This note is about radical polluters versus really sane Virginians who want to conserve their land. It’s about Governor Terry McAuliffe standing with Dominion Power instead of embracing the moral imperative of a “fossil fuel resistance” movement nationwide. It’s about brave and ordinary people standing up to extreme energy companies – people like the Standing Rock Sioux tribe who have fought heroically against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
This is going to be a longer note than usual from CCAN – and I hope you’ll read it to the end. But here are the questions I want to ask:
Will you come to Richmond at least once between October 3 and 5 for a citizens’ “picket line” against pipelines, coal ash, and coastal flooding? We’ll be picketing outside Governor McAuliffe’s office in the capital city. And on a separate front: What are your thoughts about the role of peaceful civil disobedience in the Virginia climate movement? Is it time? Are you interested?
First, it’s no secret that global warming now affects all of us — far beyond the dying coral reefs and faraway glaciers. From the flooding in Norfolk last week from tropical storm Hermine to the extreme heat wave across Virginia right now, this is a crisis reaching right into YOUR neighborhood. And these harmful trends are all linked to carbon and methane pollution from the burning of oil, coal and gas.
So what’s Governor Terry McAuliffe’s response to the climate crisis? You might not think of him as a pro-pollution “radical,” but his support for high-pollution energy projects actually makes him so. He wants to build two massive pipelines for fracked gas that could dramatically threaten farms, drinking water, and parkland while doubling greenhouse gas emissions on the ground. (The parallel to the Dakota Access Pipeline, opposed by indigenous leaders, is striking). McAuliffe also wants to drill for offshore oil in Virginia and bury millions of tons of coal ash next to our major rivers. It’s pretty amazing.
Meanwhile, McAuliffe’s very close friends at Dominion Power have their own radical climate ideas. One company vice president recently published a letter saying that global warming might be GOOD for us. I’m not making this up. He speculated in the Richmond Times-Dispatch that climate disruption might actually improve the world. And Dominion itself is a member of a right-wing legislative group (ever heard of ALEC?) that openly questions the scientific consensus of human-caused climate change.
Given these out-sized threats from the Governor and Dominion, what should SANE people – folks like you and me – do in response? What’s a reasonable escalation of our efforts to speak out and protect human health and human rights? Here’s one idea:
Let’s form a citizens’ lunchtime “picket line” outside Governor McAuliffe’s office in Richmond for three days in October. He’s not listening to the voices of farmers, students, and sane citizens statewide. Let’s bring those voices – peacefully but persistently – to his office October 3-5 for a lunchtime parade of signs, chanting and truth. Won’t you join for a day?
Why three days of picketing? Because we have three major battles on our hands in Virginia: Pipelines, coal ash, and coastal flooding from sea-level rise. On Day One, October 3rd, we’ll feature the voices of people across the state opposed to McAuliffe’s fracked-gas pipelines and compressor stations. Day Two, October 4th, will feature communities impacted by harmful coal ash dumping along the Potomac, James, and other rivers. And Day Three, October 5th, will feature citizens statewide concerned about climate change, sea-level rise, and the appalling flooding in coastal Virginia.
Why October 3-5? Because it’s just time. The Governor needs sustained pressure to break his ties with the extreme fossil fuel interests. And also because the whole nation will be turning its attention to Virginia that first week of October: On Tuesday, October 4th, the U.S. vice presidential candidates will come to Farmville to hold their only debate. As the national media spotlight descends on Virginia, we’ll shine a spotlight on the radical impacts of Governor McAuliffe’s support for fossil fuels.
Why focus this action on the Governor? Because he has the ability, using his executive powers, to make a difference on all three major issues of concern. During the picketing, we’ll be asking him to: 1) Reject state water permits for fracked-gas pipelines; 2) Require Dominion and other utilities to permanently protect our waterways from toxic coal ash; and 3) Commit to serious clean energy and adaptation solutions to keep our coastal communities above water.
This idea is already taking off. Many proud Virginians are already planning to take a stand with us in October. They’re people like the 86-year-old Korean War veteran whose land in Giles County, Virginia, would be substantially clear cut by the Mountain Valley Pipeline for fracked gas (supported by McAuliffe). And the Baptist pastor in Buckingham County whose church community would be polluted by an industrial compressor station for fracked gas (supported by McAuliffe). And a northern Virginia homeowner whose drinking water well has been contaminated next to a Dominion coal ash dump (that McAuliffe says is safe). And a senior citizen in Newport News who’s facing expensive flood insurance on a fixed income due to unprecedented sea-level rise.
These Virginians are locked into fights against energy companies and state policies that threaten their lives, drinking water, and land. In solidarity with them – and brave citizens nationwide fighting for safe farms, shorelines, and neighborhoods – won’t you join them?
Please come to Richmond at least once between October 3-5 for a lunchtime citizens’ “picket line” against pipelines, coal ash, and coastal flooding. We’ll be picketing outside the Governor’s office the same week the whole nation turns to Virginia during the vice presidential debate.
Since last spring, as you know, an alliance of groups has been working to get the Governor’s attention on these dirty energy issues. My friend Bill McKibben and I wrote an op-ed challenging the Governor last February. Then CCAN joined several groups in releasing an energy-and-climate “report card” for the Governor in April, giving him a D plus. (We thanked him for his support of minor solar power and efficiency projects but dinged him for the massive support of fossil fuels). Then more than 60 groups statewide issued an open letter in June asking the Governor again to abandon his 19th-century energy vision of drill it, pipe it, and burn it. Finally, on July 23rd, more than 600 people came to Richmond for the “March on the Mansion” to ask the Governor to put people’s welfare above polluters’ profits.
But remarkably, the Governor has not changed at all. He’s still not listening. He’s announced his support for a couple of inspiring Virginia solar farms that, when built, will reduce carbon pollution in Virginia by the equivalent of taking about 10,000 cars off the road. But he still supports new oil and gas drilling in Virginia and West Virginia that would be the equivalent of adding tens of millions of new cars to our roads!
So I hope you’ll join us for one, two or all three of the days we’ll be picketing at the Governor’s office. If you live in Richmond, just pop over during your lunch break and help make history in this fight. If you’re across the state, take off half a day if you can and come be with us.
Finally, there’s the issue of peaceful civil disobedience. Have you ever thought of adding your name to the long list of proud Americans who, at some point in our nation’s history, have engaged in this powerful tactic for a worthy cause? Is now the right time for you? With oceans rising worldwide and indigenous struggles peaking in the Dakotas and radical pipelines bearing down on Virginia, is it time to exercise your reasonable right to stand up against the polluters who would radically alter our world? If so:
A second group of citizens is planning a civil disobedience action on the final day of this 3-day protest, on October 5th. It will be separate from the picketing action. It will involve people from all over the state. It will be peaceful and inspiring.
Hope to see you in Richmond on October 3rd, 4th, or 5th. I can’t wait to take the next steps of this movement with you.
Mike Tidwell

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