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Energy and Environment

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe Invited to Join People's Climate March on Sunday

by: lowkell

Fri Sep 19, 2014 at 10:10:30 AM EDT

UPDATE 1 pm Friday from Gov. McAuliffe's Facebook page - "Governor McAuliffe commits to #WalktheWalk to combat climate change in VA and build a New Virginia Economy. He joins others from across the world in the #WalktheWalk campaign aimed at amplifying the message of the march and the importance of combating climate change."
The following letter has been sent to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe from numerous Virginia-based progressive and environmental groups (see signatories below), inviting him to join with tens of thousands of others in New York City this Sunday for the People's Climate March. I certainly hope he accepts the invitation!

P.S. Click here if you want to join in encouraging Gov. McAuliffe to join the march!

September 18, 2014

The Honorable Terry McAuliffe
Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia
P.O. Box 1475
Richmond, VA 23218

Dear Governor McAuliffe:

As you are well aware, climate change is a crisis that requires urgent and effective action. Earlier this year, the authoritative National Climate Assessment (NCA) found "unambiguous" evidence that human activities - particularly the burning of coal, oil and natural gas - are causing climate change. And, although it might feel cool and pleasant in Virginia right now, according to data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, last month was the hottest ever recorded worldwide.  Clearly, with the threat of surging seas on the Virginia coast, stronger storms, more intense heat waves, and many other problems, this is an issue we no longer have the luxury of ignoring.

Fortunately, we are starting to see action. In June, as you know, the Environmental Protection Agency issued much-needed draft rules on carbon pollution, rules that will require Virginia and other states to develop compliance plans in coming months. This represents a tremendous economic opportunity for states like Virginia, with its abundant offshore wind resources, and tremendous opportunities for energy efficiency, distributed solar power and cleantech innovation generally. We presume that we are preaching to the converted on this, as your own 2009 gubernatorial campaign's energy plan laid out a vision for requiring Virginia power companies to generate 25% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2025. The fact is, from a business and economic perspective, this is a win-win-win proposition for Virginia and for the country as a whole. As your friend, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, recently argued, "If we come together to make the hard choices, the smart investment in infrastructure, technology and environmental protection, America can be the clean energy superpower for the 21st century." We couldn't agree more.

In addition to action by government agencies and politicians, we are also excited to see a powerful grassroots movement pushing for immediate action to combat global warming. A superb example of this will take place on Sunday, September 21 in New York City, with the largest climate march in history -- tens of thousands of people participating in the People's Climate March. This historic event will include representatives from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, the Virginia Tech University Environmental Coalition, the Sierra Club,, and many others.

Given that you will be in New York this weekend, we invite you to join us at the march. You can show true leadership and add your voice as we demand immediate, strong action to combat climate change. As Hillary Clinton explained earlier this month, global warming constitutes "the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face."  She's absolutely right, of course. Now it's time for action.

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Why We Can't Just Shut Up and Eat Chocolate Chip Cookies

by: ivymain

Wed Sep 17, 2014 at 18:03:19 PM EDT

I grew up with brothers, so I knew from an early age that the easiest way to make friends with guys was to feed them chocolate chip cookies. I took this strategy with me to college, commandeering the tiny kitchen in our coed dorm. The aroma wafting down the hallways reliably drew a crowd.

One fan was so enthusiastic that he wanted to learn to make cookies himself. So the next time, he showed up at the start of the process. He watched me combine sugar and butter, eggs and white flour.

Instead of being enthusiastic, he was appalled. It had never occurred to him that anything as terrific as a cookie could be made of stuff so unhealthy. It's not that he thought they were created from sunshine and elf magic; he just hadn't thought about it at all. He left before the cookies even came out of the oven.

I felt so bad about it, I ate the whole batch.

But I can empathize with that guy when I'm told that as an environmentalist, I should love natural gas. Natural gas is the chocolate chip cookie of fossil fuels. At the point of consumption, everybody loves it. It's cheap, there's gobs of it, and it burns cleaner than coal, with only half the carbon dioxide emissions. Disillusionment sets in only when you look at the recipe. ("First, frack one well. . .")

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Dominion's ties to ALEC, McDonnell's conviction, all part of one corrupt package

by: ivymain

Thu Sep 11, 2014 at 09:43:59 AM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

A crowd of protesters gathered at the Arlington headquarters of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) on September 4 to demand that Dominion Resources, the parent of public utility monopoly Dominion Virginia Power, drop its membership in the right wing "bill mill."

On the very same day, a jury convicted ex-Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife on federal corruption charges, setting off a new round of debate about Virginia's lax ethics laws.

The two news items sound like different topics, but in fact they are both about the corruption undermining our democratic system. The McDonnell trial, with its focus on swank vacations, golf clubs, designer clothes and other neat stuff, actually missed the bigger breach of public trust that goes on every day. This takes the form of unlimited corporate campaign contributions and gifts to members of both parties, and the influence over legislation purchased by this largesse.  

Dominion Power has spent decades and many millions of dollars building its influence in Richmond this way, to the point where most legislators don't bother pursuing a bill if the utility signals its opposition. That's why Virginia has not followed so many other states in requiring its utilities to invest in energy efficiency, wind and solar. Economic arguments, jobs, electricity rates-all these are talked about in committee, and all are irrelevant to the fate of a bill. The only relevant question for legislators is, "What does Dominion think?"

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League of Conservation Voters Action Fund Endorses John Foust for Congress

by: lowkell

Wed Sep 10, 2014 at 16:20:31 PM EDT

Good news for John Foust, although not surprising given Barbara Comstock's pathetic record on the environment (e.g., does she even "believe" in climate science?).

WASHINGTON, DC-The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund, which works to elect candidates who will implement sound environmental policies, announced today its endorsement of John Foust for Congress (VA-10). If elected to Congress, Foust will work to protect our air, water and tackle climate change.

"John Foust will be an environmental ally in Congress as he works to tackle dangerous climate disruption and preserve our public lands for future generations to enjoy," said LCV Action Fund President Gene Karpinski. "He will protect public health by supporting commonsense solutions that ensure our air and water are clean."

"John Foust has been a strong advocate for Virginia as he has worked to protect our environment, and will continue this leadership in Congress," said Michael Town, Executive Director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. "He will support bipartisan policies that conserve our precious lands and natural resources."

"I am honored to receive the support of the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund," said Foust. "I will work hard to address the environmental issues of our day. In the past, we have been able to work together in Congress to help solve environmental problems, and I am optimistic that we will be able to work together in a commonsense, bipartisan way again if we start electing representatives who will bring that approach to Washington. The challenges we face are ones we can fix, and I intend to work hard across the aisle to address these problems in Congress."

A resident of McLean, John Foust served on the Fairfax Board of Supervisors since 2007 and has also served on the citizen council that advised the Fairfax County government on local environmental matters. If elected, he will continue to fight for northern Virginians and to protect our planet for future generations by working to combat climate change. He is committed to safeguarding the air we breathe and the water we drink, and will advocate for the conservation of Virginia and the nation's iconic landscapes.

John Foust is featured on LCV Action Fund's GiveGreen website, the only bundling website devoted exclusively to raising money for environmental champions and candidates.

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No Thanks Dominion: Virginia Slips 3 Spots in 2Q14 U.S. Solar Ranking

by: lowkell

Sun Sep 07, 2014 at 12:53:33 PM EDT

Just one word for this: pathetic. Not only is Virginia lagging way behind other states, including ones to the north (MD, PA) and south (NC, GA) of us, we also fell further behind in the state rankings in the first half of 2014, according to the lastest Solar Energy Industries Association report, released late last week. Heckuva job by Dominion Power and its bought-and-paid-for, wholly-owned subsidiary, aka the "Virginia General Assembly." #FAIL

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Video: At ALEC HQ, Demonstrators Demand Dominion Power Quit ALEC Now!

by: lowkell

Thu Sep 04, 2014 at 15:56:05 PM EDT

There's a lot of other news right now, but I was at this rally earlier today and shot some video.  Plus, this is another great example of corruption in Virginia, just that in this case it's appallingly legal! Anyway, the point of the rally was to demand that Dominion Power get out of ALEC (located in the building behind the rally in Crystal City/Arlington). Speaker after speaker (videos in the comments section) explained why. One surprise (or maybe it wasn't a surprise, on second thought, given that Dominion owns our state legislature, and that people like Dick Saslaw are 100% in their pocket): other than Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille, there were ZERO other elected officials there today, despite many of them having been invited to attend. Hmmmm.

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People Arguing for the Fracked Gas Pipeline Are Just Factually Wrong

by: lowkell

Thu Sep 04, 2014 at 10:30:45 AM EDT

According to an editorial in this morning's Daily Press, the proposed new natural gas pipeline from West Virginia through Virginia and North Carolina is "the type of project Virginia should embrace." In contrast, the Daily Press falsely disparages opponents of the pipeline as "the NIMBY crowd" (utterly absurd, as I'm confident that most environmentalists would be happy to see solar panels in their "backyards" - on their roofs, etc.). Yet, oddly and illogically, in the same editorial the Daily Press acknowledges that environmentalists are "understandably worried about the potential impact of a natural gas pipeline running across Virginia," and that their "concern for the environment is well placed." The Daily Press further acknowledges that private property owners will "worry will be about fair market value for their land and protecting themselves from unwanted or unfair encroachment." Gee, ya think?!? Yet, somehow, despite all that, the Daily Press still concludes that we should "embrace" this project? Uh...WTF?

Meanwhile, in its own internally illogical editorial, the Virginian Pilot acknowledges that this pipeline will NOT be the "game changer" Gov. McAuliffe claims it will be (remember, McAuliffe's the same guy who introduces everyone as "the greatest [fill in the blank] in the history of [fill in the blank]," so take ALL his claims with a huge grain of salt). The Virginia Pilot also admits that "fracking fouls groundwater and pollutes the air," but claims that it's not "worse than for coal or oil," so...yippee(?).

So much illogic, red herrings, and ignorance, so little time to address it all. Let's just list a few facts (yes, they are empirically verifiable, just do some research) here:

1. There is no doubt whatsoever that hydraulic fracturing ("fracking"), which is how the natural gas for this pipeline will be produces, tears up the environment - water pollution, air pollution, habitat destruction, earthquakes, etc. - in the process of getting it out of the ground.

2. There is no doubt whatsoever that fracking uses ungodly amounts of (increasingly scarce) water in its process.

3. There is no doubt whatsoever that the fracking process emits methane - a greenhouse gas much more potent thatn CO2 - at rates which "Negate Industry Claims of Fracked Gas' Benefits".

4. There is no doubt whatsoever that fracking (the development of which was heavily subsidized by your tax dollars, by the way) artificially lowers the price of natural gas, since "externalities" are not incorporated (e.g., frackers get to pollute with impunity), thus foolishly delaying the inevitable domination of renewable energy.

5. There is no doubt whatsoever that energy efficiency is a far better option than increased fossil fuel production, in terms of "bang for the buck," "low-hanging fruit," "Econ 101," whatever you want to say.

6. There is no doubt whatsoever that (non-polluting, clean, abundant, cheap) solar and wind power costs have plummeted in recent years, are already competitive with natural gas in many areas of the country, and will be competitive in Virginia as soon as next year (BEFORE this new gas pipeline cranks up, making it a $5 billion white elephant?).

Finally, it's important to understand why this pipeline has gotten as far as it has. It's very simple, really: just go to VPAP and check out where the $9 million (!!!) Dominion Power has donated to Virginia politicians over the years has gone. Basically, Dominion controls Virginia's government when it comes to energy policy, and it's used that control to lock its current business model into place, whereby all their incentives are AGAINST conservation and energy efficiency, and FOR producing more fossil-fuel-generated power. Oh, and those incentives are all FOR continuing the dying, top-down, command-and-control, centralized model and AGAINST the distributed energy revolution that's sweeping increasing parts of America and the world.

In short, Dominion is a negative, reactionary force that has worked for years to block any progress on Virginia energy policy and to entrench themselves in their position as an incumbent industry, theoretically-but-not-really-regulated monopoly, and major polluter. The question is, why would anyone who cares about Virginia's economic future -- in a 21st century where clean energy, not fossil fuels, will be a key to success -- support this pipeline to nowhere? I hate to be cynical, but the short answer is simple: just follow the money, keeping in mind that the "Virginia Way" is basically a system of legalized corruption, lobbyists and corporations making a mockery of democracy, and other fine features like that. Great stuff, huh?

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CCAN Denounces McAuliffe Support for Dominion's Massive 'Atlantic Coast' Fracked Gas Pipeline

by: lowkell

Tue Sep 02, 2014 at 12:02:51 PM EDT

Utterly appalling by Terry McAuliffe, who this morning was doing his best Ken Cuccinelli impression. Gack. By the way, I hope/expect to hear every other environmental group in Virginia weighing in against this crap.

Mega-project, which already faces stiff resistance from Va. landowners, counteracts the governor’s commitment to tackling climate change

RICHMOND—Today, Governor Terry McAuliffe stood next to Dominion Resources CEO Thomas Farrell to announce his support for a major expansion of Dominion’s proposal to build a pipeline to carry fracked natural gas from West Virginia, across central Virginia, to North Carolina. Once called the “Reliability Project,” the new 550-mile, $5 billion proposal is now the joint-venture “Atlantic Coast” pipeline.

Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, had the following statement in response:

“Today Governor McAuliffe has made a huge mistake that harms the environment. Barely two months after re-launching the state’s climate change commission, the governor has regretfully embraced a Dominion gas pipeline project that threatens to contribute significantly to the climate crisis. Tom Farrell’s 550-mile, $5 billion pipeline system would incentivize more fracking across the region and contribute to emissions of methane, a powerful heat-trapping gas which, according to growing scientific data, could disrupt the climate on par with coal. 

“In supporting this project, Governor McAuliffe is now complicit with Tom Farrell in locking Virginia into a multi-billion-dollar investment in more fossil fuels at a moment when scientists say we must be investing in truly carbon-free wind, solar, and energy efficiency technologies. We’ve come to expect this type of move from Dominion, the state’s top climate polluter and a company that has continually held Virginia back from serious commitments to clean energy. But we’re downright disappointed to see this from Governor McAuliffe.

“In making his announcement, Governor McAuliffe failed to mention the scientific data showing that methane, which leaks from fracking wells and pipelines, is as much as 87 times more powerful than carbon dioxide in heating the atmosphere over a 20-year period. The governor is lining up on the wrong side of farmers and landowners who live along Dominion’s proposed pipeline route and who see this project as a direct threat to their safety and livelihoods. The groundswell of grassroots resistance that Dominion is already facing will surely only grow in response to today’s news. 

“Given the urgency of tackling climate change, this is the wrong project at the wrong time. Instead of touting a massive investment in more communities destroyed by fracking wells, divided by pipelines, and wrecked by runaway climate change, Tom Farrell and Governor McAuliffe should be announcing a full-scale investment in Virginia's vast and barely tapped clean energy resources.”


The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting global warming in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. Our mission is to build and mobilize a powerful grassroots movement to call for state, national and international policies that will put us on a path to climate stability. Learn more
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Dominion Resources Should Quit ALEC

by: SethHeald

Mon Sep 01, 2014 at 17:11:36 PM EDT

(See comments for related story on natural gas pipeline; huge Gov. McAuliffe #FAIL - promoted by lowkell)

Recent William & Mary grad Priscilla Lin, wrote this piece. Priscilla is concerned about climate change and in particular ocean issues. She volunteers with Oceana, which is a co-sponsor of the Sept. 4 Dominion-Dump-ALEC rally in Arlington County.

It's time for Virginians to call on Dominion Resources, Inc. to leave the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Join me for a Dominion-Dump-ALEC rally at ALEC Headquarters in the Crystal City area of Arlington County on September 4 at noon.

As a native Virginian and 2014 college graduate interested in protecting the  environment, it comes as no surprise to me that Dominion Virginia Power, Virginia's largest electric utility, is dirty. Dirty fossil fuel energy, which contributes to climate change and ocean acidification, is not the way towards a better, cleaner future. I learned recently that Dominion belongs to ALEC, an organization with a pro-polluter agenda. Dominion publicly touts its supposed environmental awareness, but it doesn't explain what it does behind closed doors with the shady anti-climate and anti-democracy group ALEC.

You won't find any mention on Dominion's website or in its public pronouncements of its work to undermine environmental protections through its participation in ALEC, which has been described as "a corporate bill mill." It brings together corporations and state legislators and comes up with "model legislation" for the legislators to introduce back home.

ALEC has consistently pushed anti-climate and anti-environment legislation. Dominion's association with the group directly conflicts with its claims to support clean energy. You can learn more about ALEC at

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Seven Reasons to Walk Away From Keystone XL

by: lowkell

Sun Aug 31, 2014 at 11:40:59 AM EDT

I thought this excellent article by Tigercomm President Mike Casey was reposting here from Scaling Green, just in case any U.S. Senators, Representatives, or Congressional candidates from Virginia think Keystone's a good idea for some strange reason. Here are seven strong reasons why it should be rejected.

There is less than a month before the justices of the Nebraska Supreme court hear arguments in a case that will have a big impact on TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The court will hear the argument that ranchers and farmers in the pipeline's path must have their lifestyles ruined first before standing up to the bullying and lies by TransCanada. I'm not making that up - it's the actual argument that TransCanada's apologists are saying. Good luck with that.

A loss in court for TransCanada would be significant for the premier pusher of tar sands, the dirtiest form of oil on the planet. The result would be hitting the "restart" button, with new pressure to reroute the pipeline and its highly toxic, spill-prone contents away from the Ogallala Aquifer, the source of drinking water for three million Americans and countless, drought-stricken farms and ranches.

However, the company's Keystone problems are far more extensive than just this court case. Markets and the truth are walking away from this project. This is despite the desperate, high-dollar propaganda and influence-peddling campaign by the tar sands industry. Keystone's rejection is not just the smart thing to do. It's increasingly inevitable.

Impending loss now defines this project.

Since the President's June 2013 speech on the importance of solving the climate crisis, at least eight events have happened that indicate the pipeline will not and should not be built:

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Erick Erickson: Screw Our Children, I Want Cheap Coal Now

by: TheGreenMiles

Thu Aug 28, 2014 at 10:00:00 AM EDT

Flooding Danube"Let the seas rise. Let the wind blow." That's top Republican commentator Erick Erickson's position on climate change. I would say he's a "conservative" commentator, but there's absolutely nothing conservative about wanting to gas up your SUV cheaply now and while leaving the pollution bill for future generations to pay. It's pure selfishness - "I've got mine so screw you" presented as profound political philosophy.

Erickson may just be one blogger, but here he gets to the core motivations of today's Congressional Republican leadership - America isn't worth investing in. Energy? Just give me what's cheapest today - if we need alternatives tomorrow, someone else can spend the money on it. Education? If my family needs that, I can pay to send my children to private school, but I won't volunteer a dime in additional taxes to improve our community. The environment? I can buy home air filters and bottled water - if you can't, too bad for you & yours.

"We are all going to die," Erickson cynically concludes. "Just not today." And by then, it'll be up to our children and grandchildren to build massive hurricane barriers outside every East Coast city to keep out the rising seas and monster storms as the bill comes due for all that cheap coal, oil and fracked gas.

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MIT Study Finds Health Benefits of CO2 Reductions Can Save 10x the Cost of Policy Implementation

by: lowkell

Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 14:16:29 PM EDT

Cross posted from Scaling Green. For Blue Virginia readers, I'd just add that Gov. McAuliffe's office should read this study as they consider how to move Virginia forward in terms of energy efficiency, renewable power, and of course meeting the EPA's new rules for cutting CO2 emissions.

Clearly, we believe it makes sense to slash the air and water pollution that is inextricably linked to fossil fuel extraction, processing, and consumption.  We also strongly believe that moving from a dirty to a clean energy economy makes sense on a whole host of levels -- economic, environmental, national security, health, etc. Yet opponents of a clean energy transition invariably raise claims that it will cost too much to do so, even though research has shown that fossil fuels are actually FAR more expensive than they appear to be, in large part because they are allowed to pollute without having to pay for doing so. Thus, the full "lifecycle cost" of coal to the U.S. public is actually upwards of $500 billion a year, but you won't find that $500 billion a year incorporated into the price of coal, making it artificially cheap, and strongly skewing U.S. energy markets in favor of fossil fuels. Incorporate all the health and environmental "externalities" associated with fossil fuels, while taking away the enormous subsidies they receive from taxpayers, and it's a totally different story -- one in which clean energy would win by a wide margin.

Just in case you wanted even more evidence along these lines, a new study is out from researchers at MIT which finds that policies aimed at cutting fossil-fuel pollution can more than pay for themselves.

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Reps. Connolly, Scott, Moran Urge Obama Admin. to Reject Whale-Killing Seismic Blasting

by: lowkell

Mon Aug 25, 2014 at 13:41:53 PM EDT

The tragic, heartbreaking death of female sei whale the other day in the Elizabeth River both saddened and enraged me. Why enraged? Because the whale died mostly from humans trashing our oceans with plastic (which the whale accidentally ingested, blocking its stomach and causing it to slowly starve to death). For "good measure," the poor creature "might have been hit by a ship shortly before dying the previous day." So, chalk that one up to humans on both counts. Ugh. Sadly, this case demonstrates the hazards marine life is exposed to due to human activities on an ongoing basis. That includes the aforementioned plastic pollution and ships bashing into whales (and other animals), but also the oil-industry practice of seismic airgun testing - loud as explosives, can cause hearing loss and other injuries, even death, to whales and other sea creatures.  

See to the right (click to "embiggen") and on the "flip" for a letter from several Members of Congress, including Representatives Gerry Connolly, Bobby Scott and Jim Moran of Virginia, urging the Obama administration to forbid seismic testing off the east coast. In addition to the danger of oil spills, the process of FINDING the oil should never involve practices which can lead to mass injury and death in the oceans. Why is this even a question, other than unbridled greed, callousness and stupidity?

P.S. To sign the Center for Biological Diversity's petition against this outrageous practice, click here. Thanks.

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Virginia Failing When it Comes to the Biggest Bang for the Buck -- Energy Efficiency

by: lowkell

Sat Aug 23, 2014 at 14:42:47 PM EDT

Cross-posted from Scaling Green; Blue Virginia readers should particularly focus on how pathetically far behind Virginia is when it comes to energy efficiency improvements. For that, we can thank our old pals at Dominion "Global Warming Starts Here" Power, which continues to resist any serious attempts at cleaning up its dirty act. #FAIL as usual for those guys, as well as for the General Assembly that lets them pollute at will.

The release in late May of EPA's draft rules on carbon pollution at existing power plants gave individual states a tremendous amount of flexibility in how they meet the proposed targets.  For instance, a state rich in potential solar power resources might choose to focus on increasing the percentage of its electricity generated from the sun.  Same thing with wind power.  And, of course, all states can use energy efficiency gains as a key part of their plans. As the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions explains:

Through energy efficiency programs, states can drive down their total consumption, including consumption of electricity generated by fossil fuels. This in turn reduces greenhouse gas emissions, bringing states closer to their emission rate target. EPA projects that each state is capable of eventually reducing electricity demand by 1.5 percent each year, in line with the rate leading states have achieved. States are projected to meet this figure in varying years, taking into account how advanced each state was in 2012. This 1.5 percent projection is incremental, meaning EPA expects an additional 1.5 percent savings each year, for a much larger cumulative savings by 2030. Projections for states that currently reduce demand by less than 1.5 percent per year are designed in a way that allow a ramp-up period before reaching this level, but EPA has determined that all states have the capacity to meet this projection by 2025 at the latest. Note that under the proposal, states are not obligated to meet EPA's efficiency projections in demonstrating compliance; provided the ultimate target emission rate is met, states could use any combination of measures they see fit.

The map above shows each state's 2012 incremental efficiency savings as a percentage of the 1.5 percent projection. States colored with a darker shade of blue are closer to meeting this projection. Two states, Arizona and Maine, reported savings above 1.5 percent in 2012.

As we know, energy efficiency is generally considered to be the biggest "bang for the buck" when it comes to reducing energy consumption and carbon pollution, which means that this EPA goal makes a great deal of sense.  Yet, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, only 21 states have mandatory Energy Efficiency Resource Standards, while 17 states have no energy efficiency standards at all.  That's unfortunate, particularly given that Rocky Mountain Institute Chairman and Chief Scientist Amory Lovins has found that"adopting efficiency technologies aggressively yet cost-effectively, yield[s] at least a 12% annual real rate of return." As states formulate their plans aimed at meeting their EPA CO2 pollution reduction goals, it seems like pushing ahead on energy efficiency improvements should constitute an easy, "no brainer" option.
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Video: Leonardo DiCaprio Narrates New Film Series Urging Shift from Fossil Fuels to Renewables

by: lowkell

Fri Aug 22, 2014 at 14:01:36 PM EDT

Logic 101: a) combustion of carbon-based fuels is causing dangerous global warming; b) we need to stop that ASAP; c) ergo, we need to slash our combustion of carbon-based fuels (and replace them with energy efficiency and non-carbon-based energy sources, which are increasingly as cheap or even cheaper than fossil fuels). Any further questions?

P.S. The good news is that a revenue-neutral carbon tax "creates jobs, grows the economy, saves lives, and makes Americans richer" while slashing carbon emissions. Win. Win. Win. Win. Win.

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Other Utilities, States Start to Adapt; Dominion Power Clings to Dying, Top-Down Business Model

by: lowkell

Mon Aug 18, 2014 at 16:45:35 PM EDT

I received an email earlier today from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, commenting on a report that Dominion Virginia Power "is considering building 220 megawatts of solar energy in Virginia over five years starting in 2017." According to CCAN, "If pursued, this welcome announcement would likely represent a change in course from Dominion's latest 15-year energy plan proposed to Virginia's State Corporation Commission, which committed the company to increasing the proportion of clean energy in its mix by less than one percent over 15 years." Here's the rest of CCAN's statement, from Virginia Policy Director Dawone Robinson, followed by a few thoughts from yours truly.
This is Dominion's first-ever announced plan for building utility-scale solar power in Virginia, and we fully welcome it. After spending years pressing Dominion to make serious investments in solar energy here in Virginia, we're excited that Virginians could see the benefits of substantial amounts of clean energy from the state's largest carbon polluter.

Virginia's solar potential is substantial, and we urge Dominion to build these solar facilities as quickly as possible, especially given our state is playing catch up with our neighbors. Even if Dominion's newly announced 220 megawatts of solar power are fully developed by 2021, it will be little more than one third of North Carolina's current installed solar capacity of 592 megawatts.

Today's news serves as an important first step towards what should be a long-term commitment by Dominion to increase development of fossil-free energy technologies. As rising seas increasingly flood our coastal communities due to climate change and Richmond's asthma rates continue to lead the nation, the health and safety of Virginia's families depends on replacing toxic fossil fuels like coal and fracked natural gas with abundant, clean and cost-effective energy sources like solar power.

So, sure, praise Dominion Power for doing something positive, even if this is - as another environmental leader in Virginia put it to me - a "very modest baby step." At the same time, be super skeptical. Because, as that same environmental leader noted, while Dominion supposedly moves ahead with this "modest baby step" on utility-scale solar (e.g., NOT on people's rooftops, aka not "distributed" or "bottom up"), the concerns is that the company will simultaneously "be seeking to stifle competition from independent solar installers with a 'standby charge' or 'tax on the sun'." As another Virginia environmental leader told me, "the devil is in the details with these guys," and right now we have very few details on what Dominion's proposing to do exactly - when, where, etc.

The bottom line is, we need to be skeptical, VERY skeptical, about anything this company says it's going to do when it comes to energy efficiency or clean energy. But one thing seems certain: unlike many other utilities around the country that realize the top-down utility business model is dying and that they need to adapt to a world of cheap distributed energy (e.g., rooftop solar, batter storage that's increasingly affordable), Dominion seems to be clinging desperately to what they're used to: namely, controlling everything.

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A New Surprise Benefit of Cutting Lead Pollution

by: TheGreenMiles

Thu Aug 14, 2014 at 07:35:03 AM EDT

Contains LeadStudies have shown a strong connection between the phase-out of lead in gasoline starting in the mid-1970s and a plunge in violent crime in the following decades. As Kevin Drum reports at Mother Jones, a new study is connecting lower levels of childhood lead exposure to a later drop in the teen pregnancy rate:
For years conservatives bemoaned the problem of risky and violent behavior among children and teens of the post-60s era, mostly blaming it on the breakdown of the family and a general decline in discipline. Liberals tended to take this less seriously, and in any case mostly blamed it on societal problems. In the end, though, it turned out that conservatives were right. It wasn't just a bunch of oldsters complaining about the kids these days. Crime was up, drug use was up, and teen pregnancy was up. It was a genuine phenomenon and a genuine problem.

But liberals were right that it wasn't related to the disintegration of the family or lower rates of churchgoing or any of that. After all, families didn't suddenly start getting back together in the 90s and churchgoing didn't suddenly rise. But teenage crime, drug use, and pregnancy rates all went down. And down. And down.

Most likely, there was a real problem, but it was a problem no one had a clue about. We were poisoning our children with a well-known neurotoxin, and this toxin lowered their IQs, made them into fidgety kids, wrecked their educations, and then turned them into juvenile delinquents, teen mothers, and violent criminals. When we got rid of the toxin, all of these problems magically started to decline.

Today, we're debating whether to cut the toxic heavy metal and carbon pollution from coal by shutting down the oldest, dirtiest coal-fired power plants. But the benefits aren't hidden - we know coal kills thousands of people every year and causes thousands more asthma attacks in children.

Electricity rates and jobs are obviously important, but why do reporters talk almost exclusively about those, and hardly at all about these very real impacts on our lives? When did human health become a sidebar story?

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Report confirms Dominion really does have worst clean energy record

by: ivymain

Tue Aug 05, 2014 at 17:14:00 PM EDT

( - promoted by lowkell)

A new report from the non-profit group Ceres shows Dominion Resources, the parent of Dominion Virginia Power, winning last place among investor-owned utilities on a nationwide ranking of renewable energy sales and energy efficiency savings.

That's left Virginians wondering how a company that talks so big succeeds in doing so little. And more importantly, what would it take for Dominion to rank even among the average?

Dominion came in 30th out of 32 in renewable energy sales, at 0.52%. On energy efficiency, it achieved 31st out of 32 on savings measured cumulatively (0.41%), and 32nd out of 32 measured on an incremental annual level (at 0.03%). Together these put our team in last place overall-a notable achievement for a utility that trumpets its solar investments and carbon-cutting progress.

To show just how awful Dominion's performance is, the top five finishers achieved between 16.67% and 21.08% on renewable energy sales, 10.62-17.18% on cumulative annual energy efficiency, and 1.46-1.77% on incremental annual energy efficiency. National averages were 5.29% for renewable energy sales, 4.96% for cumulative efficiency savings, and 0.73% for incremental annual efficiency savings. Rankings were based on 2012 numbers, the latest year for which data were available.  

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Del. Alfonso Lopez Delivers Remarks Strongly Supporting EPA Carbon Pollution Regulations

by: lowkell

Tue Jul 29, 2014 at 19:23:53 PM EDT

The following remarks were delivered by Del. Alfonso Lopez (D-Arlington/Fairfax) to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality at a hearing in south Alexandria a couple days ago, as well as earlier today at the EPA public comments hearing on Constitution Ave. in Washington, DC. Thanks to Del. Lopez for speaking up for our environment, and for urging action on what is arguably the most pressing problem facing mankind in the 21st century - climate change. I would hope that all Virginia Democrats - and Republicans, if they'll come to their senses on this and stop treating it as a partisan issue - would weigh in as Del. Lopez has done, in strong support of climate action and a rapid transition from dirty to clean energy. It's also crucial to counter garbage like this ("Fossil Fuel-Funded Groups Organizing Public Rallies Against New EPA Climate Rule").
Despite the best efforts in some quarters to ignore it - climate change is a problem that threatens the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Whether it's the economic repercussions of sea-level rise on Virginia's coast-line, the health consequences of breathing polluted air, or the threat of more extreme weather conditions, climate change is having an impact on the day-to-day lives of the citizens of the Commonwealth.

At this time, Virginia's coastal region is experiencing the highest rates of sea-level rise along the entire East Coast of the U.S. In fact, the Hampton Roads area is second only to New Orleans in its vulnerability to sea level impacts. The Norfolk-Virginia Beach Metropolitan Area is ranked 10th in flooding from sea-level rise.

We cannot afford to wait any longer to take action on climate change in VA - our economy, health, and long-term quality of life rest in the balance.

According to the most recent estimates by the CDC, 8.7 percent of Virginia's adult population suffers from asthma. In the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital.

In 2012, 25 million metric tons of carbon pollution were emitted from power plants in Virginia - equal to the yearly pollution from over 5 million cars. This is unacceptable.

We have a moral obligation to address this crisis now so that we do not leave our children an environment that is polluted and damaged beyond repair.

For these reasons, I strongly urge the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to adopt the guidelines of the President's Clean Power Plan to address climate change in the U.S.

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Striped Bass Shift Linked to Climate Change? Don't Ask Virginian-Pilot

by: TheGreenMiles

Wed Jul 09, 2014 at 10:00:00 AM EDT

Albert Spells measures a striped bass; this one is longer than 28 inches and too big to keep. ©Janet Krenn/VASGWhen reporters ignore climate change in their stories, they end up sounding like they're blaming the supernatural for events easily connected to climate change. I'm late in getting to this, but take this Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot story from January on a sharp decline in catch of striped bass:
They say there are a handful of elements that have lowered the ocean take the past two years.

Weather has been the biggest reason. Warmer starts to the past two winters have caused many rockfish to stay in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, or up the coast around upper Maryland and New Jersey. [...]

"It's been the strangest year," said Rob O'Reilly, chief of fisheries management for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. "The weather has been so screwy that some fish haven't moved south like they usually do, and the ones that have positioned themselves offshore."

Reporters are often reluctant to connect the dots to climate change because they're not climate science experts and they're worried that doing so will draw the ire of anti-science Tea Party activists.

But when reporters ignore reality, they leave their audience absolutely baffled. Strange! Screwy! Don't ask me for answers, you're on your own! And then newspapers wonder why half of their audience has stopped paying $15 a month for a subscription. If you have to go find the truth yourself anyway, might as well do it for free on the internet.

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