Maryland Offshore Wind Town Hall Promotes Clean Energy & Green Jobs
The Sierra Club filled the room at a recent town hall meeting in Maryland about offshore wind energy. The event was held in the Hillcrest Heights community of Prince George's County, a predominately African American community just a few miles upwind of the GenOn Potomac River coal plant in Virginia. [The GenOn Potomac plant was recently scheduled for closure, thanks largely to the work of the Club's Beyond Coal Campaign.]
"The town hall event drew a diverse crowd," says Sierra Club organizer Chandler Sherman, "from lifelong Sierrans to Prince George's residents who, having never heard of offshore wind energy before, wanted to bring cleaner air and jobs to their community." That's Sherman at left, above, with Maryland State Delegate Aisha Braveboy and fellow Sierra Club organizer Chris Hill.
"Organizing in my communities, communities of color, is key to moving Maryland and our country beyond coal and into clean renewable energy, says Hill. "I'm so pleased to see that this was a true grassroots community-based town hall." Below, new Sierra Club members sign postcards to protect Chesapeake Bay.
Below, Kari Fulton of the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative speaks about climate justice at the town hall. Seated, left to right, are moderator Jesse Alexander and panelists Fred Tutman of Patuxent Riverkeeper and Delegate Braveboy.
When Sierra Club activists phone banked and canvassed in Hillcrest Heights prior to the meeting, they realized many people hadn't heard of offshore wind power. "We stopped saying we were hosting a town hall about offshore wind," says Sherman, "and instead told people we were hosting a town hall about bringing clean air and good green jobs to Prince George's County through offshore wind."
Canvassers explained to residents how coal was making people in their community sick (Hillcrest Heights is in the pollution plume of the GenOn Potomac Plant), how many jobs could be brought to the community through clean energy from the sun and wind—especially wind turbines in the ocean—and how electricity from the sun and wind wouldn't make people sick.
Sherman recalls a man stopping them on the street during the canvas and asking, "So you all know about this 'clean energy' thing I've been hearing so much about?" He told them he was an electrician and said he thought there must be work for him in clean energy, but admitted he didn't know what the term meant.
"It was game-changing for me," Sherman says. "I'm used to debating the wonky policy details with legislators, and this conversation brought me back to basics and reminded me what I was fighting for: cleaner air for Maryland and jobs for people like this electrician. This man was fascinated by what we had to say, and at the end of our conversation he was grinning. He asked us for a yard sign and fliers for the event to give to all his friends, and signed up for our mailing list. He went from not having heard of solar or wind power to wanting to be a strong advocate for clean energy!"
Sherman gives a shout-out to "rock star" Sierra Club volunteers Chris Bryan and Jamie Philips. The Sierra Club and its allies are continuing to organize town halls around the state to promote clean energy and green jobs from sources like offshore wind.