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Energy and Environment

The EPA's Clean Power Plan: The 2015 Virginia General Assembly's "ObamaCare?"

by: lowkell

Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 09:52:57 AM EST

It's looking like debate and legislation on the EPA's Clean Power Plan could be the 2015 Virginia General Assembly session's "ObamaCare" for Republicans and Tea Partiers. Turns out the Koch-brothers' front group Americans for Prosperity is weighing in big time, and GOP gubernatorial hopeful, Sen. Frank Wagner, has jumped on the bandwagon big time.  

Note that Sen. Wagner is Co-chair of Joint Senate/House subcommittee formed to deal with legislation on the EPA's Clean Power Plan.  That Subcommittee's first meeting was held on Wednesday, with Sen Wagner running the meeting and only one invited speaker. Who was that speaker, you ask? That's right, none other than our old friend David W. Schnare, General Counsel at the Energy & Environment Legal Institute., there to provide "analysis" (hahahaha) of the "Proposed Clean Power Plan Rule Issued Under § 111(d) of the Clean Air Act."  First, a bit of background on Mr. Schnare:

The author of the report, David Schnare, [was] a a Senior Fellow of the Thomas Jefferson Institute. Schnare runs a blog where he has some interesting things to say. For instance:

*Environmental activists are "very sick people" who "quietly rejoice over the potential of millions (billions?) of starving people."

*On global warming, he constantly belittles concerns over it and questions the science. For instance, in August 2007 he wrote, "In a paper soon to be published, Scott Barrett explains why we are not facing a global emergency, why we need not act precipitously and without sufficient regard to the economic consequences, and why we will never reach, nor need to reach an 80% reduction in greenhouse gases." Schnare also claims that "the Scandinavian moose emits 2,100 kg of methane a year, equivalent to the green house gases emitted by an automobile trip of 13,000 km" and concludes, "Thank goodness hunters shoot 35,000 of them each year."

*Also on global warming, Barrett writes, "When it comes to global warming, I'm a skeptic because the conclusions about the cause of the apparent warming stand on the shoulders of incredibly uncertain data and models." Regardless, he writes, "a strategy of relying exclusively on reduction of greenhouse gases is doomed to failure."

*Barrett also claims that "reliance on, and vigorous implementation of greenhouse gas reduction is basically a racist approach with progressive tax-like implications that will further divide the rich from the poor."

Also see Audio: Interview with Bob McDonnell's Favorite Global Warming "Skeptic". for more on, character.
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Koch Brothers Launch Crusade Against Clean Energy, For Pollution in Virginia

by: lowkell

Fri Dec 19, 2014 at 08:22:53 AM EST

These people are truly heinous. Needless to say, Gov. McAuliffe needs to veto any energy legislation sponsored by the Koch brothers' - or other fossil fuels' - front groups, like the Orwellian-named "Americans for Prosperity" (a more apt name would be "The Top 0.1% for Prosperity ONLY of the Top 0.1%, Screw the Other 99.9%"). As for the following "Memorandum," pretty much every word of it is either a lie, distortion, and/or assault on the environment. For starters, the EPA's carbon pollution goals are modest and long overdue (not "overreaching" by a long shot); this will CREATE jobs and BOOST our economy (not "threaten" it in any way); etc. Did I mention how heinous these people are? 



To:              Members of the Virginia General Assembly  
From:         Sean Lansing, State Director of Americans for Prosperity-Virginia
Date:          Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dear Members of the General Assembly:

On behalf of more than 70,000 Americans for Prosperity activists living in Virginia, I encourage you to support efforts to push back against the overreaching Environmental Protection Agency. The new proposed carbon emissions rule from President Obama's EPA will amount to a federal takeover of the electricity system. EPA proposes that Virginia cut power sector CO2 emissions by 43 percent from 2012 levels by 2030, which will threaten jobs and energy affordability here in our state. 

That's why I'm writing to urge you to support the Reliable, Affordable, and Safe Power (RASP) Act. This legislation takes a number of common sense steps to protect families and businesses in Virginia from harm brought on by the regulations.

First, this legislation prohibits our state from submitting or implementing a State Implementation Plan until the legal questions surrounding the new rules are resolved. This will prevent Virginia from wasting precious resources until EPA’s legal authority is clear. Second, it would empower state legislatures, who are accountable to the people, to approve or deny the state implementation plan before it is submitted to the EPA. Lastly, it includes several provisions that instruct the state agencies developing the plans to ensure that it will protect the affordability and reliability of the state electricity system for its citizens.

This legislation also enjoys broad support from conservative organizations. AFP is proud to lead a large coalition of organizations in supporting the the RASP Act, which is online here

I urge you and your colleagues to support this important legislation and protect Virginia families from the harmful impact of these new proposed EPA rules. I look forward to working with you over this upcoming session. 


Sean Lansing
State Director


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Fiscal and environmental sanity get a boost as McAuliffe proposes to roll back coal subsidies

by: ivymain

Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 18:09:39 PM EST

Thanks to the state's budget deficit, Virginia may finally scale way back a notorious fossil fuel subsidy that currently transfers tens of millions of dollars annually from taxpayers to the pockets of corporations that mine Virginia coal. The Richmond Times Dispatch reports that if Governor McAuliffe has his way, the Virginia Coal Employment and Production Incentive Tax Credit and the Coalfield Employment Enhancement Tax Credit will be limited to $500,000 per year, saving the government $20 million per year.

The refundable tax credits were intended to make Virginia coal cheaper for utilities to buy, and thus more competitive with coal mined in other states. In theory, that was supposed to mean more coal mining jobs in southwest Virginia. In practice, the subsidies meant some coal companies paid no state taxes, and actually received significant cash handouts, even as coal jobs declined. And because the subsidies are based on tons of coal mined and not on the number of people employed, mining companies suffered no penalty from capital investments that maximized production while cutting jobs.  

Critics of the subsidies thought they had won their point three years ago when the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) issued a critique of the various Virginia tax credits that was especially critical of the handouts to coal companies. As it describes beginning on page 67, the subsidies did not stop coal employment from falling 54% since 1990, or slow the steady decline in production:

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New Poll Finds Overwhelming Support in Virginia, Nationally for EPA Clean Power Plan

by: lowkell

Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 16:58:53 PM EST

New polling by Harstad Strategic Research, Inc. finds strong support for the proposed EPA carbon pollution reduction standards (aka, the "Clean Power Plan"). That includes a nearly 8:1 majority of Democratic primary voters, so don't even think about seeking the Democratic nomination if you're wrong on this issue.  It also includes 68% of voters in Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire and...Virginia.  In short, this is a classic case of good policy AND good politics, which means that any politician opposed to the Clean Power Plan isn't the brightest bulb on the block.

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Tiny Virginia subcommittee tasked with deciding future of bills related to EPA's Clean Power Plan

by: ivymain

Fri Dec 12, 2014 at 13:04:03 PM EST

The EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan could reshape Virginia's energy future for the next fifteen years, and possibly permanently. If the state takes advantage of this opportunity, it will reduce carbon pollution, improve human health, save money for consumers, drive job creation in the fast-growing technology sector, and make our grid stronger and more secure.

If the state doesn't act, EPA will design its own plan for Virginia, ensuring reduced carbon emissions but without the flexibility the state would have by doing it for itself.

This presents a conundrum for Virginia's General Assembly, which is not known for embracing federal environmental regulations. The usual skepticism was on display on November 19, when the Senate and House Commerce and Labor Committees met in a joint session to take up the Clean Power Plan-or more precisely, to give utilities and the State Corporation Commission staff the chance to attack it.

At the conclusion of that meeting, the two Republican committee chairs, Senator John Watkins and Delegate Terry Kilgore, named three members of each committee-two Republicans and one Democrat from each chamber-to a special subcommittee tasked with deciding what kind of legislative action the General Assembly should take in response to the Clean Power Plan. Kilgore also named himself to the subcommittee, which now will take up any bills that Virginia legislators introduce related to the Plan.

This subcommittee has now scheduled its first meeting for December 17 at 1:00 p.m. in Senate Room A of the General Assembly building in Richmond. By law, all committee meetings are open to the public.

According to General Assembly procedure, before anyone else in the entire legislature can consider a bill, it will have to pass muster with these men. So who are these hugely important people, and what is the likelihood that they will seize this historic opportunity to make Virginia a leader in clean energy?

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New Fact Sheet Illustrates Virginia's Enormous Wind Power Potential

by: lowkell

Tue Dec 09, 2014 at 13:49:42 PM EST

In 2012, Virginia consumed 108 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity. Currently, most of that is generated using health-and-environment-trashing coal and natural gas, plus super-expensive nuclear plants. Yet, according to this new fact sheet from the Southeastern Wind Coalition (data sources: Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, US Energy Information Administration, American Wind Energy Association), Virginia has the potential within just 5-10 years to produce 258.4 TWh/year -- more than twice the entire amount of electricity Virginia consumed in 2012.

Amazing, huh? Along those same lines, also note:

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), just four states (VA, NC, SC, and GA) have about 63% of the total East Coast offshore wind resource in less than 30 meters of water.  If we look at resource greater than 12 miles offshore and in less than 30 meters of water, those same four states have 82% of the East Coast resource.

NREL estimates the technical potential within 50 miles of the coast of VA, NC, SC, and GA to be about 583 gigawatts, which which is equal to about two times the electricity demand of every coastal state from Maine to Florida. This region has the potential to be a significant exporter of offshore wind energy.

That's right; not only could we produce ALL our power from wind, but we could produce enough to export, potentially earning billions of dollars for Virginia's economy. Of course, offshore wind power is more expensive than onshore wind power, but as with everything else, costs will come down sharply once we start building in this country "to scale" (see this study for some thoughts on that topic). Also keep in mind that wind power emits no health-and-environment-damaging pollution, whether we're talking about greenhouses gases, toxix substances of various kinds, particulates, whatever. Offshore wind power doesn't blow up mountains. It doesn't "spill." It doesn't contaminate our water supplies or require massive amounts of water to produce it, as "fracked" natural gas does (in fact, wind power requires ZERO water to produce). It's not even an "eyesore" (assuming you find wind turbines less attractive than, let's say, a coal-fired power plant), since it would be located well offshore.

So what's the holdup? Basically, it's two major things: 1) counterproductive, dysfunctional, nonsensical, or to be nice "suboptimal" public policy, which massively subsidizes fossil fuels, while tilting the playing field in a myriad of other ways (e.g., not correcting for market failure by imposing a sizable tax on fossil fuel's pollution) against clean energy and in favor of dirty energy; and 2) the fact that offshore wind power currently costs somewhat more than heavily-subsidized, non-internalized fossil fuels (although see the graph on the "flip" regarding cost trends for onshore wind vs. natural gas).

Of course, to correct #2, we need to fix #1. But given that policy is set by a bunch of people, like Virginia House Speaker Bill "ALEC" Howell, who are really not much more than bought-and-paid-for puppets of the fossil fuel industry, this problem isn't going to be easy to fix. The clear answer: vote all these guys out of office, while simultaneously imposing strict campaign finance and lobbying limits. Then we'll see what happens...

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Former Virginia AG Andrew P. Miller Fought Voting Rights Act, Now Fighting for Keystone XL Pipeline

by: lowkell

Sat Dec 06, 2014 at 20:58:51 PM EST

Believe it or not, the same Virginia Attorney General, Andrew P. Miller (D-ixiecrat), who filed suit agains the Voting Rights Act back in 1973, is still going strong (at 82 years old, no less). That is, if by "strong" we mean "slimy," "awful," "corrupt," "working to destroy the environment," "selling whatever soul he has for money," etc. (note: Miller also sprung into action last year in defense of Ken Cuccinelli regarding Star Scientific; and earlier this year to the defense of Bob McDonnell). For more details on this blatant attempt by the fossil fuel industry to purchase our government in order to free them up to continue trashing the environment with impunity, check out the blockbuster New York Times story, "A Window Into a Secret Alliance: Attorneys General and the Energy Industry." Here are a few highlights, focused on Virginia. As you read through this, also ask yourself WTF is the deal with George Mason University, which as the NY Times article points out is a "state institution?" How can they get away with this crap? Are all our state legislators asleep at the switch or what?

*"Andrew P. Miller, a former attorney general of Virginia, has in the years since he left office built a practice representing major energy companies before state attorneys general, including Southern Company and TransCanada, the entity behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The New York Times collected emails Mr. Miller sent to attorneys general in several states."

*"Mr. Miller approached Attorney General Scott Pruitt of Oklahoma in April 2012, with the goal of helping to encourage Mr. Pruitt, who then had been in office about 18 months, to take an even greater role in serving as a national leader of the effort to block Obama administration environmental regulations."

*"Mr. Miller worked closely with Mr. Pruitt, and representatives from an industry-funded program at George Mason, to organize a summit meeting in Oklahoma City that would assemble energy industry lobbyists, lawyers and executives to have closed-door discussions with attorneys general. The companies that were invited, such as Devon Energy, were in most cases also major campaign donors to the Republican Attorneys General Association."

*"Mr. Miller asked [West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey] to help push legislation opposing an Obama administration plan to regulate carbon emissions from existing coal-burning power plants. Legislation nearly identical to what Mr. Miller proposed was introduced in the West Virginia Legislature and then passed. Mr. Morrisey disputed any suggestion that he played a role."

*Click here for a PDF file of emails, etc., illustrating how Miller, "the lawyer and lobbyist for the coal industry," went about fighting environmental legislation on behalf of his fossil fuel clients, "behind closed doors." It's truly appalling, nauseating stuff which makes a mockery of any concept that this is government of/by/for the people.

*A few more documents that give a feel for this slimy effort include:  

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Virginia AG Herring Submits Comments on EPA's Proposed Clean Power Plan

by: lowkell

Tue Dec 02, 2014 at 13:57:27 PM EST

Overall, this is good stuff (see below) from AG Mark Herring's office. A few points I'd make: a) this is a diametrically different - and better! - point of view on environmental/energy issues than what we were getting with Ken Cuccinelli, and what we would have gotten if (god forbid) Mark Obenshain had won the 2013 election for AG; b) AG Herring states point blank the fact that human emissions of CO2 are causing climate change and threatening Virginia; c) AG Herring also argues, reasonably, that implementation costs must be balanced against the benefits to health, the environment and the economy when considering the proposal; d) because AG Herring understands that this is a draft rule, he's pointed out some legal questions that need to be addressed in the final rule, rather than rushing to sue (as the fossil fuel folks and the Bill Howells of the world want to do); and e) having said, that, I would say the last three bullets are unnecessary, as what the EPA is doing here is not only WELL within its legal authority (e.g., under the Clean Air Act), but frankly overdue and not aggressive enough to achieve the CO2 pollution reductions that scienists like Michael Mann say are required to avert catastrophic global warming. Let's stop procrastinating and get the job done already!

~Outlines a comprehensive approach to evaluating costs and benefits, and changes that can improve the Rule for Virginia ~


RICHMOND (December 2, 2014)--In comments submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regarding its proposed Rule to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, Attorney General Mark R. Herring, in his role as Attorney General and counsel for Virginia consumers, has outlined an evaluation approach that considers economic, health, and environmental benefits alongside implementation costs.  He also recommended policy changes that will give Virginia more flexibility in implementation and more equitable treatment for carbon reduction strategies, and identified potential legal issues that EPA should address prior to issuance of a final Rule.


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SCC approves Appalachian Power's "solar tax"

by: ivymain

Tue Dec 02, 2014 at 07:18:51 AM EST

(The Virginia State Corporation Commission continues to be the horrible, corporate-puppet organization it's been since...well, forever, pretty much. - promoted by lowkell)

The State Corporation Commission has granted Appalachian Power Company's request to be allowed to impose "standby" charges on residential customers with solar systems over 10 kilowatts. The charges can range up to more than $100 per month, regardless of how much electricity the homeowner actually draws from the grid.

In its Final Order in case number PUE-2014-00026, dated November 26, the SCC ruled that APCo's standby charge complies with § 56-594 F of the Virginia Code, which provides for standby charges for net-metered residential systems between 10 and 20 kW. (The law does not allow for net metering of residential systems over 20 kW.)

Environmental groups intervened in the case and ran a grassroots campaign that generated over 1500 comments to the SCC, opposing what has been dubbed a "tax on the sun." The result, however, was never in much doubt. The SCC has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to accept without scrutiny utility assertions that solar customers impose costs on other customers.

Attorneys at the Southern Environmental Law Center, who argued against the standby charges on behalf of the Sierra Club and other groups, say the SCC's reasoning is flawed. According to Cale Jaffe, Director of the SELC's Virginia office, "Appalachian Power actually conceded during the hearing that it was 'not in a position' to determine whether solar customers had 'a positive or negative impact to the distribution cost of service.'  In other words, Appalachian Power said that solar customers might be having a positive impact in helping to reduce APCo's distribution costs, but that the power company didn't have the data and didn't know one way or the other."

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New Report Has Energy Policy Recommendations Virginia Should Enact Right Away

by: lowkell

Mon Dec 01, 2014 at 13:01:49 PM EST

The following policy recommendations, which are most certainly applicable to Virginia, come from this new report ("Mitigating Natural Gas Use in the Electricity Sector: Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and the Role of States in Implementing the Clean Power Plan").
By acting decisively to implement ambitious renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs, states can help ensure that the United States does not overcommit to natural gas and that it continues on a path toward decarbonization of the economy. States do not need to wait for the EPA to finalize the Clean Power Plan to get started. The Center for American Progress offers the following recommendations to state policymakers:

States should strengthen existing-or enact new-renewable energy standards to deploy additional renewable energy generating capacity as quickly and as aggressively as possible.

States should enact the strongest possible Energy Efficiency Resource Standards to set clear energy-savings targets for electric utilities. States also should adopt and implement stringent building efficiency codes and other product and equipment efficiency standards to cut customer demand for electricity.

States should enact policies to cut methane pollution from the oil and gas sector. This will achieve important reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and maximize the climate benefit of generating electricity from natural gas rather than coal.

States should consider innovative financing approaches, such as green banks, to attract private investment in new, low-carbon clean energy projects.

Without question, switching from coal to natural gas for power generation can reduce carbon pollution from the power sector. But fuel switching does not go far enough to achieve the deep reductions necessary to avert catastrophic climate change. States should make renewable energy and energy efficiency a cornerstone of their Clean Power Plan implementation and climate mitigation strategies.

I couldn't agree more. Of course, fossil fuel companies and the politicians who do their bidding (mostly Republicans like Bill "ALEC" Howell, but - sad to say - also some Democrats like Dick Saslaw) will continue to work at blocking any move away from polluting energy and towards clean energy in Virginia. Which means the people of Virginia need to speak up, and Gov. McAuliffe's administration needs to be a champion on this issue. Let's see if anyone has the cojones to stand up to Dominion et al.
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National Journal Article Explains Why Koch Brothers' War on Clean Energy is Failing in the States

by: lowkell

Fri Nov 28, 2014 at 14:16:59 PM EST

Cross posted from Scaling Green, because I think this is highly relevant to Virginia (where Bill "ALEC" Howell is Speaker of the House, and where Dominion and other fossil fuel interests have bought and paid for our state government)

As we know, the billionaire Koch brothers and their fossil fuel allies have been waging relentless war against clean energy for years now. Yet, as this fascinating article in National Journal explains, while the Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) has seen some successes at the national level in fighting clean energy, they are larging striking out in the states.  Why is this the case?  A few key points from the National Journal article answer that question.

  • statehouses nationwide-even those where Republicans are running the show-the GOP lacks the lockstep march on energy policy that is coming to define the national party. Certainly, a powerful faction working to undo the green-energy laws has swept through states over the past decade, but as in Kansas, their repeal efforts have repeatedly failed."
  • "Over the past two years, at least 40 bills aimed at weakening or repealing clean-energy mandates have been introduced in legislatures across the country, according to Colorado State University's Center for the New Energy Economy. But not a single state has done away with its renewable-energy standard. Ohio came the closest when the GOP-controlled Legislature voted to freeze a mandate in May; but everywhere else, repeal bills have either been voted down or have died without getting a vote."
  • And Democrats are not to blame. Repeal is being thwarted by business-focused Republicans who are sticking up for the standards because they believe they create jobs. In Kansas and North Carolina, conservative lawmakers have voted against repeal-while Republicans in Minnesota and Nevada actually cast votes to strengthen clean-energy mandates last year."
  • "Why hasn't AFP had greater success in the states?...state legislators-by definition-are more local in their focus, and that puts them face-to-face with renewable-energy projects in their districts. In many parts of the country, red states included, wind and solar energy are already big business. They're not ExxonMobil or Koch Industries big, but they have lobbying muscle and business interests of their own, and that's enough to make state lawmakers think twice before going against them, even if that means standing against AFP."
  • "Viewed as a slice of the nation's economy, renewable energy's share remains small...But in the state legislative districts where it's produced, renewable energy is a big enough player to wield considerable clout."
  • "[AFP] isn't throwing in the towel. The Koch empire, fresh from spending $100 million on the 2014 congressional midterm elections to help deliver the Senate into the hands of Republicans eager to unwind climate rules, is now pledging another run at the states' renewable-energy standards."
  • "... despite more than two years of efforts led by AFP, both the mandates and the candidates who back them are safe. What worked in Washington has not worked in the states-even those in which AFP has had great success in other policy arenas."

In sum, the National Journal article demonstrates that no matter how much money fossil fuel interests spend to attack clean energy, it's difficult for them to win those battles due to wind and solar's strong, bipartisan support across America.  Of course, that doesn't mean the fossil fuel folks are going to give up, which means that cleantech must stay on top of this situation. Still, the bad news for the Koch brothers and their allies is that, with the clean energy industry growing by leaps and bounds, the political clout these industries wield will continue to grow as well. And the bottom line is that, even in "red states" like Kansas, politicians of all political stripes can clearly see which way the wind is blowing.
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Video: And Now for the Bad Dick Saslaw (D-ominion)

by: lowkell

Thu Nov 27, 2014 at 08:02:44 AM EST

Here's the thing with Virginia State Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw: when he opens his mouth and words come out, there's a high probability that at least some of those words will be (take your pick) stupid, wrong, offensive, bizarre, crazy, etc. In this instance, Saslaw spoke for several minutes at Monday's meeting of the Falls Church City Council, and he had a LOT to say. That includes his tirade against UVA, with which I largely agree (we'll call that one the "good Dick Saslaw"). It also includes the snippet I've included here, in which Falls Church City Council Member Dan Sze asks Saslaw about "net metering" ("allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to feed electricity they do not use back into the grid") As Sze correctly points out, "Virginia ranks near the bottom in the United States for mechanisms to allow renewable energy to work."

So what's Dick Saslaw planning to do about this unacceptable situation? Why, absolutely nothing of course. To put the answer to that question in context, really all you need to know is that Dominion Virginia Power is Dick Saslaw's top all-time donor, at $240,508, and that Dominion Virginia Power is one of the worst, most backward and reactionary utilities in the country when it comes to renewable energy. Also keep in mind that Dominion essentially owns the Virginia General Assembly, having donated over $9 MILLION over the years to Virginia Democrats and Republicans alike (yes, that's your power bill at work, helping a powerful, polluting corporation buy our "democracy").

Anyway, back to Dick "Dominion's Puppet" Saslaw and how he responded (or more accurately, failed to respond, other than pathetic whining about how life's so unfaiiiiiiir - waaaaaaah!!!) to the excellent question from Falls Church City Council member Dan Sze on net metering. First, the bought-and-paid-for "Bad Dick Saslaw," who I'd remind everyone is actually/unbelievably the Democratic leader in the Virginia State Senate, goes on a bizarre, Cuccinelli-style rant against the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan (CPP), in which he basically whines and spews out fossil fuel industry talking points. In fact, as this superb op-ed explains, with the CPP, we would reap "a $1.1 billion benefit to the Virginia economy before accounting for the economic benefits from the improved environment and health." As an added bonus, the CPP "actually represents a significant business opportunity for Virginia to become a leading state in the areas of solar power, wind power, and energy efficiency." More good news: "estimates are that energy efficiency alone could save Virginia households at least $517 million by 2020, and a lot more thereafter...allowing us to shut down antiquated, polluting power plants." Last but not least, the CPP "will help protect our state against hundreds of billions of dollars - and untold lives - in potential climate devastation."

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Sierra Club Rankings: Virginia House and Senate Dems, From "A" to "F"

by: lowkell

Sat Nov 22, 2014 at 13:39:06 PM EST

The Virginia Sierra Club's 2014 Generaly Assembly Climate & Energy Scorecard is out, and there's a lot of interesting information in there regarding who's great, who's good, and who's not so good when it comes to protecting Virginia's environment and promoting clean energy. There were some definite surprises in the rankings, but one thing was sadly NOT a surprise: Republicans were almost uniformly horrible (e.g., all "F"s "D"s and "C"s in the Senate; mostly bad grades in the House, with a few exceptions like Robert Bloxom's "A+;" Chris Stolle's "A;" Gordon Helsel's "B," Randy Minchew's "B," Bobby Orrock's "B," Riley Ingram's "B," Chris Jones' "B," Keith Hodges' "B," Michael Webert's "B," and Tony Wilt's "B"). What about the Democrats, all of whom you'd hope would get "A"s on the environment? Here's a ranking of Virginia Democratic legislators from best to worst.

"A+" grades: Delegates Rosalyn Dance, Alfonso Lopez, Monty Mason, Sam Rasoul and David Toscano.  Thank you to everyone who got a perfect, 100%, "A+" grade from the Sierra Club. You guys rock! :)

"A" grades: Senators Creigh Deeds, Adam Ebbin, Barbara Favola, Janet Howell, Mamie Locke, Louise Lucas, Dave Marsden, Donald McEachin, Chap Petersen, Phil Puckett (!!!) and Toddy Puller; Delegates David Bulova, Betsy Carr, Matthew James, Mark Keam, Kaye Kory, Rob Krupicka, Jennifer McClellan, Scott Surovell, Roslyn Tyler and Jeion Ward. Nice job by all these folks too, except for the vote in favor of  SB 459 - which the Sierra Club correctly calls "Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand." General rule of thumb: if Dominion's for it, vote against it unless there's some overriding reason not to. Finally, I'm pleasantly amazed that "coal country "Sen. Phil Puckett got an "A."

"B" grades: Senators John Edwards and John Miller; Delegates Mamye Bacote, Eileen Filler-Corn, Michael Futrell, Charniele Herring, Patrick Hope, Algie Howell, Delores McQuinn, Ken Plum, Mark Sickles, Marcus Simon and Luke Torian. Pretty good, but they did vote for SB 459 ("Dominion's Accounting Sleight of Hand"), plus in the cases of Edwards and Miller for SB 25 (establishes a "woefully inadequate to address impacts of [an offshore oil] spill or other accident").  

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Hundreds Rally at Virginia State Capitol to Support EPA's Clean Power Plan

by: lowkell

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 17:59:18 PM EST

According to Appalachian Voices: "More than 210,000 Virginians have spoken and they want the commonwealth to lead the new energy economy. Many of them are in Richmond this morning to urge legislators to grow Virginia's economy, improve public health and address the cause of climate change by supporting the EPA's Clean Power Plan." (note: most photos courtesy of the VA Sierra Club)

Faith-Based, Public Health, Student and Environmental Groups Gather to Demand Climate Action

RICHMOND, VA - Today, over 200 Virginians from across the state gathered at the State Capitol to support government action to reduce carbon pollution, the leading cause of climate disruption and demand action to dramatically scale up clean energy in the Commonwealth.  Residents came from Hampton Roads, Williamsburg, Richmond, Blacksburg, Arlington and Manassas.

The rally followed a Joint Legislative Meeting of the Virginia House and Senate Commerce and Labor Committees on the Clean Power Plan. Supporters packed the hearing, carrying "Clean Energy Now" signs, and several made themselves heard during the public comment session before joining the crowd on the Capitol grounds, noting the economic benefits of clean energy as well as the urgency of addressing climate change.

The rally included a Mom's Clean Air Force "Play-in" featuring parachute games and coloring activities, and a moment of silence for those affected by climate disruption followed by a "moment of noise" to sound the alarm on climate and demand action.

Speakers included:  Senator A. Donald McEachin, Senate Democratic Caucus Chairman; Clark Mercer, Chief of Staff to Lieutenant Governor Northam; Freeda Cathcart, Legislative Chair, General Federation of Women's Clubs of Virginia - Blue Ridge Region; and Michael James-Deramo, Vice President of the VCU Environmental Coalition and representative of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition.

"A comprehensive Clean Energy Plan will reap rewards for our families, for our communities and for the health and well-being of our Commonwealth," said Senator McEachin. "We are very fortunate that instituting a Clean Energy Plan to help the environment will have the added benefit of saving citizens' money and creating jobs. Altogether, it's a win-win for Virginians."

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Three Graphs from New GMU/Yale Survey Show Overwhelming Support for Climate Action, Clean Energy

by: lowkell

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 14:21:48 PM EST

( - promoted by lowkell)

Cross posted from Scaling Green. For Blue Virginia readers, I'd just point out that yet again, progressives and environmentalists are strongly in the majority on the issues.

A new survey from George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication and Yale's Project on Climate Change Communication has some encouraging results about U.S. public opinion on climate change and clean energy. Here are three graphs we thought were well worth sharing  The key points are: 1) 67% of Americans support what is, essentially, the EPA's proposed Clean Power Plan to limit carbon pollution from existing, coal-fired power plants; 2) Americans overwhelmingly support policies - like Renewable Portfolio Standards, R&D, tax rebates - to promote clean energy; and 3) only 16% of Americans actively refuse to believe the science on climate change. Now, we just need policymakers to translate the wishes of the American people into action.

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Is Virginia Tech's Coal Center Director Evading Questions to Shield Donors?

by: lowkell

Wed Nov 19, 2014 at 08:40:49 AM EST

Cross posted from The Checks and Balances Project. Written by Scott Peterson, Executive Director of The Checks and Balances Project

Professor Michael Karmis is evading basic questions about whether clean energy experts were consulted in his critical cost-benefit analysis of how Virginia can meet its federal Clean Power Plan (CPP) goals.  This raises the possibility that Dr. Karmis, director of the Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, is shielding donors from legitimate public scrutiny.

The cost-benefit analysis was mandated by the legislature, is relied upon by the Governor, and is included in the Virginia Energy Plan. As we’ve reported before, Karmis is a curious choice to author this foundational document. The Clean Power Plan gives states wide Is Virginia Tech’s Coal Center Director Evading Questions to Shield Donors?flexibility on how to meet standards. Logically, such an analysis should consider a variety of solutions to cut power plant pollution, including fast-growing renewable energy sources that have created 290,000 jobs in neighboring mid-Atlantic states in recent years.

Yet, Karmis’s Coal Center is heavily oriented to only one, highly-polluting energy source – coal. The Center’s website lists a number of significant players in the coal industry as Sponsors that provide “generous financial contributions.” High ranking members of those same companies serve on the Center’s Advisory Board. Of its eight in-house “experts,” seven have strong financial ties to the coal industry – but none to clean energy sources.

State law mandated that Karmis’s Center be consulted, but not be the lead author of the analysis – a big difference in the level of power a coal-centric perspective would have in driving the process.

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Video: Sen. Kaine's Speech in Opposition to Mandating Approval of Keystone XL

by: lowkell

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 18:05:15 PM EST

(UPDATE 6:20 pm: It looks like this boondoggle, polluting monstrosity/project from hell has gone down to defeat in the U.S. Senate. Great work by everyone who cares about our planet; shame on everyone who doesn't! - promoted by lowkell)

I'll post video when it's done uploading. It's great to see real leadership on this issue from Sen. Kaine. As for Virginia's other Senator...not so much, it would appear.
Mr. President, I rise in opposition to the bill mandating approval of the Keystone Pipeline. I oppose the project because accelerating the development of tar sands oil is contrary to our national interests, our economic interests, national security interests and environmental interests.

I believe there is no way to fully analyze this question without grappling with another question-is carbon pollution from human activity affecting the world's climate in a negative way? Because, if carbon pollution doesn't affect the climate, then tar sands would not be a significant issue for me. But, if we accept the general scientific consensus-and Virginians do-that carbon pollution does cause negative changes in climate, stopping or even slowing the development of tar sands oil is good for the United States and good for the world.

Some who have encouraged me to support this project, duck when I ask this question: Do you think manmade carbon pollution affects our climate? One Virginia CEO, whose company is filled with scientists, basically told me, "I don't know, I'm not a scientist," and a representative of the United States Chamber of Commerce testified similarly before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this year. But those of us who take an oath to serve here have a responsibility to consider the scientific evidence.

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New George Washington National Forest Plan Released; Fracking Allowed?

by: lowkell

Tue Nov 18, 2014 at 07:30:00 AM EST

This doesn't look good to me, but let's hope the details are better than the "top line" appears. Bottom line: of course there should be no "fracking" in the GW National Forest, that's just crazy. Why do I say that? See the presentations by Earthworks and DC Water and I think you'll quickly get the picture.

New George Washington National Forest Plan Balances Multiple Uses

Provides for Recreation, Wildlife and Water Quality, Sets Oil and Gas Availability

ROANOKE, Va., November 18, 2014 - Today, the U.S. Forest Service's Southern Regional Forester released the Final Forest Plan that will direct management of the George Washington National Forest. The plan revises the 1993 plan, as required by the National Forest Management Act, and contains guidance for managing nearly 1.1 million acres of national forests in Virginia and West Virginia.

"This forest plan provides a balance of management direction that addresses both the long-term ecological sustainability of the George Washington National Forest, as well as the long-term social and economic needs of those that depend on or are impacted by the Forest," said Southern Regional Forester Ken Arney.

The plan works to fulfill the Forest Service's mission of managing national forests for multiple uses and reflects extensive input from many deeply committed individuals, organizations, and communities representing diverse interests and uses, who have worked closely together over six years. As a result of this collaborative input, implementation of this plan will:

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Tim Kaine Nails It on the Keystone Dirty Tar Sands Boondoggle; Mark Warner Totally Out to Lunch

by: lowkell

Mon Nov 17, 2014 at 20:15:52 PM EST

At least one of Virginia's U.S. Senators gets it on the Keystone XL dirty Canadian tar sands export boondoggle.
Sen. Tim Kaine sent an e-mail to supporters Monday morning, telling them he opposes Keystone and urging them to show their opposition.

"As a nation, we need to take a stand to support clean energy, create green jobs, and reduce pollution. That's why I hope you'll join me in opposing the Keystone project.

The main issue isn't the pipeline itself. The problem is that the pipeline would transport tar sands oil, fuel that is 15-20% dirtier than conventional petroleum."

Exactly right, and very much in line with what Kaine talked about two years ago at Tigercomm:
*It's time for opponents of clean energy to stop acting like the reign of fossil fuels as our dominant energy source constitutes some sort of inviolable theology.

*Even for those who don't "believe" in climate science, or who think clean energy is a science project, it's still common sense to move ahead aggressively with energy efficiency and clean energy. Unless, of course, they want America assigned permanent international follower status on the technologies other counties want to lead.

*If we find out in 50 years that the climate science was wrong, we're still ahead by getting off the dirty stuff. If the 98% of practicing climate scientists were right and we let clean energy pass us by, we'll deeply regret it.

As for Virginia's other Senator, the one who loves to blame "both sides" for everything and pretend to be what he calls a "radical centrist" (reward to anyone who can get a clear answer out of Warner about what that means?), he's just completely wrong when it comes to Keystone XL, making the bizarre claim that somehow Keystone's spur to tar sands development is needed "to make sure we decouple Europe's dependence on Russian oil and gas so they can become more independent." WTF?  I mean, I worked on international oil markets for 17 years, and I really have no idea what he's blathering about on this. Regardless, any spur to development of the Canadian tar sands would be a huge mistake if we care about, ya know, the planet not burning up and stuff? Apparently, Warner's more concerned with more important things, like...uh....
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Over 210,000 Virginians Submit Comments In Support of Curbing Carbon Pollution

by: lowkell

Wed Nov 12, 2014 at 13:09:37 PM EST

From Environment Virginia: 

Virginians’ Support for EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan and Tackling Climate Change 

Richmond, VA – Since the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first began collecting them, more than 7 million Americans have already submitted public comments in support of national standards to limit dangerous carbon pollution from power plants, including 210,825 public comments submitted from Virginians. This reflects the strong desire of Virginians across the commonwealth for solutions to address climate change and its impact on our health and the economy. 

At a press conference in Richmond’s Capitol Square, a coalition of Virginia groups supporting these essential clean air safeguards gathered to showcase this public support and urge Virginia’s leaders to support the Clean Power Plan. Following the event, a sample of these comments will be delivered to Virginia’s leaders such as the Department of Environmental Quality and Virginia’s U.S. Senators.

Speakers included Sarah Bucci with Environment Virginia, Bob Keefe, Executive Director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), and Terra Pascarosa, Virginia Representative with Mom’s Clean Air Force and her 2-year old son.

These organizations offer the following statement in support of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan: 

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