Power campaign, however large or small your group is, get in touch with Hannah at and set up a date!

For someone like me who follows Virginia’s energy sources day in and day out, it’s exciting to unwrap and reveal the surprising truth of where Virginia gets its energy. Around Virginia, folks seem to share a belief in making electricity safer, more reliable, and more price-stable, and they want to hear more about renewable energy sources. Most people we talk with are already aware of our utilities’ current reliance on coal, but they’re often dismayed to learn that Dominion Virginia Power would keep solar and wind development at a marginal scale in Virginia for another 15 years. What I enjoy the most is painting a picture of the abundant clean energy resource potential we have in wind, solar, and energy efficiency and how local residents, businesses, universities, and counties are already proving that clean energy works here in Virginia.

Our presentations have taken place against the backdrop of recent disasters related to the fossil fuel industry — a chemical spill in West Virginia followed by a coal slurry spill and the third largest coal ash spill in U.S. history in North Carolina. These calamitous events bring home the risks associated with our reliance on burning coal for electricity — from mining, to processing, transporting, burning and lastly the disposal of coal ash. Imagine if we relied as much on wind and solar as we do on coal what the worst-case scenarios might be: whoever heard of a city’s water supply polluted by a sunshine spill?

Looking ahead for the New Power for the Old Dominion campaign, we have stops in Roanoke, Winchester, Price’s Fork, and back to Front Royal, and we’re constantly adding more visits to civic groups, as well as presentations at area campuses, and discussions with church groups.

Request a presentation by emailing and we’ll keep the New Power tour rolling your way!