Environmental Groups Speak Out Against the Eastern Shore Pipeline for Fracked Gas

On the Heels of Massive Fracked-Gas Pipeline Shutdowns Nationally, Hogan Administration Considering Approval for a New Pipeline down the Eastern Shore of Maryland

SALISBURY, MD — Today, dozens of organizations and Maryland residents are speaking out against the proposed Eastern Shore Pipeline as the Hogan Administration holds a key virtual hearing on the project beginning at 6:00pm.  

The Eastern Shore Natural Gas Company (ESNG) wants to build 19+ miles of new pipeline to carry fracked gas from Delaware through Maryland, to connect with another fracked-gas pipeline proposed by the Chesapeake Utilities that would bring fracked gas to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) and the Eastern Correctional Institution. These two proposed pipelines would threaten the region’s ecosystems and drinking water supplies, and could cause irreparable damage to the land and climate. 

“The era of fossil fuels is over,” said Anthony Field, Maryland Grassroots Organizer at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “We simply cannot be building new infrastructure for toxic methane gas. Eastern Shore officials should promote the speedy development of clean energy sources like offshore wind instead.” 

This hearing comes just after two massive national fracked-gas pipelines were cancelled or ordered to shut down. Companies behind the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline cancelled the project due to ballooning costs and legal uncertainties. And the Dakota Access pipeline was ordered to shut down for an environmental review.  Meanwhile, in late June, the fracking giant Chesapeake Energy filed for bankruptcy. These setbacks for the industry demonstrate that fracking is a risky investment, for the climate, the environment, and the economy. 

Today’s hearing, held by the Maryland Department of Environment (MDE), is on the Wetland and Waterways permit on the Del-Mar pipeline proposed by ESNG. The pipeline is already under construction in Delaware to carry gas from that state into Maryland. The seven miles of pipeline proposed for Maryland would supply concentrated animal feeding operations, businesses, and residential areas. The two “anchor” customers for gas delivery are the Eastern Correctional Institute (ECI) and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) in Somerset County. If built, the Del-Mar pipeline would trigger the second pipeline proposed by Chesapeake Utilities connecting the prison to the university. The installation of the Del-Mar pipeline will impact 1,239 square feet of streams and more than 16,000 square feet of wetlands. It’s anticipated to come online in late 2021. 

“With clean, renewable energy affordable and abundant right now, it makes no sense for the state to commit to burning dangerous fracked gas at ECI’s power plant,” said Susan Olsen, Chair of the Sierra Club’s Lower Eastern Shore Group. “Marylanders overwhelmingly prefer investing in clean energy solutions instead of committing to decades of dependence on fracked gas. At a time when Maryland is considering major budget cuts, we should not waste money on climate-disrupting fossil fuel projects.”

These two pipelines are part of the Hogan Administration’s plans to spend $103 million massively increasing fracked-gas pipelines and infrastructure in the state. This includes $30.3 million administered by the Maryland Energy Administration’s (MEA) new Maryland Gas Expansion Fund “for the expansion of natural gas infrastructure.” The remaining $70 million is recoverable from MD ratepayers. Read more about it here.

Contact: Denise Robbins, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org, 240-630-1889

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The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 17 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline is Dead. Dominion Energy and Duke Energy Abandon $8 billion, 600-mile Pipeline for Fracked Gas

After six years of protest by environmentalists, landowners, and justice organizations, the companies say court challenges prevent them from moving forward. Chesapeake Climate Action Network was proud to help lead the opposition within days of the original pipeline announcement in September 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – Media reports today confirm that Dominion Energy and Duke Energy Corporation are finally abandoning the hugely controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The pipeline would have shipped fracked gas from West Virginia, through Virginia and into the Carolinas, while destroying critical forest habitat, farmland, human communities, and worsening climate change.

STATEMENT FROM MIKE TIDWELL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE CHESAPEAKE CLIMATE ACTION NETWORK:

“Just one day after July 4th, America is stunningly closer to true energy independence with the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The fossil fuel era is rapidly drawing to a close in Virginia and nationwide thanks to the ferocious six-year opposition to this destructive pipeline. That opposition was waged by environmentalists, farmers, justice groups and common residents across the region.

“This pipeline was a boondoggle from the moment it was announced by Dominion CEO Tom Farrell and then-Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe in September 2014. The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is proud to have been one of the first statewide environment groups to take up this cause, to organize our supporters, and to protest with everything from letters to the editor to civil disobedience.

“We want to thank all our partners in this long struggle. They include, but are not limited to, Friends of Buckingham, Friends of Nelson, Wild Virginia, Rick Webb, David Sligh, the Allegheny-Blue Ridge Alliance, Lewis Freeman, Bill and Lynn Limpert, Appalachian Voices, Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Southern Environmental Law Center, Pastor Paul Wilson, Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Virginia Conservation Network, and so many more. Special thanks to current and past CCAN staff and board members who put everything they had – for years! – into stopping this pipeline. We never gave up!”

CONTACT:

Mike Tidwell, Director, 240-460-5838, mtidwell@chesapeakeclimate.org
Denise Robbins, Communications Director, 608-320-6582, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org

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The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 17 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. To learn more, visit www.chesapeakeclimate.org

D.C. Sues Big Oil for Lying About Climate Change

AG Karl Racine Files Consumer Protection Lawsuit Against Exxon, BP, Chevron, and Shell One Day After Minnesota AG Filed Consumer Protection Case Against Exxon & Koch Industries

WASHINGTON, D.C. – District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine today filed a consumer protection lawsuit against four of the world’s biggest oil companies — Exxon, BP, Chevron, and Shell — for knowingly concealing the role their products play in causing climate change harm.

The D.C. lawsuit comes one day after Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a similar consumer fraud lawsuit against Exxon, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute. A consumer protection suit filed against Exxon by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey last year is now proceeding in state court.

“Two new lawsuits filed against Big Oil in two days shows the strength and momentum of legal efforts to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for lying about climate change,” said Richard Wiles, executive director of the Center for Climate Integrity. “It has been a very bad week for corporate polluters and climate deniers, and a very good week in the fight to hold Big Oil accountable for its lies and deception. We applaud Attorney General Racine for bringing this case. The residents of D.C. deserve their day in court.” 

“The District of Columbia today stood up to mega polluters like ExxonMobil who have harmed vulnerable DC residents for decades,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “The heatwaves are bigger and the flooding from the Potomac is greater. The lawsuit filed today accurately asserts that these fossil fuel companies misled consumers about the harm of their products and the impacts of climate change. Now legal justice and compensation must flow to the Capital’s injured residents.”

A copy of the D.C. lawsuit is available here  https://oag.dc.gov/sites/default/files/2020-06/DC-v-Exxon-BP-Chevron-Shell-Filed-Complaint.pdf

This is the second consumer protection action filed in D.C. against Exxon in recent months. In May, the non-profit group Beyond Pesticides filed a consumer protection lawsuit against Exxon that asked the D.C. Superior Court to order the oil giant to cease its “false and deceptive marketing” about its role in climate change.

Background on Climate Accountability Lawsuits:

The consumer protection lawsuits filed by Massachusetts, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia are among a growing number of cases that seek to hold the fossil fuel industry accountable for climate change deception. Since 2017, more than a dozen city and county governments in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, and Washington have brought lawsuits under different claims to recover billions of dollars damages caused by the oil and gas industry’s deception about climate change. Learn about those other cases here.

Contact: Mike Meno, Center for Climate Integrity, mike@climateintegrity.org or 919-307-6637
Mike Tidwell, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, mtidwell@chesapeakeclimate.org or 240-460-5838

The Center for Climate Integrity, a project of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development, launched in 2017 to educate the public and policymakers about the massive costs of coping with the damage attributable to global warming and to support efforts to make climate polluters pay their fair share.

For more information on what ExxonMobil and others in the industry knew about climate change and when, check out the Center for Climate Integrity’s “Smoking Guns” document archive or visit PayUpClimatePolluters.org.

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We support “Defund the Police.” Here’s why, and what’s next

We are at a crucial point in history for racial justice. There are no neutral actors here: Silence itself is a dangerous act. 

That’s why we at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network are raising our voices for a world where Black Lives Matter. Not just because Black and Latinx Americans care most on average about climate change. Not just because the climate fight would be nothing without a diverse movement. Not just because we need every community to join us in our fight for climate solutions for it to succeed. Not just because we need to be able to protest without entire populations fearing for their lives. 

But because the fight for a safe climate future is a fight to save lives. And millions of Americans are fighting for their lives right now.

At this critical moment, we are following the lead of Black-led organizations at the forefront of this struggle. We are signing on in support of the broad movement to reduce funding for police and reinvest in communities under the banner of “Defund the Police.”

On Tuesday night, CCAN Board of Directors voted unanimously in favor of a resolution to support this movement. Click HERE to see the resolution. 

In practical terms, here’s what that means for us at CCAN: 

  • We will support efforts spearheaded by Black-led organizations to pressure our legislators to meaningfully divest from police programs that directly or indirectly give rise to brutality, and invest in public services and other public safety measures that don’t involve police force or incarceration. This means weighing in on state and local budget hearings, and encouraging our supporters to do the same. More on that below. 
  • We pledge to not pay for police services at CCAN events — like protests and conferences — unless absolutely necessary. Often, police departments require activists to pay for police presence at public marches and rallies. Our refusal to pay such fees will force us to make sure we’re asking the right questions up front and will help us to choose venues and vendors that share our values. We expect to formalize this new policy in the coming weeks.
  • We will connect our supporters with anti-racism trainings and resources and maximize trainings for staff to ensure that racial justice is a centerpiece of our climate campaigns.
  • We will invest in voter education campaigns to help protect vulnerable communities from voter suppression efforts — and encourage all voters to support leaders who advocate for meaningfully divesting from police to better fund social programs instead. 

You may be wondering, what do we mean by “Defund the Police?” It doesn’t mean getting rid of all police overnight — or necessarily ever — and it won’t mean the same thing in every city, town, or locality. It means redistributing the hundreds of millions of dollars we spend on policing back into essential public services that have been gutted over the last few decades as police budgets ballooned. It means mental health professionals answering calls about mental health crises, and addiction experts answering calls about opioid abuse, instead of armed officers. It means tackling our social problems with tools that could help solve them rather than resorting to violence and criminalization, a system that was borne out of racism and has intentionally disrupted and devastated Black, Brown, Indigenous and poor communities since its inception centuries ago.

This effort draws parallels to the fossil fuel divestment campaign as well. We’re not proposing eliminating all forms of energy, just the dirty ones; we still need to keep the lights on and the internet flowing, now more than ever in the era of coronavirus. Similarly, we still need systems to keep our communities safe. We’re just opening our minds to what those systems look like. And we’re taking our cues from the groups, communities, and thought-leaders most impacted by the current broken system.

If you’re still skeptical, click HERE to watch a video with CCAN Board Members Terence Ellen and Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. discussing what “Defund the Police” means for CCAN and why it’s important for climate activists to support it.

Here at CCAN, we know that the fight for climate justice and racial justice are one in the same. People of color disproportionately bear the impacts of climate change, from extreme storms to flooding from sea level rise to heat waves to air pollution. It’s also no coincidence that fossil-fueled power plants and refineries are disproportionately located in black neighborhoods, leading to poor air quality and putting people at higher risk for coronavirus. The forces behind the climate crisis are the same forces behind racial inequality. As Eric Holthaus put it, climate change is “what happens when the lives of marginalised people and non-human species are viewed as expendable.” We have to work together for permanent and durable solutions that protect every single person of every single race — particularly the most vulnerable — now and in the future. 

That’s why we will continue to shine light on police brutality and work for solutions everywhere to this ongoing tragedy. And we ask you to do the same. Please do what you can to use your voice to demand justice. 

Here’s where to start:

The fight for justice becomes more crucial every day. We’re glad to be fighting with you. 

In solidarity, 

The entire team at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and CCAN Action Fund

Environmental Groups Take Legal Action Over Air Pollution from Industrial Flares

Allies Send EPA a Notice of Intent to Sue over Agency’s Failure to Update Inadequate 34-Year-Old Standards

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 11, 2020

Media contact: Tom Pelton, Environmental Integrity Project (443) 510-2574 or tpelton@environmentalintegrity.org

Washington, D.C. – A coalition of ten environmental organizations today sent the Trump Administration EPA a notice of intent to sue the agency over its failure to reduce toxic air pollution from the flares on petrochemical plants, gas processing facilities, and other industrial sites.

Across the country, thousands of industrial flares burn excess waste gases and release smog-forming volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carcinogenic benzene, and other pollutants that threaten the health of people living nearby, often minorities and communities with moderate incomes.

EPA has not updated the air pollution control standards for industrial flares in 34 years, even though the federal Clean Air Act requires that agency review them at least once every eight years to make sure they adequately protect the public and incorporate improvements in technology, according to the notice.

“At this time when people are more vulnerable to pneumonia from COVID-19 when they are exposed to air pollution, it is unconscionable that the Trump EPA has not done its job and updated these weak and antiquated standards,” said Adam Kron, Senior Attorney for the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP).

Joseph Otis Minott, Esq., Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council, said: “The outdated technology EPA is allowing polluters to use to reduce emissions is endangering our communities. Thirty-four years of inaction is unacceptable; EPA needs to do its job and update its regulations.”

The organizations that sent the notice – the first required step in a federal lawsuit – are EIP, Clean Air Council, Air Alliance Houston, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Earthworks, Environment America, Environment Texas, Hoosier Environmental Council, PennEnvironment, and Texas Campaign for the Environment. 

Industrial facilities, like chemical manufacturers and natural gas processing plants, use flares as pollution control devices to burn and destroy dangerous organic compounds like benzene in waste gases. However, the flares are only effective as pollution control devices if they are operated correctly.

For example, operators inject steam into flares to keep them from smoking (which releases soot or fine particle pollution). But they often add far more steam than is needed.  EPA and industry studies have shown that flares that are over-steamed do not burn well, releasing large amounts of benzene and other toxic or smog-forming compounds that should have been destroyed during the combustion process. 

The types of industrial flares that are the subject of the today’s notice do not include flares on drilling sites or oil refineries. The general industrial flares being targeted for the improvements in the notice include those on chemical factories, solid waste landfills, gasoline terminals, and natural gas processing plants.

More than three decades after EPA established requirements for these general industrial flares in 1986, these standards no longer reflect the “best system of emission reduction,” according to the notice filed by the 10 environmental organizations.

For example, the current standards’ minimum heating value requirements are not based on where the flare is actually burning (the “combustion zone”) and therefore miss if an operator is injecting too much steam or air into the flare, dramatically lowering its efficiency.  Additionally, the current standards let operators average their measurements over long, three-hour periods rather than a shorter time, allowing for spikes that depart from proper operation.  In fact, EPA has estimated that improperly operated flares may release five times or more the pollution as a properly operated flare.

Recently, EPA conducted a rulemaking that not only pointed out the shortcomings of the current flare standards but also set out specific revisions that could correct these problems. In March 2020, EPA finalized revisions to National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) standards for ethylene production facilities that included revised flare standards similar to what the groups have requested here.  For just the approximately 100 flares covered by the rule, EPA estimated that revised flare standards have the potential to reduce excess emissions by approximately 1,430 tons per year of hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and 13,020 tons per year of VOCs. On a per-flare basis, that’s about 14 tons per year of hazardous pollutants and 130 tons per year of VOCs.

Quotes from Environmental Organizations:

Environment Texas: “In our Clean Air Act lawsuit against ExxonMobil, an expert on industrial flares testified at trial that illegal flaring emissions from the company’s Baytown petrochemical complex were probably three to four times higher than the amounts ExxonMobil reported — and that testimony went completely unrebutted,” said Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas.  “These hidden impacts on surrounding communities are significant, as the reported violations alone already totaled 10 million pounds of harmful chemicals.”

In Texas, three of the top five largest unpermitted pollution releases from industrial flares in 2019 happened at the Exxon Mobil Chemical Baytown Olefins Plant east of Houston, which released 48 tons of air pollution from February 28 to March 12, 2019; 75 tons of air pollution from June 28 to July 13, 2019; and another 67 tons from August 1 to August 18, 2019, according to records of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Environment Texas sued Exxon Mobil over the plant’s air pollution.

PennEnvironment: “While many people may look back fondly and love the 80s, we’d all agree that technology and the things we know about air pollution have dramatically improved over the past three decades,” said PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. “Health based standards from the 80s are in no way acceptable for protecting public health, our communities and our environment today.”  

Chesapeake Climate Action Network: “For too long, fossil fuel companies have been allowed to emit dangerous levels of pollution at industrial facilities that are all too often located in minority communities,” said Anne Havemann, General Counsel at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “Virtually unchecked industrial flaring at these facilities harms the climate, health, and justice, and the EPA must fix its illegally outdated rules as soon as possible.”

Hoosier Environmental Council:  “With a ranking of 43rd in air quality, 40th in health outcomes, and 13th in COVID-19 deaths per capita, there is a great urgency in Indiana to strengthen air quality protections to reduce harm to an already vulnerable population,” said Jesse Kharbanda, Executive Director of the Hoosier Environmental Council. “We urge the EPA to revise the badly out-of-date flare standards; revisions would improve air quality in at least five of six regions of Indiana.”

Texas Campaign for the Environment:  “Industrial flares light up the skies with toxic pollution near the homes, schools and workplaces of many Texans,” said Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment. “People rightly fear for the health of their families and neighbors, particularly overburdened communities of color,” said Robin Schneider, Executive Director of Texas Campaign for the Environment.

For a copy of the notice, click here.

The Environmental Integrity Project is an 18-year-old nonprofit organization, based in Washington D.C. and Austin, Texas, that is dedicated to enforcing environmental laws and strengthening policy to protect public health.

Clean Air Council is a member-supported environmental organization dedicated to protecting and defending everyone’s right to a healthy environment.

Environment Texas is a non-profit advocate for clean air, clean water, and open space.

The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) is the first grassroots, nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to fighting global warming in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

PennEnvironment is a statewide, citizen-based nonprofit environmental advocacy group working for clean air, clean water, tackling climate change and preserving Pennsylvania’s incredible outdoor places.

Texas Campaign for the Environment is a grassroots organization that empowers Texans to fight pollution through sustained grassroots organizing campaigns that shift corporate and governmental policy.

Environment America is a national network of 29 state environmental groups that work for clean air, clean water, clean energy, wildlife and open spaces, and a livable climate.

Air Alliance Houston is a non-profit advocacy organization working to reduce the public health impacts of air pollution and advance environmental justice.

The Hoosier Environmental is Indiana’s largest environmental public policy organization, working to address environmental justice, protect land and water, and advance a sustainable economy.

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Maryland Public Service Approves Dan’s Mountain Wind Farm in Western Maryland

CCAN applauds the 4-1 decision and calls on the PSC to do more to unlock offshore wind power and address a backlog of solar farm projects across Maryland

TAKOMA PARK, MD — The Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC)  today voted 4-1 to approve a long-delayed wind farm project on Dan’s Mountain in Allegany County. The 70-megawatt project will create hundreds of jobs and provide a million dollars per year in tax revenue for a county hit hard by the ongoing COVID-19 recession. 

Now the Commission must turn its attention to speeding up the approval process for a backlog of solar energy projects in the state and assisting state legislators in maximizing Maryland’s offshore wind power potential against threats from the Trump Administration. 

Statement from Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network: 

“The Maryland PSC did the right thing today in approving the Dan’s Mountain wind farm. The project is supported by the Western Building Trades Union and will create hundreds of good-paying jobs while cleaning up our air and reducing climate emissions. The irony of this 70-megawatt project sitting atop land formerly stripped-mined for coal is not lost on Marylanders, especially young people who can now better glimpse a clean energy future. 

“But now the PSC must further unlock that future. Annapolis legislators are asking the PSC to help advance 400 megawatts of offshore wind power with 2,000 new jobs at stake. Plus the PSC must act faster to unlock a backlog of delayed solar projects across the state, caused in large part by the slow action of a state entity called the Power Plant Research Project.

“As for the Dan’s Mountain wind farm, we believe the PSC struck the right balance in weighing the economic and environmental benefits of the project versus the legitimate concerns of some local residents who fought long and hard against the project. Some of those opponents have fought shoulder to shoulder with CCAN against fracked-gas pipelines in Western Maryland and in favor of a fracking ban. We respect those opponents and their concerns about wind power. But we are convinced that, in the fight against fossil fuels and for the long-term preservation of our Appalachian Mountains, land-based wind farms have a role to play when properly sited and carefully regulated. Again, we believe the Maryland Public Service Commission struck the right balance today and should be applauded.”

Background: 

Solar Delay: The PSC and the Power Plant Research Project are dragging their feet on acting on more than 40 “shovel-ready” solar projects. It now takes 1.5 years on average to get a solar farm approved in the state. The wait is longer than in most states and is undoubtedly discouraging new companies from coming here. 

Threats to Offshore Wind: in December 2019, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved a plan to subject certain energy generation technologies to a high and arbitrary Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) requirements in their bids in the PJM capacity market, of which Maryland is a member. As a result, technologies like offshore wind could be entirely excluded from this market. A group of 62 Maryland State Delegates have asked the PSC to move as quickly as possible to adjust the guidance on the open offshore wind-bidding process, to request that bidders submit contingency bids outlining one proposal without capacity payments and a second with capacity payments.

CONTACT:
Denise Robbins, Communications Director, 240-630-1889, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org
Mike Tidwell, Director, 240-460-5838, mtidwell@chesapeakeclimate.org 

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The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 17 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. 

CCAN Commends “Historic” Change to Major Virginia Regulatory Body With Appointment of First Black SCC Commissioner

Governor Northam Appoints First Black Person to Serve on Virginia State Corporation Commission

RICHMOND, VA — Today, Governor Northam appointed Jehmal Hudson to serve as the next judge on the Virginia State Corporation Commission – the first Black person to hold a position on this regulatory body since its inception in 1902.

Harrison Wallace, Virginia Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, stated in response: 

“Now that a 100 percent clean energy future is a codified goal of the Commonwealth, it is more important than ever that we have SCC commissioners who understand the benefits of clean energy to both the ratepayers and our climate. Just as importantly, we also need commissioners who can relate to the experience of Black and Brown communities that have been disproportionately harmed by Virginia’s energy monopolies, something the body has lacked for all of its 118 year history. 

“We applaud Governor Northam for choosing Jehmal Hudson as SCC commissioner, where he can begin the long-needed shift towards a clean energy future that we all can be proud of. This historic shift to Virginia’s regulatory body is good news for climate and justice in Virginia.”

CONTACT:
Denise Robbins, Communications Director, 240-630-1889, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org
Harrison Wallace, Virginia Director, harrison@chesapeakeclimate.org 

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The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 17 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

New Poll: Both Republicans and Democrats Want Maryland Public Service Commission to Move Faster On Wind and Solar Jobs During COVID-19 Recession

Hogan-appointed commission can legally speed up approval of clean energy projects, creating thousands of jobs. Voters in poll conducted by Patrick Gonzales support faster action. Biggest support comes from Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore.

TAKOMA PARK, MD – With over half a million Marylanders newly out of work due to COVID-19, a new poll shows that voters want the state’s Public Service Commission (PSC) to move faster in approving solar farms and wind farms. Over 40 solar projects are currently held up on regulatory wait lists — as are three wind farms on either end of the state. A new Gonzales Poll shows the public wants a change, with nearly two-thirds of both Democrats and Republicans saying the PSC should move faster.

The poll arrives at a pivotal moment for the PSC. Its five commissioners, appointed by Republican Governor Larry Hogan, reopened hearings last week related to two offshore wind farms. The commission will also vote on Wednesday of this week on a long-delayed wind farm in Allegany County in Western Maryland. Meanwhile, 40 solar projects proposed for the state are in various stages of “shovel readiness” but are tied up in PSC red tape with help from another government agency called the Power Plant Research Project.

“In an era marked by political division, this new poll shows incredible bipartisan consensus that the Maryland PSC should act faster for workers and clean air,” said Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the group that commissioned the survey. “Perhaps never in Maryland’s history have government regulators been in a better position to help so many suffering families while protecting the planet.”

In the Gonzales poll, 64% percent of Maryland voters surveyed said the PSC should move faster in approving wind and solar generation projects in the state. The numbers were highest in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, the two majority-Republican parts of the state where many of the largest wind and solar projects are being proposed. In Western Maryland, 70%of voters say the PSC should act faster. On the Eastern Shore/Southern Maryland, the number was 73%. Clearly Republican voters are eager to see faster economic development and jobs from wind and solar power. Statewide, 63% of Republican voters said the PSC should move faster. Sixty-five percent of Democrats said the same as did 66% of independents.

For more background on the PSC’s slowness in approving clean energy projects, read Mike Tidwell’s oped in the Washington Post from June 5.

Here is the Gonzales poll question: “450,000 Marylanders have filed for unemployment benefits with the Covid-19 shutdown. Meanwhile, over 40 solar energy farms have been proposed for construction in Maryland but are tied up in bureaucratic delays. It now takes one and half years to get a solar farm approved. Similar delays could affect a proposed land-based wind farm and two offshore projects. The Maryland Public Service Commission, which regulates these projects, can by law speed up this process and create thousands of jobs.  With the recession, do you think the Public Service Commission should act faster, or not?”

The Gonzales Research & Media Services firm surveyed 810 registered voters in Maryland between May 19 and May 23, 2020. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5%.

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The Chesapeake Climate Action Network is the first and largest grassroots organization dedicated exclusively to raising awareness about the impacts and solutions associated with global warming in the Chesapeake Bay region. For 17 years, CCAN has been at the center of the fight for clean energy and wise climate policy in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.chesapeakeclimate.org.

CONTACT:
Mike Tidwell, 240-460-5838, mtidwell@chespapeakeclimate.org
Denise Robbins, 608-320-6582, denise@chesapeakeclimate.org

CCAN-Report-May-2020

SCC Must Extend Moratorium on Utility Disconnections; Legislative Action Next Step

Environmental groups unite behind call for extension and data release from utilities

June 5, 2020

Charlottesville — Eleven environmental and marginalized community advocacy organizations today joined statewide calls for the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) to extend its moratorium on utility disconnections during the COVID-19 pandemic. A joint comment submitted by the organizations questions the SCC’s assumption that a moratorium extension will harm ratepayers given the lack of available and relevant data from regulated public utilities including how many Virginia customers have unpaid utility bills, the reserves of each utility, and the amount utilities have overcharged customers in previous years.

The comment includes:

  • A request for the SCC to extend the mandatory moratorium on utility service disconnections until at least the end of the summer.
  • A request for the SCC to obtain weekly data from all regulated public utilities including how many customers have unpaid utility bills, the number of customers disconnected in the current year, and information regarding the financial strength and debt reserves of each utility.
  • A request for the SCC to solicit proposals from all affected utilities on steps those utilities can take to restart their energy efficiency programs or develop alternative programs that reduce consumption while protecting the health of all involved.

Virginia’s largest electricity provider Dominion Energy has declined to comment on how many residential and non-residential customers have unpaid bills or were disconnected in the current year. Dominion has overcharged its customers by $1.3 billion since 2015.

The SCC’s state order suspending disconnections is set to expire on June 15, 2020. Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Clean Virginia, Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, League of Conservation Voters Virginia, New Virginia Majority, Piedmont Environmental Council, Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection, Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, Southern Environmental Law Center, Virginia Conservation Network, and Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy signed the joint comment to the SCC, due today.

READ the joint comment to the SCC.

Quotes From Participating Organizations:

Harrison Wallace, Chesapeake Climate Action Network – Virginia Director

“It’s the SCC’s job to protect consumers, not corporations. But Dominion is planning to give their shareholders fat dividends during a time of economic turmoil and also planning to give out targeted grants in the name of justice. If they can do that, they can help struggling families keep the lights on and cool their homes during the hottest season of the year.”

Brennan Gilmore, Clean Virginia – Executive Director

“Families should not face electricity disconnection while Dominion Energy unjustly transfers hundreds of millions in overcharges every year from Virginians to its top executives and shareholders. The State Corporation Commission should provide relief to struggling Virginia families and small businesses by extending the moratorium on utility disconnections and demanding transparency from utilities to better understand the scope of the problem.”

 Jo Anne St. Clair, Climate Action Alliance of the Valley – Chair

“The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley believes that the SCC must be mindful that calamities like the current pandemic, and like the consequences of our ongoing climate crisis, usually burden those who are least able to adapt and recover quickly. The pandemic is not over; its negative economic effects will be with us all, especially the many Virginians who chronically have a serious burden meeting their utility bills. The SCC must consider this reality.”

Michael Town, League of Conservation Voters Virginia – Executive Director

“We should not be debating whether or not to extend a moratorium on utility shut-offs in the midst of a global pandemic and economic depression that is especially devastating for low-income neighborhoods and communities of color,” said Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. “The moratorium should remain in place until the pandemic is over and Virginia is able to implement just and fair utility reform to ensure our most vulnerable citizens are never put in this position again.”

Kenneth Gilliam, New Virginia Majority – Policy Director

“We are very much still in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had greater economic and health effects, likely to be long-lasting, on low-income households and Latinx and Black communities in Virginia. The economic repercussions of the crisis are not equally distributed by race or income across the state; however, measures, such as the moratorium on utility disconnections, provides much needed fiscal relief to low-income customers who generally pay more for energy and are predicted to have greater loss of income throughout the rest of 2020, and well into 2021.”

Kate AddlesonSierra Club Virginia Chapter – Director

“The COVID 19 pandemic has thrown Virginia into a serious economic downturn with many families across the commonwealth facing job loss and financial strain. With Virginia’s hottest months still ahead of us, the SCC must extend the moratorium on utility shut-offs at least through the summer to ensure families and businesses aren’t subject to life-threatening heat. The commission should take steps to offer utility bill assistance and extended repayment programs during this difficult time.”

Will Cleveland, Southern Environmental Law Center – Senior Attorney

With the summer heat bearing down on us, we must do all we can to help people who, as a result of this pandemic, struggle to pay their utility bills. Expanded utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs, bill assistance and payment plans, and data collection are necessary to help all Virginians come through this difficult time.”

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CONTACT:

Cassady Craighill, Clean Virginia Communications Director

cassady@cleanvirginia.org, 828-817-3328

George Floyd


The recent brutal murder in Minneapolis has forced all of us at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network to confront the injustice that runs rampant throughout our country. Our hearts and thoughts are with the families and communities of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and countless others.

Lives have been senselessly taken, and that can’t be undone. But we can work to shine a light on police brutality, and join justice advocacy organizations to find solutions to this ongoing tragedy. 

Systemic racism permeates nearly everything — from brutal police killings to COVID-19’s disproportionate mortality rate among African Americans to the fact that people of color are disproportionately affected by runaway climate change. We have to work together for permanent and durable solutions that protect every single person of every single race — particularly the most vulnerable — now and in the future.

As an immediate step, we encourage everyone to donate generously to organizations promoting racial justice and raising funds for those affected by this crisis. A few recommendations: 

We also condemn all statements that condone or incite violence against those who are exercising their First Amendment rights to protest this and other recent deaths of African Americans across our country.

The right to protest is a cornerstone of our democracy. We at CCAN have participated in dozens of demonstrations that have been essential for growing momentum for climate solutions. Yet, too often, African Americans are disproportionately targeted at these protests. When CCAN Board Member and frequent climate justice advocate Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr. participated in the March for Science, he was targeted and assaulted by the police. When we joined with the #ShutdownDC Coalition to temporarily block traffic around the nation’s capitol to draw attention to the climate crisis, our largely white group was able to block off several intersections without trouble from the police — while the Black Lives Matter blockade was immediately targeted for arrests during the protest and hassled afterwards. 

Everyone should have a right to protest without fearing being killed. Everyone should have a right to walk down a street or sleep in their own bed without fearing being killed. 

For those of you reading this who are white, we encourage you to take this opportunity to learn as much as you can about institutional racism and privilege: 

For those of you who are people of color: Our hearts are breaking for you. If you have a story about what’s going on you’d like to share, we’d love to amplify your voice. Simply respond to this email and we’ll work with you on this. 

There is no climate justice without racial justice. 

In solidarity forever, 

The entire team at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network