I don’t know about you, but for me, November 8th 2016 feels like decades ago. So much has changed since the election of Donald Trump in such a short amount of time — good and bad. Around the country, we are seeing record numbers of new activists, reinvigorated old volunteers coming back to the climate movement, and local climate leaders stepping up like never before. Here in Virginia that new energy is eroding the influence of our resident energy monopoly, Dominion Energy, which once seemed impossible to overcome. Our movement started before Trump, but it is has only become more formidable with this new challenge of having a climate denier in the Oval Office.
You would think Dominion Energy had their own office at the Capitol considering how much influence they have on our state leaders. They also have no problem brushing off ethics for the benefit of their bottom line. Dominion spends more than any other company on political campaign donations to both sides of the aisle. And their influence on Virginia’s politics has become clear. Everything from weak coal ash regulations to an easy permitting process for dangerous fracked-gas pipelines are in play when the energy giant put its finger on the scale.
Meanwhile, the size and strength of Virginia’s climate movement — and opposition to Dominion’s dirty tactics — has become unlike anything we have ever seen.
This year, the spring season brought new life to our movement. In April, after months of organizing and recruiting, over 6,000 Virginians joined together with concerned climate activists (on an unseasonably hot Saturday) for The People’s Climate March. While the march was focused on the Trump administration, the Virginia Contingent had brought a special message to our local leaders who were too cozy with Dominion: people over polluters!
The People’s Climate March was inspiring, it was rejuvenating, it was historic. A lot of that success was because of activists in the Commonwealth who sacrificed countless hours to recruit their neighbors and friends to defend their climate. This show of might led to huge acts of resistance from mayors and governors across the country, who bucked the Trump administration by pledging to continue working towards our commitments to the Paris Climate Accord.
This wave of action continued at the Dominion Energy shareholders meeting. Just days after the People’s Climate March, over 100 people descended on Richmond to show the utility that their lives are worth more than the trajectory of Dominion’s stock prices. The actions outside scared them enough for Dominion executives to hide their view with curtains. I think Pastor Paul surmised our feelings perfectly when he proclaimed outside the venue that “Dominion had gotten too big for their britches!”
Our activism spread beyond the streets too: many climate conscious shareholders used their voice in the room to push clean energy resolutions. This year witnessed a resolution that called for the company to report on how it would work to address global warming. The resolution received unprecedented support, with 48% voting in favor. Virginians are putting Dominion executives on notice.
Finally, candidates in Virginia’s state elections for 2017 have joined the wave of resistance against Dominion. Earlier this year, gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello kicked off his campaign for governor with a pledge to not take any money from Dominion and to oppose the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline. We’ve also seen a wave of new and incumbent candidates for state delegate seats across the commonwealth who have pledged to refuse campaign donations from Dominion.
Our work now is more important than ever. With the help of activists like you, along with new recruits to the climate fight, we will lead Virginia into a clean energy future.