Residents Protest Clean Energy Shutout at Governors Energy Summit
Virginia residents and clean energy business owners held a rally and press conference on October 4 outside the Southern States Energy Board summit in Alexandria, Va. The rally was organized by the Sierra Club and Chesapeake Climate Action Network, which called on Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell to support clean energy development and stronger EPA safeguards for Virginia families.
As the host to some of the South's most influential elected officials at the summit, Governor McDonnell was the opening speaker for a summit entitled Shaping Energy Policy: The Critical Path for States.
"The agenda lacked any discussions on clean energy, energy efficiency, or how proposed EPA protections can benefit Virginians," says Sierra Club organizer Phillip Ellis. "Instead, it solely featured panels on oil and gas development, nuclear energy and claims on how EPA regulations will impact the fossil-fuel industry."
"Governor McDonnell is putting the profits of Big Oil and King Coal before the health of Virginia families," says Sierra Club field organizer Kate Pollard. "With this one-sided agenda on energy policy in meetings and summits predominantly sponsored by dirty energy companies, what else are we to believe?"
McDonnell, who recently declared October "Energy Month," is the chairman of the Southern States Energy Board. The summit comes in advance of the Board's annual meeting in Richmond on October 15—a meeting whose agenda also lacks any discussions on renewable energy.
Keith Thirion, Virginia organizer for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, says Governor McDonnell's total exclusion of renewable energy from the Summit, or any discussion of how he will protect the health of Virginia families while providing the energy they need, indicates that his priorities are misguided.
"Addressing climate change through stronger EPA protections against the burning of fossil fuels is supported by more than 70 percent of registered voters," Thirion says, "especially in light of increasingly severe storms and flooding. Instead of convening this 'Polluter Fest,' the governor should focus on spurring green industries in the commonwealth by developing clean energy sources like offshore wind power that alone would bring 10,000 jobs to Virginia."
Kent Baake, above at right, president of Alexandria-based Continuum Energy Solutions, was among the renewable business owners at the rally. "Virginia needs a focus on renewable energy, especially solar energy," Baake says. "Last year showed huge demand for solar when an incentive through the federal American Recovery & Investment Act funds was available. Coal gets $45 million every year for a production tax credit. Why can't solar share in some of this state government support?"
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