Most folks in Hampton Roads believe there is a reason our streets are flooding more nowadays than they used to.
And they are in the company of our military leaders and the world’s top scientists in pointing to climate change as the cause. The tricky part is not finding the solutions — we have plenty of renewable energy resources and proven ways to fund flooding adaptation. The tricky part is building the political will to pursue them — and fast.
Here’s what I think: we need to hold our elected officials accountable — especially Virginia Governor Terry Mcauliffe. He tops my list as our “Frustrator-in-Chief” when it comes to combating climate change in the Commonwealth. Governor McAuliffe spoke frequently about climate change on the campaign trail (and couldn’t stop taking money from environmental groups). But two-plus years into his term, we in coastal Virginia have become increasingly disappointed.
We’ve simply not seen bold actions on climate coming yet from the Governor’s Mansion. We have seen a plethora of press releases that tout new study groups or celebrate a grant from a federal or non-profit source. We’ve seen small steps forward on clean energy. But when has the Governor stepped up to take on our state’s biggest climate polluter — Dominion Power — or pushed for funding on the scale that’s needed to protect our coast?
So far, it seems that the Governor has aimed for a mediocre, mixed climate legacy. He has not budged on his support for offshore oil drilling, despite the risks of a catastrophic spill ruining our coastal ecosystem and tourism economy, and despite the fact that drilling would increase the fossil fuel pollution driving climate change and rising seas. McAuliffe continues to stand with Dominion Virginia Power as it pushes for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. This fracked gas pipeline would invade landowners’ property from Augusta County all the way to Chesapeake and spew climate-wrecking methane into the atmosphere. He decided against supporting bipartisan legislation in the General Assembly that could have brought $250 million per year to the Commonwealth to invest in climate solutions — directing at least half of that to flood mitigation and adaptation. With a track record like this, how could anyone be surprised a coalition of groups gave the Governor a D-plus grade in his mid-term climate and energy report card?
It’s past time to hold the Governor accountable to the promises he made on the campaign trail and demand real climate leadership. That’s why activists from across Virginia are coming together to say “enough is enough” this month. We’ll march by the hundreds on July 23rd, surrounding the Governor’s mansion in Richmond and delivering our message in person. Nearly 70 groups have issued an open letter to the Governor in advance of this groundbreaking action. This diverse coalition represents landowners, environmentalists, faith and social justice leaders and students.
Hampton Roads will be well-represented in Richmond on July 23rd. Groups like Lynnhaven River Now will be there, pushing the Governor to keep our rivers clean by keeping polluters like Dominion from contaminating them with toxic coal ash. Virginia Organizing will be marching with us because they believe that climate justice is an important pillar of social justice: unless we get serious about sea level rise, many kids in Norfolk won’t be able to get to school when it’s high tide and low-income residents could face many of the same issues that New Orleanians faced during Hurricane Katrina. The Southeast CARES Coalition is marching to represent the southeast neighborhood of Newport News, located next to the giant coal terminal beside I-664. They are fighting for a world where clean energy, clean water, and clean air are not a luxury for the rich, but a right for all people.
I hope you will join us in Richmond on July 23rd. There are buses leaving from the Southside and the Peninsula at 10 AM and seats are free. Everyone from across the state will meet at Brown’s Island in Richmond. We’ll get inspired by speakers ranging from Hampton Roads residents to a leader of the fight against the Keystone Pipeline, Jane Kleeb. After that, we will march past the headquarters of Dominion toward the Capitol building, and around the Governor’s mansion, sending a clear message that it’s time for Governor McAuliffe to stand with communities like ours that are on the front lines of climate change.
RSVP now to make sure you are a part of this historic event.