Fighting Virginia’s Coal-Laden Status Quo

Environmental Groups March in Richmond to Protest Coal Development in Wise County

There is no doubt about it these days in Virginia: Dominion is the one and only name that matters in the electricity generation business and it’s not one to shy away from its power. The utility flexed its monopolistic might this legislative session and squashed any meaningful discussion of mandatory and widely-supported renewable energy requirements for the Commonwealth. The monopoly basically ensured that, for the near future at least, the ball will be in its court when it comes to making decisions about what sources of energy will be used to deal with Virginia’s rising energy demands.

And what is Dominion’s first choice for electricity? Coal, coal and more coal. Right now coal is the most plentiful and most cost-effective energy source out there. It is, however, the dirtiest of all options. The greenhouse gases and mercury pollution due to coal are well-documented, and Dominion feels no need to shift from the status quo because legally, they don’t have to.

Massey Energy, which is in the dirty business of coal extraction, is another another benefactor of Virginia’s continued reliance on coal. Massey Energy does a lot of business in the Appalachian Mountains and have been able to maintain and even increase their activities extracting coal due to the lack of legislation forcing renewable energy in the Commonwealth. Thus the devastating practice of mountaintop removal mining for coal does not look like it’s going away any time soon.

To protest this “cradle to the grave” stranglehold that Dominion and Massey have on our energy industry in Virginia, several environmental justice organizations including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN), Mountain Justice Summer, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, and the Sierra Club of Virginia participated in a march from Massey to Dominion Headquarters in Richmond on Monday June 25th. Through effective signage, handouts, skits, and classic music from the mountains, we were able to effectively send a message that the idea of a new coal plant in Wise County, VA should be put to rest. Changing the status quo in Virginia starts with “no new coal plants” and subsequently replacing the energy that would have been supplied by coal with clean, renewable energy. It is the only sustainable way forward now that global warming, ecosystem loss, energy demand increases have combined to create a crisis-like scenario for humans and the planet we inhabit.

Musical Protest outside Dominion

Protesters play classic mountain music in front of Dominion’s headquarters in
Richmond, Va.
demanding that the huge utility stop its plans to build more
polluting coal-fired power plants in Wise County, Va.

There are plans in the works for another march through Richmond in the fall and it promises to be even bigger and better than what we saw on Monday.