This issue of The Appalachian Voice explores several of the barriers that communities in our region are running into when they try and take advantage of the benefits of renewable energy. In the upcoming legislative sessions in Virginia and North Carolina, Appalachian Voices and our partners will be working to dismantle these barriers and make clean energy accessible to people across our region.
We’re asking the Virginia General Assembly to create and fund a grant program to incentivize more renewable energy development on coal-impacted lands and other areas damaged by prior industrial or commercial use. We’ll also be supporting bills that advance environmental justice and accelerate solar in the commonwealth.
In 2020, the Virginia General Assembly has a clear mandate to reform electric utility regulation to advance the public interest above Dominion Energy’s. As our Executive Director Tom Cormons wrote in a letter-to-the-editor published in The New York Times, the Democratic wave in Virginia’s recent elections may have made headlines, but the real story is how many of these new representatives declined funding from the state’s most powerful utility.
“Consider this: In a bid to salvage its influence over Virginia’s energy policy, Dominion Energy — the state’s biggest corporate campaign donor by far — increased its political giving by more than 35 percent over any past election cycle this decade.
“Yet this largess failed to prevent the election of nearly 50 candidates — including all eight who flipped seats to Democrats — who pointedly refused its money,” Tom’s letter reads.
He concludes, “The next General Assembly, and the governor, have a clear mandate to put an end to the special favors that enrich monopoly utilities at great cost to Virginians.” Read the full letter at appvoices.org/nyt-lte.
In North Carolina, we’re heartened by a recent legislative victory on S.B.559, where we and our partners overcame Duke Energy’s efforts to add multi-year rate hikes with less oversight into a ratemaking bill. Opposition to that provision from the environmental community, social justice advocates and some of the state’s most powerful businesses was strong and sustained, and the bill ultimately passed without it.
But we know Duke will try again to use its political sway to continue putting its business-as-usual practices ahead of a sustainable future and our best interests. We and our fellow members of the Energy Justice North Carolina coalition will be vigilant.