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Energy and Environment

Arlington Parks Coalition County Board Candidates Questionnaire Democratic Responses

by: lowkell

Fri May 22, 2015 at 13:37:02 PM EDT

Source.
Arlington Parks Coalition County Board Candidates Questionnaire
Democratic Responses

May 22, 2015

Arlington Parks Coalition Letter to Democratic Candidates

Dear Democratic Primary Candidate for County Board:

The Arlington Parks Coalition is a non-partisan group formed in 2014 to advocate for "...the preservation, enhancement and expansion of our current and intended County-owned parkland and community centers solely for public park, recreation
and community center purposes..." You can learn more about our organization at www.arlingtonparkscoalition.org.

Many Arlington voters are concerned about the future of our parkland and community centers, especially in light of our growing population and the increasing, and increasingly conflicting, demands on these resources. These issues are important to our organization's members, the larger parks community and County residents as a whole, and will inform their voting decision in the upcoming
Democratic primary and November general election.

We would appreciate your answering each question below as fully as possible and returning your responses by Sunday, May 3rd. While our organization does not
make endorsements, each full set of responses received will be posted, unedited, along with the questions on our website, sent to our membership and also distributed as widely as possible within the parks community.

We would further welcome the opportunity to meet with you in person to discuss your responses and to engage in a dialogue about these important issues.

Thank you,

Rick Epstein, Chairperson
Arlington Parks Coalition
+++++++++++++++++
Arlington Parks Coalition Questions:

Question 1: Although the County Board is no longer pursuing last year's "Public Land for Public Good" initiative, it is anticipated that the Community Facilities Study Committee will develop a public facilities siting process which could potentially result in the use of our parkland and community center sites for other purposes.

a. Do you support the potential use of County parkland or community center sites for housing? for schools? for other purposes?

b. If elected to the Board, would you support the issuance of an overriding Board policy that our County parkland and community center sites should not be used for housing? for school sites? for other purposes?

Question 2: Given our County's continuing dramatic population growth and already
crowded parks and recreation resources, do you support increasing our parkland and recreation resources sufficient to meet not only current but also future demands on these resources?, If so, what specific steps would you advocate as a Board member to accomplish this increase, including any new and innovative
funding mechanisms or other programs or tools?

Question 3: In the decade prior to the 2009 recession, the County Board approved multiple parkland acquisition bonds in amounts of at least $8 million each, which were used to acquire key parks and open space including Fort C.F. Smith Park, Long Bridge Park and Powhatan Springs Skatepark. Given the dramatic increase in the cost of land in Arlington, as a Board member would you support a 2016 Park Bond measure, and subsequent park bond measures, of at least $8 million each?

Question 4: Do you oppose siting a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson site (bounded by S. Old Glebe Rd., S. 2nd St., S. Irving St., and Arlington Blvd./Route 50)? Do you support Arlington County developing a long-term plan for the Thomas Jefferson site that maintains the current acreage of Thomas Jefferson Park and improves the park's active and passive recreational space?

Question 5: The County Board initiated the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) process to plan the future development of the Wilson School site and the adjacent County fire station and Rosslyn Highlands Park. Notwithstanding a strong expression by the WRAPS committee and surrounding community that Rosslyn Highlands Park be preserved, County staff has proposed a plan giving County land to a private developer with the potential loss of two-thirds of the park. Do you support preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park in its current location? If not, why not?
++++++++++++++++++
Candidates' Responses:
KATIE CRISTOL'S RESPONSES:
Thank you for this opportunity to respond - as the Arlington Parks Coalition is feeling acutely, land use and facilities planning is one of the County's most significant and immediate issues. And I appreciate the service the Arlington Parks Coalition is providing to our community discussions about land use, by concentrating and giving clear voice to the imperative to protect our parks.

I believe the role of a County Board member is to do his or her best to balance all
interests and needs in the community. Our County Board's responsibility is to stand in for the thousands of Arlington parents who feel as passionately about their neighborhood park as they do that their child shouldn't have to learn in a  relocatable classroom. In order to do so, County Board members have to be able to thoughtfully evaluate data and projections and community input from all sides.

Making categorical commitments to particular uses for particular sites makes it difficult to effectively take these steps and think holistically and innovatively while
on the Board.

Please know that I would have the exact same answer for a developer, for an APS interest group, or any other stakeholder group regarding land use in Arlington.

This said, the Arlington Parks Coalition is absolutely entitled to insight into candidates' priorities on this issue. Here are mine:

• All green space has value, and there is no "free land" in Arlington. In balancing competing interests for a given site, I will always consider the loss
of green, park or open space as a cost to the community - and make decisions accordingly.

• Any process to determine site use must be open to - and transparent to - the community. I find unacceptable the lack of transparency in the WRAPS process; in particular, what Katie Elmore has described to me as a preexisting County LOI with Penzance that was not disclosed to the community
work group. Similarly, the lack of full accounting about why the Thomas Jefferson site represents the most strategic, long-term solution for South Arlington elementary overcrowding has fed the sense that the community asset of TJ Park is being devalued. The County has to do better on
communications and honest dealing with the community in our process.

• We must creatively expand green space in Arlington. Looking only at the 2.2 square miles of current County- and APS-owned land is too narrow a frame - and inherently pits schools against parks against affordability. For me, being a champion for parks and green space on the County Board means expanding the pie instead of fighting over slices:

◦ Continuing (and seeking to increase) our strategic acquisition of land to expand neighborhood parks;
◦ Looking for creative, recreational uses of otherwise unusable sites;
◦ Cooperating with current land-holders willing to convert their underutilized space for open space and recreational purposes; and
◦ Upgrading parks so they can be used more frequently than they currently are.

I believe Park Bonds are an appropriate and strategic way to finance these sorts of acquisitions and capital upgrades.
+++++++++++++++++
CHRISTIAN DORSEY'S RESPONSES:
Question 1: Although the County Board is no longer pursuing last year's "Public Land for Public Good" initiative, it is anticipated that the Community Facilities Study Committee will develop a public facilities siting process which could potentially result in the use of our parkland and community center sites for other purposes.

a. Do you support the potential use of County parkland or community center sites for housing? for schools? for other purposes? Parkland and community centers are already public goods, and should be considered
public necessities. I do not support, on any level, repurposing parkland, or community centers within their useful lives for other purposes if it does not, at minimum maintain their existing uses. As our county becomes denser, the impact is not limited to housing
and schools; the need for parks, recreation and open space grows accordingly.

b. If elected to the Board, would you support the issuance of an overriding Board policy that our County parkland and community center sites should not be used for housing? for school sites? for other purposes?

I do not believe that is the best approach. In order to meet the multiple needs we have within our limited footprint, some creativity and flexibility are required. As was the case with Arlington Mill Community Center, housing and an expanded community center with outdoor recreation space were added to public land. This "win-win" scenario would not have been pursued under the type of overriding policy assumed in this question.

To be clear, however, it should be an overriding Board practice that only "win-wins,
that are shaped through a transparent and inclusive process of community input and feedback should lead to repurposing  park and community center sites. See also response to Question 2 below.

Question 2: Given our County's continuing dramatic population growth and already crowded parks and recreation resources, do you support increasing our parkland and recreation resources sufficient to meet not only current but also future demands on these resources?, If so, what specific steps would you advocate as a Board member to accomplish this increase, including any new and innovative
funding mechanisms or other programs or tools?

Yes, I support enhancing and expanding our park and recreation resources and increasing funding to satisfy that commitment.

I do not support funding increases for parks and recreation through dedicated sales taxes (regressive), or increased user fees beyond those necessary to cover programming's true costs. That leaves a number of other options that taken together hold promise for meeting our current demand and future needs:

• Developer contributions dedicated to parks and recreation resources
• Fully utilizing approved bonds, understood to be for park acquisition, for their intended purposes
• Exploring new forms like vertical gardens, and new places, like sub and above surface locations to expand both green space and recreation opportunities
• Using our external value capture instruments like tax increment financing and business improvement districts to generate steady funding streams beyond general funds
• Exploring how conservancies and philanthropies can become more integrated with our plans for land cquisition, and/or ongoing operations.

Question 3: In the decade prior to the 2009 recession, the County Board approved multiple parkland acquisition bonds in amounts of at least $8 million each, which were used to acquire key parks and open space including Fort C.F. Smith Park, Long Bridge Park and Powhatan Springs Skatepark. Given the dramatic increase in the cost of land in Arlington, as a Board member would you support a 2016 Park Bond
measure, and subsequent park bond measures, of at least $8 million each?

That is a reasonable bond figure for 2016 and the foreseeable future. As a general  principle, I want to analyze our fiscal conditions and acquisition opportunities on a
contemporaneous basis, so I am not prepared now to make specific dollar commitments in the "out" years. To be clear, acquisition is a priority, not just when resources are abundant.

Question 4: Do you oppose siting a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson site (bounded by S. Old Glebe Rd., S. 2nd St., S. Irving St., and Arlington Blvd./Route 50)? Do you support Arlington County developing a long-term plan for the Thomas Jefferson site that maintains the current acreage of Thomas Jefferson Park and improves the park's active and passive recreational space?

I do not oppose it in absolute terms. As I noted in question one, if there is a way to at
least preserve, and ideally enhance park, recreation and open space resources at the
site while locating a new building there-provided that externalities like traffic and
environmental impact are addressed appropriately-that can constitute a "win-win" scenario.

I do support planning to improve TJ park's current uses and to improve access. While
a useful metric, maintaining square footage is not the only barometer I use to gauge enhancement to public spaces. Design, configuration and calculations of usable and
useful open space are very important in determining a space's value.

Question 5: The County Board initiated the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) process to plan the future development of the Wilson School site and the adjacent County fire station and Rosslyn Highlands Park. Notwithstanding a strong
expression by the WRAPS committee and surrounding community that Rosslyn Highlands Park be preserved, County staff has proposed a plan giving County land to
a private developer with the potential loss of two-thirds of the park. Do you
support preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park in its current location? If not,
why not?

I do, because the green spaces in Rosslyn are woefully inadequate for current, let alone
future demand. I do not believe there are enough efficiencies that can be gained by
park design that could offset the harm caused by the proposed reduced square footage
in RHP. That reduced square footage will result in a catastrophic loss of green space in
the community.

+++++++++++++++++
PETER FALLON'S RESPONSES:

Question 1: I strongly believe that, in a community with limited land, our natural
open spaces make us a better place to live. I routinely find deer, foxes and rabbits in
my yard, a mere two blocks from Lee Highway and several high rises. We don't need
to pave over our parks to meet the growing demand for public resources throughout Arlington. It's time we got creative in meeting our needs andserving as responsible environmental stewards.

As a member of the County Board, I will champion the joint use of sites like our
schools to fulfill community needs while preserving valuable open space. That means acquiring new sites through friendly purchases and developer easements, and communicating clearly with the neighborhoods about their current and future community needs. Most importantly we must be transparent about every step of the process, from acquisition to development of park amenities.

Our success as a community comes from our vision of long-term needs: both our planning flexibility and our relationships with community stakeholders. I will strongly oppose a net loss of park space during my tenure on the County
Board, and will take every effort to preserve space. As a Planning Commissioner, I have supported developing brownfields into premier recreational spaces - areas like
Long Bridge Park, Arlington Mill Community Center and Four Mile Run. I'm proud of
my involvement in making our community green.

The solution is not a blanket ban on development - the solution is efficient use of
land and balancing competing priorities. We also need improved County Board transparency. We have to engage with the community and come to mutual agreements on how we're developing Arlington.

Question 2: Not only have we grown in total population, but the changing population has brought about changing needs for our community open space. A growing number of young families creates a stronger need for parks with infant- and
young-child-friendly play space. The growing number of family pets in apartment buildings creates an acute need for dog runs and more accessible dog parks. I'm
ready to propose creative solutions to meet our changing needs:

1. Incentivize developers to build multi-use community spaces on their sites, with the goal of providing a community benefit. These developments can be dog
runs, community gardens, green rooftops or even projects like playground "pocket
parks."

2. Use the site plan process and sector plans to turn patchworks of small parks into contiguous, larger community green spaces. This can be done by engaging with communities and developers, and creating incentives that encourage the coordination of park construction during the building process. This happened with
Penrose Square on Columbia Pike, which will double in size when the adjacent CVS
site redevelops.

3. Create a county-managed "Parks Fund" similar to our current Shared
Parking Fund on Columbia Pike and in Clarendon. This would allow developers to pay into a central fund that would offset the cost of parks and green space
construction in communities, removing some of the burden from Arlington's coffers
and better involving our developers in the vibrant life of our community. Using this plan, we not only attract residents to high rises, we also lower our commercial vacancies by providing in-demand amenities near work spaces (like Long Bridge Park and the additional
Washington & Lee pool lanes).

We currently practice some of these ideas as one-off approaches with developers. I intend to turn these ideas into a comprehensive, long-term County Board plan that integrates green and recreation space consideration at every step of the process. We can conduct this plan in a transparent and inclusive way, fostering dialogues and constructive feedback during the process.

All of these solutions depend on an open and collaborative relationship with community leaders. They know better than anyone the needs of their communities, and I am confident my approach can bring together developers, the County Board and these local stakeholders to build a more sustainable, more transparent process for all Arlingtonians.

Question 3: Yes - I would support both ongoing Open Space Acquisition Bonds to acquire new parkland, and a Parks Bond to develop those sites and their amenities
in locations throughout the county. As President of the Donaldson Run Civic Association, I worked with county staff to add park space on the North 26th Street
mulch pile. I have publicly supported Parks Bonds throughout my civic career in Arlington, and believe we need to be ready to make strategic acquisitions as land comes onto the open market.
But sustaining our community open space is about much more than just supporting a Parks Bond. As we look at sites for the construction of new schools, it must be a major priority of the County Board to emphasize co-locating public resources within
these new schools. That may mean building upward instead of outward, or considering the needs of local senior citizens as well as high school seniors. Sharing
space with multiple public uses allows us a great opportunity to be both engaged advocates of a vibrant community life and responsible stewards of our open space.

Question 4: We have a critical need for a new school in South Arlington, as students face the reality of spending multiple educational years learning in modular trailers.
APS made its site preference known, and I support their initial decision. The original Thomas Jefferson Elementary site is a parking lot with no plans for a transition to parkland. The lack of clarity in the County Board's decision damaged relations with the community and deprived South Arlington of a much-needed opportunity to relive our growing enrollment crunch.

I firmly agree that the greenspace/recreation portion of Thomas Jefferson Park should be preserved and improved - but that doesn't mean choosing between the
survival of a parking lot or the construction of a school. In fact, with my plan for colocated
services, we could host both a new school in South Arlington and a newlyvibrant Thomas Jefferson Park side-by-side. That would include adding recreation spaces like basketball and tennis courts to the roof of a new elementary school. I will never sacrifice our parks space, but I am willing to draw a distinction between a true
park for people and a parking lot cars.

Question 5: Rosslyn is made better with open space, and Rosslyn Highlands Park is a vital part of that improvement. At the same time, we have to recognize that Rosslyn is growing. We need H.B. Woodlawn to alleviate middle school overcrowding and a new fire station to serve the corridor. There are ways we can do this without undermining the sense of community created by Rosslyn Highlands Park.

I support preserving our parks space in Rosslyn by constructing a fire station financed through the Capital Improvement Program. Preliminary plans for the new H.B. Woodlawn facility include indoor recreation, rooftop recreation and a surface
field. These spaces will dramatically increase recreation opportunities in Rosslyn, and must be available to the at-large community. The block needs to accommodate APS, the fire station and Rosslyn Highlands Park so that each component best serves its purpose and the larger community.

By engaging with the community in ways the County Board often hasn't in the past, I am a firm believer in our ability to both preserve our green spaces and provide a world-class education to our students. I am committed to better alignment of the APS and county facilities planning processes to create more opportunities for shared recreational use while preserving our valued green spaces.

+++++++++++++++
JAMES LANDER'S RESPONSES:
Question 1: Although the County Board is no longer pursuing last year's "Public Land for Public Good" initiative, it is anticipated that the Community Facilities Study Committee will develop a public facilities siting process which could potentially result in the use of our parkland and community center sites for other purposes.

a. Do you support the potential use of County parkland or community center sites for housing? for schools? for other purposes?
No. I do not support the use or consideration of parkland for construction of housing and/or schools. Green and open spaces are an asset to our community.

Community center sites, depending on location, size, and amount of usage should be considered for multi-use facilities; specifically for the consideration of potentially co-locating Pre-K or Elementary school programs in sites that are under utilized like
Drew Community center, Carver Community Center, and Madison Community
Center. I also strongly support a community engagement process, which would be
inclusive, informative, and respectful of differing points of view prior to any decisions being confirmed.

a. If elected to the Board, would you support the issuance of an overriding Board
policy that our County parkland and community center sites should not be
used for housing? for school sites? for other purposes?

As your county board member, I will lead on maintaining and expanding our parks and open space by developing policies to reaffirm that principle. Our community is
growing at an unprecedented pace. Schools alone have experienced an average of 1000 students each year for the past seven years; that's a middle school worth of
new students every year. Because of my experience as an elected official, I understand we cannot afford to build enough new facilities nor can we build fast
enough to address our enrollment crisis. As a steward of your tax dollars, I will support the rapid growth within our county by providing access to and maximizing
use of existing facilities.

Question 2: Given our County's continuing dramatic population growth and already crowded parks and recreation resources, do you support increasing our parkland
and recreation resources sufficient to meet not only current but also future demands on these resources? If so, what specific steps would you advocate as a
Board member to accomplish this increase, including any new and innovative funding mechanisms or other programs or tools?

Our county's unprecedented growth is an issue on which I've worked, in
partnership, with my county and school board colleagues including working directly with the county manager and superintendent. Under my leadership as chairman of the school board, I'm building new schools and renovating existing facilities without compromising green and open space. As your county board member, I will lead by continuing to work collaboratively with my county and school board colleagues to
ensure that any new construction results does not result in a net loss of green space.

To increase the potential for additional green and open spaces I will support policies that require architects to design facilities that include open/green space requirements.

Question 3: In the decade prior to the 2009 recession, the County Board approved
multiple parkland acquisition bonds in amounts of at least $8 million each, which were used to acquire key parks and open space including Fort C.F. Smith Park, Long Bridge Park and Powhatan Springs Skatepark. Given the dramatic increase in the cost of land in Arlington, as a Board member would you support a 2016 Park Bond measure, and subsequent park bond measures, of at least $8 million each?

Yes. I would support a 2016 Park Bond measure. As a community, we value open and green space and I will continually support putting these bonds before the voters.

Question 4: Do you oppose siting a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson site (bounded by S. Old Glebe Rd., S. 2nd St., S. Irving St., and Arlington Blvd./Route 50)? Do you support Arlington County developing a long-term plan for the Thomas
Jefferson site that maintains the current acreage of Thomas Jefferson Park and improves the park's active and passive recreational space?

Yes. As a school board member I voted against making Jefferson the preferred site for a new elementary school. As chair of the school board, I successfully advocated
for preserving TJ Park, resulting in 4 of the 5 county board members voting to delay
construction at the Jefferson site. I also worked collaboratively with the Save TJ Park
organization and was recognized by that group for my leadership. As a county board member I will continue to lead on protecting TJ Park to ensure that we maintain adequate recreation space for our community.

Question 5: The County Board initiated the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) process to plan the future development of the Wilson School site and the adjacent County fire station and Rosslyn Highlands Park. Notwithstanding a strong
expression by the WRAPS committee and surrounding community that Rosslyn Highlands Park be preserved, County staff has proposed a plan giving County land to
a private developer with the potential loss of two-thirds of the park. Do you support preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park in its current location? If not, why not?

Yes. I support preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park. Under my leadership as school board chair, I advocated for the siting of the new school in Rosslyn to be
located on Wilson Blvd. This location of the facility would provide the opportunity for continuous green space on school and county property along 18th Street. As a county board member I will be committed to following through on what I initiated as chairman of the school board. As a county board member, I will not support using
private developer funds for public services, including our fire stations.
++++++++++++++++++
ANDREW SCHNEIDER'S RESPONSES:
Question 1: Although the County Board is no longer pursuing last year's "Public Land for Public Good" initiative, it is anticipated that the Community Facilities Study Committee will develop a public facilities siting process which could potentially result in the use of our parkland and community center sites for other purposes.

a. Do you support the potential use of County parkland or community center sites for housing? for schools? for other purposes?

No. I believe that the County must continue to use thoughtful acquisitions and creative use of space to address  our housing, school and parkland needs. I don't support using existing resources to placate other problems.

b. If elected to the Board, would you support the issuance of an overriding Board policy that our County parkland and community center sites should not be used for housing? for school sites? for other purposes?

My job as a County Board member is to handle the challenges currently facing the County and to provide a vision that can be implemented. I support a vision that protects and preserves our parks and community resources.

Question 2: Given our County's continuing dramatic population growth and already crowded parks and recreation resources, do you support increasing our parkland and recreation resources sufficient to meet not only current but also future demands on these resources?, If so, what specific steps would you advocate as a Board member to accomplish this increase, including any new and innovative
funding mechanisms or other programs or tools?

Yes. I would support restoring the land acquisition funding that has been cut in recent years. I am also a strong advocate of the Rosslyn boathouse and other partnerships with regional and federal partners to take advantage of our riverfront location and the natural assets that are not fully being utilized in the County.

Question 3: In the decade prior to the 2009 recession, the County Board approved multiple parkland acquisition bonds in amounts of at least $8 million each, which
were used to acquire key parks and open space including Fort C.F. Smith Park, Long Bridge Park and Powhatan Springs Skatepark. Given the dramatic increase in the
cost of land in Arlington, as a Board member would you support a 2016 Park Bond measure, and subsequent park bond measures, of at least $8 million each?

Yes.

Question 4: Do you oppose siting a new elementary school on the Thomas Jefferson site (bounded by S. Old Glebe Rd., S. 2nd St., S. Irving St., and Arlington Blvd./Route 50)? Do you support Arlington County developing a long-term plan for the Thomas Jefferson site that maintains the current acreage of Thomas Jefferson Park and improves the park's active and passive recreational space?

I did not oppose a new school at TJ. I do support a long term plan for the TJ space that incorporates enhanced park space and meets the needs of the schools.

Question 5: The County Board initiated the Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study (WRAPS) process to plan the future development of the Wilson School site and the adjacent County fire station and Rosslyn Highlands Park. Notwithstanding a strong expression by the WRAPS committee and surrounding community that Rosslyn
Highlands Park be preserved, County staff has proposed a plan giving County land to a private developer with the potential loss of two-thirds of the park. Do you support preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park in its current location? If not, why not?

I support a park in Rosslyn that is useable and attractive and meets the needs of the community. I am open to creative solutions that meet the needs of the schools and local business owners. I was not supportive of the County's handling of the entire process and call for greater transparency and direction from the County and for the
County's study/commission work.
+++++++++++++++++++
BRUCE WILJANEN'S RESPONSES:
Question 1: I am categorically opposed to using our irreplaceable parklands and greenspaces for housing, schools, fire stations, or any other municipal facilities.
These county owned open spaces are held in trust for the people of Arlington, are an essential part of our urban environment, and are not to be considered a land bank for every other facilities need that arises.

Community centers are coming online individually for renovation and
reconstruction, and so usage requirements will evolve with the needs of our changing community. Some early years and senior educational uses may be appropriate, but most certainly not housing or K-12 school buildings.

Questions 2 and 3: While our population grows and our need for recreational space grows, our land area remains stubbornly fixed! There is precious little open green space left to acquire, at any price. One possibility we must pursue is the building of
sport fields over sections of Route 66. We are going to have to be very imaginative in
order to create new land where none currently exists. An $8 million park bond is not an exorbitant amount to invest in our parklands and greenspaces.

Question 4: The siting of a new elementary school at the Thomas Jefferson location was clearly not fully vetted by the School Board. A better location will be found more centrally located to the student population it was intended to serve. I fully support the development of a long term recreational usage plan for the entire Thomas Jefferson parcel.

Question 5: I support the preservation of all of Rosslyn Highlands Park in predominantly its current location. If minor adjustments need to be made to fully utilize the site for the benefit of all the stakeholders, the square footage of the recreational space should not be reduced. We cannot continue to trade our irreplaceable parkland for private development without endangering the fabric of our entire community.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Time for Virginia Dems to Follow California Dem Party's Lead, Call for Fossil Fuel Divestment ASAP

by: lowkell

Thu May 21, 2015 at 08:12:58 AM EDT

A few weeks ago, Terry McAuliffe was actually arguing that he has no leadership role to play on whether "the state of Virginia and its retirement fund and other relevant funds should divest from fossil fuel companies." McAuliffe's pathetically weak answer:
No! I think they have to make the decision what is in the best interest of whatever they're making their investments; they have a fiduciary duty to make those investments. And clearly as governor I am not going to sit here and tell the people who manage these funds what to do -- not my role. And I clearly understand my role...Jeff, it is not my job to come in and tell our businesses what to do. I am a fiscally conservative, pro-business Democrat; I am socially very progressive...
As I said at the time, that was wrong on almost any level you consider it, not to mention a pathetic abdication of leadership. Now, the largest (by far) state Democratic Party has shown what its state's governor has shown -- real leadership on the most important issue facing humanity, that being climate change. Check this out.
At the California Democratic Party convention this weekend, state party officials voted to adopt an official resolution endorsing fossil fuel divestment. Citing the growing threat posed by climate change, the resolution urges the state's public universities and pension funds to divest their financial holdings from the top 200 fossil fuel companies as part of a comprehensive solution to the climate crisis. The resolution marks the first endorsement for fossil fuel divestment from a state political party, and adds major momentum to the legislative push for S.B. 185, a coal divestment bill. The news also builds pressure on statewide institutions like the California Public Employees' Retirement System and the University of California endowment, who have long faced calls for divestment.

The adopted resolution reads, in part: "[t]he California Democratic Party calls upon the University of California and California State University endowments, the University of California Retirement Plan, and the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) institutional pension funds, to immediately stop new investments in fossil fuel companies, to take steps, without risking any financial loss to its members, to divest all holdings from the top 200 fossil fuel companies as determined by the Carbon Underground list within five years, and to release periodic updates to the public, detailing progress made toward full divestment."

Exactly, the California Democratic Party nails it, as did Gov. Jerry Brown in his powerful "State of the State" address back in January. Now, what about the Democratic Party of Virginia? Gov. McAuliffe? Lt. Governor Northam? Attorney General Herring? Other leaders in our state? When are they going to call for divestment by state pension funds, colleges and universities, etc. from planet-killing fossil fuels? The crisis is urgent, action is required immediately, so what on earth (other than fear of the fossil fuel companies, fossil-fuel-allied utilities, etc.) is stopping them?

P.S. No reason for local parties to wait for DPVA; I also call on Dem committees in Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford, Henrico, Loudoun, Virginia Beach, Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Charlottesville, etc, etc. to pass divestment resolutions.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Rep. Connolly to EPA: Treating bioenergy as carbon neutral may undermine the Clean Power Plan

by: lowkell

Tue May 19, 2015 at 12:06:25 PM EDT

Rep. Gerry Connolly nails it. The bottom line: we need to be massively REforesting, not burning forest for fuel!
May 19, 2015

The Honorable Gina McCarthy
Administrator
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Ariel Rios Building
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W
Washington, D.C. 20460

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

Thank you for your leadership and continued efforts to finalize the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan. As a strong supporter of this plan, I believe you have laid forth a forward-thinking, flexible, and attainable approach to reducing our nation's carbon footprint. I appreciate your willingness throughout this process to consider public feedback on the draft plan and trust the final plan you develop will establish our country as a global leader on climate change.

I write to share my concern with the EPA's draft proposal to treat waste-derived feedstocks and non-waste biogenic feedstocks derived from sustainable forest or agricultural practices as having zero emissions. As you know, following EPA Assistant Administrator McCabe's November 2014 memorandum, there has been considerable debate regarding this decision, including questions surrounding the science behind it, and the perception that this decision will result in the unsustainable promotion of forest harvesting for energy production.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 347 words in story)

Next Time Someone Claims There's a "Free Market" for Energy

by: lowkell

Tue May 19, 2015 at 10:38:39 AM EDT

...or that renewable energy "can't make it without subsidies," or that "government shouldn't pick 'winners and losers," or that fossil fuels are the "choice of the market," or that the Clean Power Plan is "too expensive," or some other utterly false nonsense, simply show them this article and laugh. By the way, those $5.3 trillion in subsidies for fossil fuels don't count "negative externalities," such as the enormous health (cancer, asthma, etc.) and environmental (acid rain, global warming, oil spills, fracking damage, etc.) costs associated with fossil fuels, but which fossil fuels don't incorporate into their price thanks to extremely lax government policies. The $5.3 trillion in subsidies for fossil fuels also don't count indirect subsidies, such as massive government subsidization/encouragement of automobile-oriented development, military expenditures needed to defend oil supply lines/sources, etc, etc. Add all that up, and it comes to many, many times more than $5.3 trillion, to the point where fossil fuels would be utterly noncompetitive (think $10-$20/gallon or more gasoline if all these costs were incorporated) with clean energy.

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Video: No Atlantic Coast Pipeline Critical Mass Bike Ride

by: lowkell

Sat May 16, 2015 at 10:07:48 AM EDT

Great stuff, we need a LOT more of this, along with many other types of action, to stop the destruction of our planet through fossil fuel companies' greed, irresponsibility and capture of our political system.

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Time for Virginia's Political "Leaders" to Push Dominion Hard Towards Offshore Wind Development

by: lowkell

Thu May 14, 2015 at 11:33:12 AM EDT

Thanks to strong progressive, environmentalist and 10th State Senate District candidate Emily Francis for highlighting this op-ed in today's RTD by Stephanie McClellan, Ph.D., "director of Special Initiatives on Offshore Wind at the University of Delaware" and "former director of strategic initiatives and outreach for the Atlantic Wind Connection." Here's an excerpt:
On Earth Day last month, Gov. Terry McAuliffe praised offshore wind energy for its job-creation potential for Virginia. The governor likely had not been told by Dominion Power that 24 hours later the utility would decide to "take a step back" from the much-touted offshore wind demonstration project based on a single bid for the project's construction.

McAuliffe should feel validated, not discouraged, as the facts are on his side. Dominion's decision should be seen as the regulated monopoly utility's need for outside expertise from those with experience in competitive offshore wind markets, rather than an ominous bellwether of offshore wind's future here.

[...]

...Virginia has a federally designated zone to develop this new industry. Its estimated potential is two gigawatts of power, enough to power 500,000 homes and create thousands of jobs in the process. Yet, there is no clear development plan or timeline available to the public, a fact that hinders market participation from the field of companies that want to drive the industry forward.

Our research shows costs can be cut by 10 percent to 20 percent just by creating competition. In addition, there was only one complete bid for this demonstration project - a situation that is almost guaranteed to result in an uncompetitive price.

There's a viable path to seize the opportunity in front of us, and the governor is right to see it and push for it. The sooner Dominion can draw on experienced experts to chart a clear path forward, the sooner Virginians can reap the significant economic benefits that offshore wind energy offers.

The problem, as usual, is out-of-control, state-protected monopoly, Dominion Virginia Power, and its utter disrespect for both the environment and the people of Virginia. The question is, when will Virginia's legislators get the courage to tell Dominion where to shove its dirty money, and to pass legislation that forces this dirty energy dinosaur to get with the 21st century? And no, given that our entire govenrment is "captured" (aka, "corrupted") by companies like Dominion, I'm not holding my breath...

P.S. Emily Francis is absoulety right: "Virginia has a huge opportunity to create jobs in the renewable energy market. Let's not wait any longer...let's put people to work."

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Cartoon: "Dominion Leaves the Guv Twisting in the Wind"

by: lowkell

Wed May 13, 2015 at 14:12:39 PM EDT

Below, check out the latest in our series of cartoons, which previously have illustrated how Dominion Power feeds at the taxpayer-funded corporate welfare trough and controls our political system, among other problems with this out-of-control behemoth. The latest cartoon refers to Dominion's April 23 announcement that it was "putting the brakes on a plan to erect two test wind turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach because the project, as it stands now, is too expensive, according to the company." Note that Dominion's announcement came, ironically (?), just a day after Gov. McAuliffe's Earth Day signing of several clean energy jobs bills. At that signing ceremony, McAuliffe spoke of "the emerging clean energy jobs sector provid[ing] a tremendous opportunity for economic growth and diversification" in Virginia. A great vision, but not one, sadly, that will be achieved if Dominion Power gets its way...

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Virginia Is for Dirty Energy Lovers

by: ESGreco

Wed May 13, 2015 at 12:57:04 PM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

If you live in Virginia and would like to shrink your carbon footprint, here's what passes for good news: We're now officially free to ban fracking. For two years, Old Dominion communities weren't at liberty to prevent that kind of oil and gas drilling.

After the cities of Staunton, Lynchburg, and several other local governments expressed reservations over fracking or tried to prevent it, former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said they lacked the authority to block Big Fossil. In early May, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring overrode his predecessor's position and asserted that these local policies adhere to state law.

Either way, Richmond-based Dominion Resources, which wields near-monopoly power over Virginia's electric grid, wants to boost demand for this environmentally hazardous drilling. It's partnering with other companies on a $5 billion pipeline that will funnel gas fracked in West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania over a 550-mile route to Virginia and North Carolina.

Dominion's dirty-energy ambitions for its home state don't stop there. The company also intends to drop $10 billion on a third nuclear reactor at a site within 50 miles of Richmond, Charlottesville, and Fredericksburg.

The firm Clean Edge ranks big utilities according to how much power they draw from solar, wind, and other renewable options and their energy efficiency efforts. Dominion made the bottom of the list.

While it recently minted a plan to invest $700 million in solar projects in Virginia, that would barely chip away at the state's reliance on power derived from coal, natural gas, and nuclear. And the company just shelved an offshore wind pilot just as the first project of that kind is getting underway off the Rhode Island coast.

Why is Dominion getting away with paying lip service to green energy?

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CCAN Applauds Step to Boost Virginia Energy Efficiency Goals

by: lowkell

Mon May 11, 2015 at 14:38:36 PM EDT

The following press release from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) highlights the tremendous potential offered by the what is BY FAR the "lowest-hanging fruit" when it comes to the world of energy - efficiency! Yes, solar and wind are great too, but step #1 is to max out on how efficiently we use energy, and right now, in large part thanks to bad laws and bad intent on the part of Dominion Power, we're not even close in Virginia. That needs to change, ASAP, and Gov. McAuliffe's initiative is a small step in the right direction...

Among states, Virginia ranks toward the bottom in efficiency; has 8th highest average electric bills

RICHMOND—Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced he is accelerating Virginia’s goal to reduce retail electricity consumption from 10 percent by 2022 to 10 percent by 2020, and establishing the Governor’s Executive Committee on Energy Efficiency to develop a state plan to ensure Virginia hits this new target.

Dawone Robinson, Virginia Policy Director at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, had the following statement in response:

“We applaud Governor McAuliffe for taking this win-win step forward for Virginia’s environment and economy. Increasing energy efficiency is our lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to reducing the carbon emissions fueling severe weather and sea-level rise. Currently, Virginia ranks toward the bottom of U.S. states in reducing energy use, which is a big reason our families pay the 8th-highest average electric bills. By investing in energy efficiency solutions, we will cut pollution while lowering the bills of low- to moderate-income homeowners and renters and putting people to work.”

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Reversing 2013 Cuccinelli opinion, AG Herring says localities can ban fracking

by: ivymain

Fri May 08, 2015 at 17:44:41 PM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued an official advisory opinion on May 5 holding that Virginia localities have the right to prohibit hydraulic fracturing (or "fracking") as part of their power to regulate land use within their boundaries. The letter reverses a two-year-old opinion by former Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli.

Herring's opinion cites §15.2-2280 of the Virginia Code, which grants broad zoning powers to localities. These include the power to "regulate, restrict, permit, prohibit, and determine" land uses, such as "the excavation or mining of soil or other natural resources." Thus, writes Herring, "I conclude that the General Assembly has authorized localities to pass zoning ordinances prohibiting fracking. The plain language of the stature also authorizes localities to regulate fracking in instances where it is permitted."

The letter is not available online as of this writing, but is expected to be posted on the Official Opinions page.

Herring's opinion comes in a letter to Senator Richard Stuart, who had asked whether Virginia law allows localities to prohibit "unconventional gas and oil drilling," commonly known as fracking, and whether they may use their zoning authority "to regulate aspects of fracking, such as the timing of drilling operations, traffic, or noise."

The letter overrules a January 11, 2013 opinion by then-Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, which held that the General Assembly had preempted localities' right to regulate or ban drilling when it passed the Virginia Gas and Oil Act.  Under §45.1-361.5, localities may not "impose any condition, or require any other local license, permit, fee, or bond to perform any gas, oil or geophysical operations which varies from or is in addition to the requirements of this chapter."  

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Dominion Confronted by Protests Over Company's Dirty Energy and Dirty Politics

by: lowkell

Wed May 06, 2015 at 14:53:07 PM EDT

Good, keep pounding these arrogant, corrupt(ing) jerks!
Dominion Confronted by Protests Outside Annual Shareholder Meeting Over Company's Dirty Energy and Dirty Politics

Protesters from Augusta Co. to Norfolk to Cove Point, Md. unite to challenge business practices wrecking communities and the climate

Glen Allen, Va.-As many as 140 protesters from across Virginia and Maryland greeted Dominion Resources executives and board members arriving for the company's annual shareholder meeting this morning, in a sign of the growing citizen backlash over the company's dirty energy investments and dirty politics.

More than 50 landowners and concerned citizens from Buckingham, Nelson, and Augusta Counties-all in the path of the company's controversial proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline- journeyed by bus. They were joined outside the entrance to Dominion's training facility by citizens who had packed vans from Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and other communities fighting the company's climate-threatening plans and its anti-democratic lock on Virginia politicians.

Protesters charged that Dominion-the top corporate campaign donor and top climate polluter in Virginia-is using its vast political influence to stack the deck in favor of costly and risky investments in massive 'fracked' gas and nuclear projects, trample the property rights of landowners, and attack sensible solutions like the federal Clean Power Plan.

"Dominion and its shareholders need to know that we are here today because the plan to route the Atlantic Coast Pipeline through our home deeply violates so many of our personal and community values," said Joanna Salidis, President of Friends of Nelson County. "Property owners want Dominion to respect that 'No' means 'No.' We want Dominion to uphold their claim that eminent domain is a method of last resort -- not a gift from the government to maximize profit on the backs of unwilling private property owners and communities."

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A Purely Economic Reason for Virginia Colleges, Universities, VRS to Divest From Fossil Fuels

by: lowkell

Tue May 05, 2015 at 16:36:01 PM EDT

Let's assume that, for some crazy reason, you don't give a crap about maintaining a habitable planet for yourself, kids, grandkids, etc. Let's just say that ALL you care about his the almighty dollar (in other words, you're an Ayn Rand-style sociopath). In that case, should you support college/university endowments, retirement funds (e.g., the Virginia Retirement System), etc. divesting from fossil fuels? Well, here's some evidence that might not be such a bad idea!
In a review of publicly disclosed material, we have found Harvard Management Company has lost an estimated $21 million...over the past three years by ignoring calls to divest and continuing to hold the world's largest owners of coal, oil and gas reserves. The losses have accelerated recently with an estimated $14 million drop in just the past six months ending March 31st.
You also might be interested in reading Bank of England warns of huge financial risk from fossil fuel investments and Oil Investors May Be Running Off a Cliff They Can't See and Life after divestment: how to spend the money saved from fossil fuel investments. Also, note to Gov. McAuliffe: yes, our state DOES need leadership on this subject, and yes it IS your job as governor to provide said leadership. Just sayin'. :)

P.S. Also see Fossil fuel-free funds outperformed conventional ones, analysis shows ("Investors who dumped holdings in coal, oil and gas earned an average return of 1.2% more a year over last five years, data from the world's leading stock market index reveals")

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McAuliffe vetoes coal subsidy bills, but Republicans vow to keep the corporate welfare flowing

by: ivymain

Tue May 05, 2015 at 09:53:58 AM EDT

Governor Terry McAuliffe has vetoed the two bills that would have extended Virginia's coal subsidies through 2019. It's a laudable act of fiscal responsibility, and surely no more than Virginia taxpayers had a right to expect in a time of tight state budgets. And yet it was also an act of courage in a coal state where mining companies have had far too much political power for far too long.

We would hope legislators would now focus on working with the Administration to help southwest Virginia communities shift away from their unhealthy dependence on coal mining and instead develop new, cleaner industries. The tens of millions of dollars that have been spent annually on coal subsidies could be much better directed to job diversification efforts. Unfortunately, legislators representing coal companies-that is to say, coal counties-have already vowed to reintroduce bills next year to keep the taxpayer largesse flowing. They have time; the subsidies won't actually expire until January 1, 2017.

It's been 20 years since Virginia began subsidizing coal mining via these two tax credits, bleeding the state treasury of more than $500 million in all. And it's been three years since the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) issued a critique of the various Virginia tax credits that included an especially harsh assessment of the handouts to coal companies. Yet instead of canceling the credits in light of the report, the General Assembly promptly extended them. Even Governor McAuliffe didn't actually try to end them completely this year. Legislators rejected his efforts simply to scale them back, leading to this veto.

So if we didn't get jobs for our $500 million, what did we gat? Most of the money has gone to enrich coal companies, but a portion went to fund the Virginia Coalfields Economic Development Authority (VACEDA). VACEDA's board includes coal executives, a fact which has served to intensify rather than lessen coal's hold on the area.  

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McAuliffe Admin Releases Initial Report, Recommendations of VA Railroad Safety/Security Task Force

by: lowkell

Fri May 01, 2015 at 15:20:37 PM EDT

This following press release came out this afternoon, almost simultaneously with the issuance of new safety rules for high-hazard flammable trains (e.g., those carrying oil) by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Regarding the latter, enviro groups are blasting the rules as far too lax, with a 10-year phaseout period instead of an immediate ban on these super-dangerous trains (see Lac-Mégantic rail disaster for an example of the horrible damage these things can do when they explode in populated communities). As for the Virginia report, it notes that oil train safety is mostly a federal responsibility: "Given the constitutional limitations on state governments to address the root causes of rail emergencies, the Task Force’s efforts were necessarily focused on opportunities to enhance response and recovery, with some limited prevention and safety-related activities conducted within the authorities delegated to the State Corporation Commission (SCC) by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)." Strangely, the Virginia report also states: "the overall probability of such an incident remains relatively low compared to other types of transportation-related emergencies. The probability of life loss and significant property or environmental damage is lower still." Perhaps so, but again, when these things DO explode - and they do so far too freqently - they are deadly and destructive. Yet another reason to get off dirty, dangerous fossil fuels and onto clean energy (last I checked, you don't get deadly explosions from energy efficiency, solar and wind power!).

 

RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today announced the release of the Virginia Railroad Safety and Security Task Force’s Initial Report and Recommendations.

 

"I applaud the members of this task force for the work they have done over the past 11 months in bringing subject matter experts, environmental groups, industry representatives and members of the public together to act on immediate opportunities for enhancing railroad safety and security in our Commonwealth,” said Governor McAuliffe. “This group has also done a great job producing a set of longer-term recommendations to help guide future preparedness initiatives. I look forward to reviewing and implementing these recommendations with my public safety and transportation teams so that we can ensure the safety of these rail lines that are essential to our economic growth.”

 

Governor McAuliffe formed the Railroad Safety and Security Task Force on May 9, 2014 after a derailment and explosion of crude oil rail cars in Lynchburg. Since it was formed, the agencies comprising the Task Force have increased the frequency of rail inspections on high-hazard routes, delivered crude oil response training across Virginia, and developed additional hazardous materials response capability in concert with local jurisdictions. 

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New "Climate Hawks Vote" Scorecard Ranks Mark Warner Near the Bottom; Tim Kaine Somewhat Better

by: lowkell

Thu Apr 30, 2015 at 08:36:59 AM EDT

The graphic is courtesy of Climate Hawks Vote's "first scorecard measuring leadership by Senate Democrats on climate and clean energy." According to Climate Hawks Vote, "Unlike other groups' scorecards measuring how Senators voted, we track how Senators lead" on climate and clean energy.
We began by asking: how can one lead in today's polarized Congress? Climate hawks lead by engaging the public on climate change. They give floor speeches and hold press conferences. They headline community town halls and environmental rallies. They author and cosponsor bills because some good bills make it into budget bills and others will be revived when Dems retake the Senate. They caucus to coordinate their work. Their websites clearly state their position on climate change. They write op-eds for newspapers both national and local. When hurricanes and droughts affect their districts, they publicly connect the climate change dots. They write press releases on noteworthy events such as President Obama's June 2013 climate speech, EPA Clean Power Plan, and reports from IPCC and NCA. They do all this without detaching from other issues.
To come up with ratings, Climate Hawks Vote "analyzed the public records of all current Senate Democrats (and a few voted out in 2014) beginning in 2011, scoring them on public engagement; bills authored; bills cosponsored; press releases (yes, Sherrod Brown staffers, we did read over 200 pages of press releases), working caucuses joined and led; and websites. We've ranked 100-plus introduced bills each session from core to peripheral and awarded more points to authors, less to cosponsors. We've weighted public engagement far more than any of our other factors."

So how did Virginia's two Democratic U.S. Senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, score on the group's +100 to -100 scale (where a negative score means the Senator "leads backward" by speaking out for dirty energy projects like Keystone XL, while the more positive the score, the better)?

Tim Kaine: +28 in the 113th Congress (January 3, 2013 to January 3, 2015); +2 in the current, 114th Congress. That's a pretty good rating in the 113th Congress, although in relative terms, Kaine ranks in the bottom third of Senate Democrats for that Congress. As for the current Congress, Kaine seems to have backslid a bit: although he's still (barely) in positive territory at +2, he now ranks below Republican Susan Collins of Maine and just above Republian Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, while among Democratic Senators he's eighth from the bottom (just above Bob Casey of Pennsylvania). In contrast, the top-rated climate/clean energy leaders in the current Senate are Sheldon Whitehouse of RI (+71), Brian Schatz of HI (+65) and Ed Markey of MA (+65). The worst-rated Democrats in the current Senate are Claire McCaskill of MO (-29), Joe Manchin of WV (-26), Heidi Heitkamp of ND (-23), Joe Donnelly of IN (-17), Jon Tester of MT (-16), and...

Mark Warner: Yes, our own Senator Mark Warner clocks in at a lame minus 7, sixth worst among Senate Democrats in the current Congress. Maybe this was a fluke, you say? Well, no. In fact, in the previous Congress, Warner was eighth from the bottom, with a minus 1 rating; and in the 112th Congress, he was even worse, fourth from the bottom, with an utterly abysmal minus 20 climate/clean energy rating.

In sum, when it comes to climate and clean energy leadership (or lack thereof), Mark Warner is simply not leading at all on this absolutely criticial, existential issue, while Tim Kaine is doing ok but needs to crank it up a few notches. Why do I say this? Two reasons: 1) as Climate Hawks Votes correctly puts it, "climate change is the greatest challenge facing the next few generations of humanity, not just another Democratic issue;" and 2) a clean energy transition would be a huge plus economically and environmentally for Virginia, a state in which fossil fuel extraction accounts for a miniscule percent of employment and economic output, while potential for energy efficiency, offshore wind and rooftop solar (distributed energy) is enormous. This is, to be blunt, an utter "no brainer;" now we just need our leaders to actually lead.

P.S. One rating that jumps out at me that should be a LOT lower is climate science denier Chuck Grassley.  

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Video: Gov. McAuliffe Admits Getting His (Wildly Wrong) Energy Information From Dominion. #FAIL

by: lowkell

Mon Apr 27, 2015 at 13:59:06 PM EDT

First, the short answer to the question I ask in the headline is "yes." Actually, it's "HELL YES!!!" Why do I say that? First, check out Lazard's "Levelized Cost of Energy" report, and particularly note the tables "Unsubsidized Levelized Cost of Energy Comparison" and "Cost of Carbon Abatement Comparison". On the first chart, note that the cheapest form of energy (by far) is energy efficiency, at $0-$50/megawatthour (MWh), followed by onshore wind at $37-$81/MWh (and falling!), followed by utility-scale solar PV at $60-$86/MWh (and falling fast!), gas combined cycle at $61-$87/MWh, with nuclear far more expensive at around $124-$132/MWh (and NOT falling!) for current new U.S. nuclear construction. In short, nuclear power is super expensive compared to several other currently-available, non-or-low-carbon-emitting options. That's how you end up with massive costs for building a new nuclear plant, such as the estimated "far north of ten billion dollars" for Domininion's proposed North Anna 3 reactor.

Put it this way: you don't have to be a nuclear scientist to figure out that you could get wayyyyyyy more "bang for the buck" from energy efficiency, onshore wind, utility-scale solar, natural gas combined cycle, and several other options compared to nuclear power. No wonder why nobody's been building new nuclear power plants in the U.S. in decades, and no wonder why these things take enormous taxpayer subsidies to make them even marginally economical. Hmmmm.

Now, let's look at this another way: to replace dirty coal-fired power, how much would different power-generation options cost (or save) compared to nuclear? For an answer to that question, see this graph by Lazard. The answer: not considering energy efficiency, which remains BY FAR the cheapest way to slash carbon emissions, Lazard says "an analysis of such implicit costs suggests that policies designed to promote wind and utility-scale solar development could be a particularly cost effective way of limiting carbon emissions." As for nuclear, note that its cost is four times greater than utility-scale solar power to "abate" carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Also note that, other than energy efficiency, onshore wind power is a super-inexpensive way to "abate" carbon emission from coal-fired power plants.

All of which brings us to Gov. McAuliffe's wildly, breathtakingly incorrect response to the moderator's question, "is the contention that if the state just ramped up renewables and ramped up energy efficiency some more, it wouldn't need more nuclear energy...is that a valid proposition?"  McAuliffe's response:  

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Video: Gov McAuliffe Gets In a Heated Argument with Anti Fracking Activist. Who Wins?

by: lowkell

Sun Apr 26, 2015 at 07:34:48 AM EDT

In our continuing series on Gov. McAuliffe's flawed, false, flat-out-wrong comments at the recent "The Next Frontier of Climate Change" conference," we now present an anti-fracking activist getting into a heated argument with Gov. McAuliffe - and ultimately getting escorted out of the room for not knowing when to stop talking and let the governor dig his own hole deeper. In brief, here's what happened and why I say McAuliffe dug himself into a deep hole.

*The activist asked McAuliffe about Dominion Power's gigantic, proposed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline, and how McAuliffe's support for this monstrosity squares with what she asserted was McAuliffe "campaign[ing]  against fracking." Actually, as far as I can determine, McAuliffe only stated outright opposition to fracking in the GW National Forest, not in general. Still, the anti-fracking activist is correct that the natural gas for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP will come mostly from "fracked" natural gas in West Virginia. In addition, it IS worth pointing out that the U.S. Forest Service just approved "a permit to survey part of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia for a proposed natural gas pipeline," and that the ACP also would run "through the George Washington National Forest - as well as the Allegheny Mountains, Blue Ridge mountains and the Shenandoah Valley."

*McAuliffe's response was basically a bunch of nonsensical and/or distorted arguments. Argument #1: Virginia has a bunch of pipelines already, ergo there's no reason to be concerned about this gigantic new pipeline. That's like saying, since there already is bad stuff happening in the world, we shouldn't be concerned about far worse stuff happening in the world. It's just a ridiculous, non-argument "argument." The fact is, this pipeline is seriously flawed in its underlying conception, economics, environmental impact, etc. Gov. McAuliffe should respond, on point, specifically on the merits - or in this case, lack thereof - of the ACP, not throw out red herrings and non sequiturs in an attempt to avoid doing so.

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McAuliffe touts gas and nuclear, says it's not his job to worry about risks

by: ivymain

Sat Apr 25, 2015 at 17:44:09 PM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

McAuliffe touts gas and nuclear, says it's not his job to worry about risks

A forum on climate change held last Wednesday in Richmond was supposed to be about moving to clean energy, but it sometimes seemed to be more of a platform for Governor Terry McAuliffe to tout plans for more natural gas and nuclear energy in the Commonwealth. It wasn't that he neglected energy efficiency, wind and solar-he had plenty of good things to say about these, and even a few initiatives to boast of. It was just that they paled against the backdrop of massive new natural gas and nuclear projects, to which he seems even more firmly committed.

The event was a conference called "The Next Frontier of Climate Change," organized by The New Republic magazine and the College of William and Mary. Moderator Jeffrey Ball of Stanford University shaped the conference as a series of interviews, beginning with Governor McAuliffe.

Ball started out asking about the politics of climate change, which gave McAuliffe a chance to reiterate his convictions that climate change is real, that we can see it happening today in Hampton Roads, and that part of meeting the challenge involves supporting the kind of 21st century technologies that will also make Virginia an exciting and attractive place to live. That includes offshore wind and solar.

But McAuliffe also made it clear he sees everything through the lens of economic growth, and his top priority is attracting new business to fill the gap left by shrinking federal spending in the state. "When I ran for governor," he explained, "I tried to put everything in an economic issue: what is good for the Commonwealth, how do you grow and diversify. I preside over a commonwealth that, we are the number one recipient of Department of Defense dollars, number one. Now, that's great when they're spending, but when they're cutting like they're cutting today, it has a dramatic impact."

He is also persuaded that renewable energy, even with all its job benefits, won't get him as much economic growth as cheaper fossil energy can, and his friends at Dominion Resources and its subsidiary, Dominion Virginia Power, have convinced him that means backing their plans for natural gas and nuclear.  

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Video: Gov. McAuliffe Flat-Out Wrong About Fossil Fuel Divestment

by: lowkell

Sat Apr 25, 2015 at 13:18:54 PM EDT

Yesterday, I wrote about Ivy Main's excellent post on Gov. Terry McAuliffe's interview at "The Next Frontier of Climate Change" conference. The main conclusions of that post: 1) McAuliffe clearly doesn't know a great deal about energy issues, from what distributed power is (e.g., rooftop solar); to how much it costs to transmit electricity from a nuclear plant vs. a renewable energy facility; to the Virginia power mix, both today and in coming years; to the "levelized cost of energy" for different sources of power (perhaps someone can stick this report on his desk and make sure he's read it?); etc. and 2) what McAuliffe DOES know appears to come disproprortionally from a wildly biased, pro-fossil-fuel, pro-nuclear, anti-energy-efficiency, anti-distributed power source -- Dominion Power -- with which he spends an inordinate amount of time (question: could a small business, or an ordinary citizen, get the level of access Dominion Power - $13 million in donations and counting! - has to the governor's office?), and which he alternately claims he has no control over/can tell what to do.

Anyway, there were so many misstatements, flat-our errors, etc. in Gov. McAuliffe's 38-minutes-but-felt-like-an-eternity interview at the "The Next Frontier of Climate Change" conference, this is going to require a multi-part series to tackle them. We'll start with McAuliffe's comments on fossil fuel divestment, which were flat-out wrong on several points.

First, the question was specifically about whether "the state of Virginia and its retirement fund and other relevant funds should divest from fossil fuel companies. McAuliffe's answer?

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Video: Sierra Club's Ivy Main is Right; Gov. McAuliffe is Dead Wrong on Natural Gas

by: lowkell

Fri Apr 24, 2015 at 08:57:38 AM EDT

Over at her blog, Power for the People VA, Ivy Main of the Sierra Club writes about a conference held last Wednesday in Richmond, "The Next Frontier of Climate Change," organized by The New Republic and the College of William and Mary, and featuring an interview with Gov. Terry McAuliffe on energy and environmental issues. According Ivy Main, the forum:
...was supposed to be about moving to clean energy, but it sometimes seemed to be more of a platform for Governor Terry McAuliffe to tout plans for more natural gas and nuclear energy in the Commonwealth. It wasn't that he neglected energy efficiency, wind and solar-he had plenty of good things to say about these, and even a few initiatives to boast of. It was just that they paled against the backdrop of massive new natural gas and nuclear projects, to which he seems even more firmly committed.
Main also notes that McAuliffe seems to be "persuaded that renewable energy, even with all its job benefits, won't get him as much economic growth as cheaper fossil energy can, and his friends at Dominion Resources and its subsidiary, Dominion Virginia Power, have convinced him that means backing their plans for natural gas and nuclear." Main also debunks McAuliffe's frequently-repeated, but still absolutely false, whiny assertion that the "draft [Clean Power Plan]'s treatment of existing nuclear plants makes it 'unfair' to Virginia." Can somebody please call a waaaaambulance for McAuliffe on this one? My god.

I'll have more on all of this in coming days, along with video clips from the conference. For now, let's just say that Gov. McAuliffe has a lot to learn about energy issues, doesn't seem to "know what he doesn't know," and is spending far too muchy time with his pals from Dominion Power, who are about as far from an unbiased source one could possibly imagine on energy and environmental issues here in Virginia.

Finally, with regard to video I've posted above, watch as Ivy Main asks McAuliffe whether he's "worried at all about the gamble we're taking here" with the massive overrliance on natural gas (and relatively paltry, pathetic investments in energy efficiency and solar - including rooftop/distributed solar, about which McAuliffe doesn't seem to have the slightest clue -- see future posts for more on that one), especially given studies suggesting that the "shale gas boom is going to turn into a bust starting in 2020."

In response, McAuliffe disingenusly pleaded powerlessness in the face of Dominion ("as you know, Dominion's authority doesn't go through me...so all I can do is...cajole them to what I think is in the best interest of the Commonwealth...I don't get to determine how Dominion invests their resources or what type of power generation, that's done by a separate authority"). McAuliffe claimed he wants Virginia to be a "global leader on renewables," also that we've (supposedly) "made tremendous project in the last year" on renewable energy. Note, by the way, that McAuliffe is being highly disingenous about his role vis-a-vis Dominion, here claiming powerlessness, but in another part of the forum, he bragged that he basically sat Dominion down in his office and got them to agree to a list of demands, including getting them to invest $700 million in solar, plus low-income housing energy assistance. Bottom line, according to the supposedly powerless (vis-a-vis Dominion, at least) Gov. McAuliffe: "I did ask for four or five things, and they agreed with us." In other words, McAuliffe simultaneously is claiming that he has NO power over Dominion and LOTS of power with Dominion. Pick one?

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 285 words in story)
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