Day 5: The story of #76million and our activism gets out

DeLevay Miner holds her picket sign at Dominion

A sinking feeling usually creeps into my gut on the eve of a big new action or media event. Organizers have put in hours of phone calls, emails and logistics-scrambling to turn out dozens or more activists. Activists are taking time off work and traveling for an hour or more to take part. But have I, as “the communications person” done all I can? Will that critical reporter show up? Will the story of the hour (or week) get told in the end?

By Monday afternoon this week, I was breathing a big sigh of relief. That’s because, in the case of our week-long action to Stand Up to Dominion’s $76 Million Rip-Off and demand Virginia-made solar and wind power, the story is indeed making its way into newspaper front pages and radio airwaves. This week, Dominion has not only faced picketers on its doorstep every day at noon, but also been forced to answer questions from journalists about how it can justify a $76 million bonus in the name of renewable energy while bringing absolutely zero solar or wind power online in Virginia.

Read on for a round-up of some of the best news coverage from the week.

Virginian-Pilot: Dominion taking advantage of policy, activists say

Scott Harper reported Monday on the week of action and the woefully inadequate standards in Virginia’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard law allowing Dominion to qualify for a big bonus without bringing new clean energy online:

When the RPS was adopted in 2007, lawmakers “were envisioning wind and solar farms popping up all over the state,” said Beth Kemler, Virginia director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, one of the environmental groups sponsoring next week’s protests. “But that hasn’t happened.

“In reality, it’s a law that lets utilities fill out some paperwork, move some numbers around and receive bonuses. We’re hoping to change that.”

Incredibly, the story continues to note that:

Dominion did not respond to a request for comment about the upcoming protests or its RPS program. Dominion officials have said in the past that the company has a policy against providing information to The Virginian-Pilot.

As Virginian-Pilot columnist Roger Chesley wrote Thursday, it’s “hardly useful” to customers and more than a little “unprofessional” for the state’s largest utility company to refuse comment to the state’s largest newspaper.

Richmond Times-Dispatch op-ed by CCAN’s Beth Kemler: A $76 million bonus for business as usual?

CCAN’s Virginia State Director, Beth Kemler, described the rip-off we’ve been protesting on the op-ed page of Wednesday’s paper. My favorite line describes just how hold some of the sources Dominion is claiming it deserves a profit reward for using are:

We’ve had the Cushaw dam for more than 80 years. It’s been churning out power since Herbert Hoover was president. When the dam began operating in January 1930, televisions were just being invented, as were masking tape and the Twinkie.

Is this the type of clean, modern technology our elected officials had in mind when they offered the reward? Not likely.

Ultimately, Beth puts the onus back on Virginia’s lawmakers to take action:

In January, the Virginia General Assembly can vote to stop the corporate handout for old and out-of-state energy. We need to fix this law to require only in-state renewable energy sources with key benchmarks for wind and solar power. It’s time Dominion and others actually earned their ‘green’ bonuses.”

Richmond Times-Dispatch photos from Monday’s picket

In addition to Beth’s op-ed, the Richmond Times-Dispatch ran photos from the launch of our picketing on their website and in the print version of Tuesday’s paper. You can check out the photos here.

Daily Press: Protesters call out Dominion on renewable energy reward

DeLevay Miner holds her picket sign at DominionOn Thursday, Tamara Dietrich at the Daily Press spoke to CCAN activists from the Hampton Roads area about why they joined the picket line that day — the day we focused on the impacts sea-level rise fueled by climate change is having on coastal Virginians. The story ran on page A5 of Friday’s paper, but is not available online, so I’ve pulled out the quotes by CCAN activists.

Picketer DeLevay Miner told the Daily Press:

“I have a Girl Scout troop, and we’re working on a badge about the environment,” Miner, a 54-year-old substitute teacher, said in a phone interview from the picket line. “And because I don’t know a whole lot, I had to do a little bit of research.”

That research taught her the role that fossil fuels play in climate change and sea level rise, she said, and “I just got involved.”

The story continued:

It was findings like this that prompted 36-year-old physicist Gianluigi “Gigi” Ciovati to use a vacation day at his job at Jefferson Lab in Newport News to head to Richmond, too.

“If we’re going to continue relying on fossil fuels, the problem is only going to get worse,” Ciovati said.

Style Weekly: Renewable Profits: Is Dominion Gaming State Regs?

Covering the pickets for Richmond’s alternative weekly paper, Ned Oliver hit on the end result of Virginia’s weak voluntary renewable energy program: “a fat bonus for the utility accompanied by no real change in how power is produced in Virginia.”

A result of “no real change” is continued air pollution, which is why doctors joined our picket line on Monday:

A group of doctors backing the protesters says that until lawmakers institute incentive programs that work, Virginians will be left to choke on pollution from coal-fired plants, which they link to chronic diseases such as asthma in children.

Radio: WAMU, WCVE and WRVA report

Several radio stations either turned out for the launch of our pickets or picked up the story as news of the action broke.

WAMU: Protesters Call For More Renewable Energy At Dominion HQ
WCVE: Environmental Groups Picket Dominion, Ask For Faster Action on Renewable Energy
WRVA: Green Energy Activists Picketing Dominion; Say They’ll Be There All Week

Associated Press: Groups call on Dominion for more renewable energy

When the AP covers your story, it really gets out because other news sites and papers pick up the AP’s ready-made content. The piece on our protests at Dominion made the rounds from Bloomberg to to WAVY-TV in Hampton Roads.


Learn more:

  • Check out photos from throughout the whole week on Flickr.
  • Read all the wonky details about Dominion’s $76 million rip-off and our state renewable energy goals.