Video: Krystal Ball Takes on the Stafford County Anti-Transgender Freakout

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What Krystal Ball said!
So what is this sexual predator abomination threatening all our children? You ready for this? The question of which bathroom one elementary school child should use at Hartwood Elementary...Stafford County ruled that based on the anti-discrimination requirements of Title IX, a transgender student should be allowed to use the bathroom of the sex they identify with.And that was the cause of all these supposed grownups having a panic attack and forming a coalition dramatically called "Save Our Schools"...all to keep one little girl who happened to be born with boy parts...from using the girl's bathroom.
Wow, how sad for these people to be filled with such fear and such hate over a child who happens to be a little different. How disturbing for these adults, many of whom hold themselves out as Christians, to gang up on a little kid...Unfortunately, Stafford County decided to trade understanding for fear; they voted unanimously to discriminate against and ostracize this child...
By the way, one of the supposed adults ganging up on this child is now running for House of Delegates. Her name is Susan Stimpson, and nobody should vote for her - ever, for any public office - based on her disgraceful display of bigotry and demagoguery in this case.

"A Dangerous Inheritance" Demonstrates Urgency of Clean Power Plan, Cutting CO2 Emissions Fast

By Sarah Bucci
Young adults in Virginia are experiencing hotter temperatures and more intense storms than their predecessors did in the 1970's, according to a new report by Environment Virginia Research & Policy Center.
This report comes out as NASA scientists announced, just this month, that this year's Arctic sea ice cap was the smallest it has ever been in recorded history and that the first two months of 2015 were the warmest such period ever. This new report, Dangerous Inheritance, examines climate changes at the local level, through the eyes of five different generations of Virginians.
Millennials in Virginia, like me, came of age in a climate 1.2 degrees hotter than did their Baby Boomer parents in the 1970's. That means for young adults living in the commonwealth, hotter temperatures more extreme weather events and rising seas have become more frequent and common. Researchers found similar increases in temperatures and extreme weather across the country. In every state, young adults today are experiencing warmer average temperatures than young adults in the Baby Boomer generation. The biggest rain and snowstorms produce 10 percent more rainfall in 2011 than they did in 1948.
These impacts are real and only getting worse. Joining Environment Virginia in releasing this report today, two Hampton Roads residence spoke to their personal experiences. John Deuel, an independent contractor and long-time Norfolk resident spoke about the combination of rising seas and more precipitation leading to flooding in his neighborhood. And Alden Cleanthes, a Chesapeake resident with a 3-year old son and a "Supermom" with non-profit Moms Clean Air Force spoke about the need to protect public health.
Nobody wants to leave the next generation to inherit an even more dangerous climate, so we must take action. We can start by finalizing and implementing the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan, which would cut carbon pollution at least 36 percent in Virginia and 30 percent nationwide by the end of the next decade.
To ensure that the Clean Power Plan is approved and put into place, we need to Senators Kaine and Warner to stand up for the plan in Washington, D.C. Thankfully, they did just that last week when they voted against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's attacks on the Clean Power Plan in the U.S. Senate. We applaud them for this action. And, here in Virginia, we need Governor Terry McAuliffe to stand behind the plan and maximize its potential to unleash clean energy jobs in the commonwealth.
Sarah Bucci is the campaign director with Environment Virginia, a state-wide, citizen-funded advocacy organization working for a cleaner, greener, healthier Virginia. She can be contacted at For more information visit Environment Virginia.

Is Ken Cuccinelli Really "New and Improved?"

I probably agree 99% of the time with Peter Galuszka of Bacon's Rebellion, which is why I found his latest headline, A New, Improved Ken Cuccinelli?, so puzzling. At first I thought that Galuszka was going to write an Onion-style satire or just a "yeah right!" But no, this appears to be serious.
Is one-time conservative firebrand Ken Cuccinelli undergoing a makeover?......The hard line former Virginia attorney general who lost a bitter gubernatorial race to Terry McAuliffe in 2013 is now helping run an oyster farm and sounding warning alarms about a rising police state.
...Yet on March 31, Cuccinelli was the co-author with Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia of an opinion column in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Their piece pushes bipartisan bills passed by the General Assembly that would limit the use of drones and electronic devices to read and record car license plate numbers called license plate readers or LPRs.
A few thoughts on this. First, you might have noticed that I did NOT link to the aforementioned opinion column in this morning's news clips. That was intentional, as Ken Cuccinelli is an extremist, bigot, and paranoid nutjob who doesn't deserve one drop of ink (or pixels), except to mock him and to expose his extremism/bigotry. Why anyone would want to team up with or associate themselves in any way with this extremist is beyond me, but to each their own.Second, to the question posed by Peter Galuszka, the short answer is "no, Cuccinelli is most certainly NOT 'new and improved.'" A few examples of his recent ravings include: Mitch McConnell Surrenders on Amnesty (urges a shutdown of Homeland Security over immigration policy), House Abandons Pro-Life Bill(criticizes the GOP for not passing an unconstitutional 20-week abortion bill), 25 Republicans Oppose Boehner for Speaker (opposes John Boehner because he's supposedly too liberal), hung out with Ted Cruz on St. Patrick's daycontinues to promote crazy climate science denial/conspiracy theories, has engaged in "creepy Hillary Clinton bashing", posted this beyond-heinous cartoon on his Facebook page mocking climate science and showing Hillary Clinton about to be beheaded by an ISIS terrorist, started a "gun rights" firmcontinues his rabid homophobia and gay bashing, etc, etc. In short, meet the new Crazy Cooch, same as the old Crazy Cooch.
Finally, with regard to Cuccinellii's concerns for civil liberties, government surveillance, etc., that's nothing new whatsoever. The problem is that, although this is a serious issue, Cuccinelli is coming at it at least in part from a deeply non-serious place. For instance, see Virginia AG Ken Cuccinelli Worried about the Government Tracking His Son - Told Crowd He Might Not Get Social Security # from March 2010. But even if you discount Cuccinelli's paranoia/lunacy, obviously civil liberties and personal privacy issues are VERY serious ones, and for whatever reason(s), Cuccinelli has talked about them for a long time (e.g., see FreedomWorks Joins Rand Paul, Ken Cuccinelli in NSA Spying Class Action Lawsuit. So, yet again, this is nothing new or improved for Cuccinelli.
Bottom line: I'm not sure why Peter Galuszka, who I agree with 99% of the time, thinks that Ken

Free Nelson Informs Governor McAulliffe of the Error of his Comments

Written by Free Nelson Organizer, Marilyn Shifflett
During a March 26 radio interview with Governor McAuliffe in Richmond, a caller asked a question regarding the proposed route for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Governor did not answer the question, but did offer the following remark. "Nelson County - I think it's our smallest population county in Virginia." He went on to reaffirm his support for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), citing (supposed) cheap energy and jobs.
Governor McAuliffe's remark was totally inaccurate. Depending on the source, Nelson is ranked as the 23rd or 24th smallest county by population in Virginia. Why did he make this remark? Does he view Nelson as tiny and insignificant regarding its number of voters? Is this why he has answered citizen concerns about the ACP with stacks of form letters? Or, is it that he views the nearly 14,000 lives that could be placed at risk by a high-pressure, 42" pipeline as an acceptable number? Was the population of counties like Highland, Nelson, & Buckingham the determining factor behind Dominion's path for the ACP?
And isn't this acknowledgment of something on Dominion's part? Are they acknowledging safety risks they've previously denied to the press? Structures per mile determine the Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration's (PHMSA) classification of natural gas pipelines. The path chosen by Dominion for the ACP will make it a Class 1 location pipeline. This means little to no regulation by federal authorities (the US Department of Transportation in this case). It also means that they will not be required to install expensive, automatic shut-off valves, while the manual valves will be set miles and miles apart.
These are a few facts about Nelson County that Governor McAuliffe did not quote. The US Geological Survey (USGS) and the VA Department of Emergency Management designate Nelson County as "moderate incidence," "high risk" for flooding and debris flows (slides). The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has called Nelson an orographic lift zone which traps storms within our mountains and tends to drop heavy rainfalls. The VA Deptartment of Emergency Management also specifically recommends against "energy pipelines" in these areas.
Our governor is well aware of these reports, but has yet to publicly acknowledge their existence. We believe there are nearly 14,000 good reasons to ask him why.

Supreme Court Sends 3rd CD Racial "Packing" Case Back to Virginia 3-Judge Panel

Monday, March 30, 2015

If you dislike racial packing, this SCOTUS decision looks like good news.
The U.S. Supreme Court sent Virginia's 3rd District gerrymander case back down the pipe on Monday, a move that brings Virginia another step closer to a redraw of its congressional map.The nation's highest court vacated and remanded a three-judge panel's decision in the case, which alleges that state leaders focused on race when drew lines for the 3rd District. The district is represented by U.S. Rep. Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, and it meanders back and forth across the James River, taking in minority populations in Hampton Roads.
Given the plaintiff's initial victory, and last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of plaintiffs from a similar case out of Alabama, Monday's remand will likely lead federal judges here to re-affirm their initial order, according to Marc Elias, lead attorney for the plaintiffs.
"The Alabama decision supports our position," Elias said in an email. "We expect the three judge panel to reach the same result now that Alabama has been decided."
All in all, I'm told by someone (an attorney) with a lot more legal acumen than I've got that this is probably a good thing in the long term, "because the Eastern District Court of Virginia (EDVA) had a broad interpretation of the Voting Rights Act, and the SCOTUS case strengthens their case."  In turn, that "definitely helps when [the case] gets to the 4th circuit again. I think there was a good chance the 4th circuit was going to reverse the EDVA opinion before the SCOTUS opinion came down." Also, this "establishes a much firmer legal foundation for Rep. Scott's case (I thought the previous EDVA opinion was weak). But it does push the timeline back because the EDVA has to hear the case again before it inevitably gets appealed to the 4th circuit."Bottom line: "I think it will get through the 4th circuit by the middle of next year. Whether the GOP wants to waste more money and appeal it to the Supreme Court, who knows? I think it makes political sense for them to push it back as late as possible, but it will cost a ton of $ in legal bills and SCOTUS would almost certainly refuse to take the case since they just adjudicated a very similar case last week."
UPDATE: Del. Scott Surovell says, "Voting Rights Act redistricting cases are heard by three-judge DISTRICT COURT panels.  Appeals go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Federal appeals courts such as the Fourth Circuit play no role in these cases."
UPDATE #2: My main source for commentary on this article emails, "I should have been more precise: parties can appeal directly to SCOTUS in these cases, but circuit courts can be involved when there is no constitutional claim."

Teahadist Susan Stimpson Attacks "liberal interest group Equality Virginia," "mixed-sex bathrooms"

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The following screed (see blockquote below), by Tea Partier Susan Stimpson (running against House Speaker and corporate/polluter shill Bill "ALEC" Howell for Virginia House of Delegates) is not just ugly and bigoted, it's also flat-out wrong on two major points, demagogic on another. First, Stimpson is flat-out wrong in her claim that Equality Virginia is a "liberal interest groups." In fact, there IS a Democratic LGBT equality group in Virginia, known as theLGBT Democrats of Virginia (formerly called the "Virginia Partisans"). At least when it comes to that group, Stimpson could have semi-plausibly claimed that they are a "liberal interest group," although how fighting for EQUAL rights is an "interest group" is a bit beyond me. As for Equality Virginia, that is a NON-partisan group, a " 501(c)(3) charitable organization" which "believes in a truly inclusive Commonwealth where all are equally welcomed and valued, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity." I know, that's soooo radical -- equality for every Virginian and every American, per our Constitution. Yet Teahadist Susan Stimpson attacks this group for pushing an "extreme, liberal social agenda in our schools." WTF?Oh, and what is that supposedly "extreme, liberal social agenda?" For more on that, seeVideo: Courageous Stafford County Parent Gives Impassioned Plea for Respect of Transgender Student. Oh, and by the way, Stimpson is being demagogic when she claims that Equality Virginia is pushing for "mixed-sex bathrooms." In fact, we're talking about one student, a fourth grader who is transgender and who identifies as a girl. That's it for the "mixed-sex bathrooms." Now, back to Stimpson's pathetic, disgraceful attempt to ratchet up the hysteria and do whatever she can to win an election.
P.S. Stimpson is also wrong/misleading that Equality Virginia is "allied" in any way to Bill Howell. True, they donated money to Howell's PAC, for what reason I'll never understand, but the last time they did that was back in 2012, and that certainly doesn't make them "allies." Whatever.
The group pushing mixed-gender bathrooms in our schools gave money to Bill Howell for 7 years in a row. Yes, it's true.Liberal special interest group Equality Virginia is pushing for unisex bathrooms in Stafford County's public schools - so why did Bill Howell take their campaign contributions for seven years?
Instead of standing on principle and sending the money back, Howell was more than content to keep cashing the checks.
Earlier this month, parents in Stafford County were horrified to learn that left-coast style mixed-gender bathrooms might be coming to schools in Stafford County.
Predictably, a liberal special interest group, Equality Virginia, wasted no time in lobbying our School Board to accept its extreme, liberal social agenda in our schools.

ar-Right-Wing Nutjob Dick Black and His BFFs Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, Pete Candland, Hal Parrish

Saturday, March 28, 2015

To introduce this photo montage of extremist insanity, let me just remind you of who Virginia State Senator Dick Black is and what he's said/done over the years. A feew "highlights" include: What Is It With Loudoun Republicans?!? Dick Black on Spousal Rape, "Nighties," etc.The Truth About Dick Black (e.g., called birth control pills "baby pesticides," passed out "pink plastic fetus dolls to state lawmakers in 2003 in a creepy campaign to win votes for various anti-abortion measures," called "An Embarrassment to us all" by John Feegel, a former Chief of Staff to the Republican Leader in the Virginia House of Delegates);Republican Loudoun-sanity Continues: Dick Black Rails Against Gays in the Military ("there was a young fellow who went to the showers at night, there were two homosexuals lurking -- they were also basic trainees - and they strangled him with a towel and forced him to submit to, you know, things that we won't talk about"); Sen. Dick Black (R-Homophobia): Polygamy "just more natural" than homosexualityVA Sen. Dick Black (R) Praises "Extraordinary Gallantry" of Syrian Armed ForcesGOP Candidate Who Made Marital Rape Remarks Drops Out of Congressional Rac, etc, etc. So who in their right mind would have this extremist maniac speak at their campaign events or pose for photos with him?  In the montage below, clockwise from the top left, you've got bat****-crazy Sen. Ted Cruz, "stupid party" epitome Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Gainesville District (Prince William County) Supervisor Pete Candland, and last but not least supposed "moderate" (guess not!) Manassas City Mayor Hal Parrish. Yep, those are Dick Black's BFFs, and I think it goes without saying that none of them should ever be elected to anything, let alone higher office, going forward.

When It Comes to Solar Power, Virginia Falls Behind...Georgia?!?

Yes, believe it or not, Virginia - which we've heard politicians claims SHOULD be the "energy capital of the east coast" - is not only failing miserably in that goal, it's even falling behind politically "redder" states like North Carolina and Georgia.  Read it and weep (or better yet, get vocal!)
National solar installers like SolarCity, SunPower, SunEdison and Vivint are likely to benefit from the legislation, which would allow residential customers to lease rooftop solar installations and sell the excess power they generate.Signaling a major compromise, the state's largest utility, Southern Company subsidiary Georgia Power, backed the legislation passed today...
...The "Solar Power Free-Market Financing Act of 2015," spearheaded by Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R), was a year and a half in the making, with a strong push from the conservative grassroots group Georgians for Solar Freedom.
Meanwhile, here in Virginia, it's very VERY difficult for rooftop solar power leasing companies like SolarCity, SunPower, SunEdison and Vivint to operate, as Dominion Power and its bought-and-paid-for political puppets throw obstacles in their path, while keeping the playing field heavily tilted in the direction of dirty energy  (through taxpayer-funded corporate welfare of various types, failure to make the "polluter pay," refusal to adopt a serious Renewable Portfolio Standard for Virginia, etc.).As a result, Virginia has fallen wayyyy behind many other states when it comes to distributed (or even utility-scale) solar power (see 2014 Top 10 Solar States and note that you won't find Virginia anywhere on there -- #FAIL). So when is this pathetic situation going to change?  Simple: when we forbid state-regulated monopoly Dominion Power from buying our political system, and when we elect more pro-clean-energy legislators to our state legislature.
On that latter point, note that some of the strongest supporters of solar power are conservatives and even Tea Partiers. For instance, see Thanks To Conservatives, Florida Is Now One Step Closer To Making Solar Energy More Accessible, which explains how a "pro-solar conservative group in Florida cleared a major hurdle this week in its journey to make solar more accessible in the state." Also see 'Green Tea Coalition': Strange bedfellows fight for solar power in Sunshine State. So where's the Virginia version of the "Green Tea Coalition?"

Dominion's Errors, Accidents Reduce Confidence in Ability to Build Natural Gas Pipeline Safely

Friday, March 27, 2015

( - promoted by lowkell)

Free Nelson has been reporting on errors, accidents and violations by Dominion and/or its partnerships over the last several months. We became interested in Dominion's safety record last May, when Nelsonians began receiving letters regarding a 554-mile long, 42" natural gas pipeline known then as the Southern Reliability Project.  The pipeline has since been renamed the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), and is now a partnership between Dominion, Duke, Piedmont Natural Gas and AGL Resources.The proposed ACP would cut a 125' swath, wide enough for a 6-lane highway, through Nelson's steep, forested terrain, as well through our rolling farmland.  The originally-proposed route for Nelson is approximately 30 miles, entering at the county's northeast corner near Humpback Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It would travel in a southeasterly direction to the James River. This route, or any of the other four recently announced alternate routes through the county, would traverse the land of hundreds of private property owners.
We have heard all the platitudes. The most often heard is that "pipelines are the safest way to transport natural gas." Actually, it is the only way natural gas is transported. But that doesn't mean it is safe. As pipelines increase in size, it becomes more imperative that we know the risks to those in the path of these behemoths. In 2012, a 20" natural gas pipeline exploded in Sissonville, WV along Interstate 77, melting 800' of the interstate highway, destroying three homes and damaging countless others.  Another pipeline, in Appomattox County, Virginia, exploded in 2008, destroying two homes, melting the siding on over 100 others as far as a mile away. Clearly, the radiational heat from these explosions is tremendous.  Yet here in Nelson, Dominion (which has chosen the proposed path) puts existing lawndowners' homes within 330' of a much larger, 42" pipeline which operates at a much higher 1,440 psi than the two pipeline explosions we gave as examples.
We won't address Dominion's many lies, nor the crass, bullying behavior of Dominion toward landowners and our community in this article. But we will share with you the many errors, unreported violations, fines and accidents Dominion and its partnerships have been party to over the last few years.

Video: AG Mark Herring Says We Should Be "Ashamed" of Predatory Lending in VA, Vows to Fight It

Yet again, the difference between having right-wing extremist Mark Obenshain (shudddderrrr) as Virginia Attorney General, and having Mark Herring as our AG, is immense. In this case, Herring is fighting against a despicable practice - predatory lending. "...on matters large and on matters small, we are going to fight for the rights of Virginia consumers. But there's one place where we need to do more and we're going to do more. I read a few weeks ago that Virginia is now considered the predatory lending capital of the East Coast, and I cannot accept that. It hurts our reputation as a state, and more than that, it means that here are Virginians who are being hurt, and I cannot accept that." Full remarks on the "flip."P.S. "Democrats" like Dick Saslaw who support predatory lending should be ashamed of themselves.

Dominion Plan for New Gas-Fired Power Plant Would Worsen the Climate Crisis

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Statement from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network on Dominion's latest bull****:
RICHMOND-Dominion Resources, already the top emitter of planet-heating greenhouse gas pollution in Virginia, announced a proposal this morning to build a new 1,600-megawatt gas-fired power plant in Southside Virginia. If approved, the plant would be the largest gas-fired power plant in the state.Kirsten Collings, deputy director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, had the following statement in response:
"You can't solve the climate crisis by investing in more fossil fuels. A growing body of evidence shows that fracked gas could be worse for the climate than coal over the next 20 years because of leaks of heat-trapping methane. Governor McAuliffe has his facts wrong in endorsing this project as 'clean,' just as he did when endorsing Dominion's massive Atlantic Coast pipeline for fracked gas.
"The reality is that Virginia simply doesn't need and can't afford new investments in fossil fuels. Dominion could more than offset the need to build a new gas-burning power plant by investing in modest energy-saving technologies that would reduce demand along with Virginians' utility bills. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Virginians pay the 7th highest average electric bills in the nation, and our state ranks near the bottom on energy efficiency. Dominion should invest in the commonwealth's vast clean energy resources, which would create jobs, lower bills and reduce emissions of climate-disrupting pollution."

Video: Courageous Stafford County Parent Gives Impassioned Plea for Respect of Transgender Student

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Last night, the Stafford County School Board, prior to voting, took public feedback on a debate over transgender students' bathroom access. For some background,  see Think Progress, which explains:
Hartwood Elementary School, part of the Stafford County school system,started by accommodating the student's identity. She was allowed to use the girls' room per her gender identity and in consultation with her parents. When another parent complained, the district's Executive Director of Human Resources, Rick L. Fitzgerald, released a message on behalf of the district referring to recent guidance from the Department of Justice that indicates that the "sex" protections under Title IX protect transgender students' use of facilities that match the gender with which they identify. Allowing the fourth-grader to use the girls' room was simply the district complying with the law....The transgender student's father, Jonathan Adams, also testified. He admitted to having some of the same misconceptions when the child he thought was his son insisted she was a girl. "And then I watched my little girl grow up," he said. Adams proclaimed that he was "very proud to have a special little girl," and implored others "not to trade understanding for fear or trade misconceptions for hate."
Later in the evening, however, the school board voted 6-0 to direct the superintendent to restrict the girl's bathroom use.
Also interesting were the comments by the public. For the entire debate, most of which involved parents opposed to allowing the transgender student (who identifies as female) to use the girls' bathroom, see here. The video I've included is of a courageous parent (of two students in the Stafford County school system) delivering an impassioned plea for respect and tolerance for the transgender student. Sadly, her pleas feel on deaf ears...
Discuss :: (3 Comments)

SCOTUS Ruling on Alabama Racial "Packing" Could Be Important Precedent for Virginia Cases

Today's Supreme Court decision on racial gerrymandering invalidates an Alabama redistricting plan that packed minority voters into  majority-minority districts. What "packing" African Americans does is to basically guarantee an African-American will be elected in the "packed" district(s), but that African Americans' voting power will be diluted everywhere else.Here in Virginia, this issue came to a head last fall, when three federal judges ruled "that the lines of the state's 3rd Congressional District were drawn in violation of the U.S. Constitution" and "ordered the General Assembly to redraw them by April 1, in time for the next congressional election in 2016."
The 3rd District is the only one of Virginia's 11 congressional districts with an African American majority. It has been represented since 1992 by Rep. Bobby Scott, a Newport News Democrat who is unopposed in the Nov. 4 election.In a 2-1 decision, the judges agreed with the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed a year ago that the congressional redistricting plan adopted by the Republican-controlled Assembly in 2012 amounted to racial gerrymandering, packing African American voters into Scott's district and leaving adjoining districts safer for their Republican incumbents.
In order to comply with the panel's ruling, the legislature might have to pull some Democratic-leaning voters out of Scott's district and redistribute them to surrounding districts, possibly creating less-hospitable electoral terrain for Republican Reps. Randy Forbes of Chesapeake and Scott Rigell of Virginia Beach.
Note that in 2012, Barack Obama lost the 4th CD (Forbes' district) by just 1 point, while Tim Kaine narrowly won it. Thus, a shift of even a few points could make Randy Forbes' political life a lot less cozy. Same thing with Scott Rigell, whose second district Barack Obama narrowly won in 2012.Meanwhile, yet another Virginia lawsuit accuses "the General Assembly of 'racial gerrymandering' by packing black voters into 12 of the state's House of Delegates districts." For that reason, "[t]he plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the challenged districts invalid and to block the state from holding elections because of the disputed districts." If plaintiffs win this case, it could lead to the redrawing not just of the affected districts, but also potentially surrounding ones as well. And that, in turn, could have significant consequences for the balance of power in the Virginia House of Delegates. Not surprisingly, House of Delegates Republicans are in no hurry to deal with this situation, and would clearly prefer that it just go away. Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for those who dislike racial gerrymandering and "packing," that's not likely.
Bottom line: Today's SCOTUS ruling has potentially big implications for Virginia, because Rep. Bobby Scott's case is factually similar, as is the House of Delegates case.  

Dominion/Atlantic Coast Pipeline Suit Dismissed in Suffolk Circuit Court

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

In May, 2014 Dominion Transmission sent letters to property owners from West Virginia to North Carolina requesting to survey private property for the proposed natural gas pipeline known then as the Southern Reliability Project. Many landowners refused, including approximately 70% of landowners in Nelson County.
In December, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, a Delaware limited liability corporation, began suing landowners who had refused to allow Dominion Transmission to survey. The first of these cases was heard today in Suffolk Circuit Court. Below is a press release from Chuck Lollar, the attorney who argued the case for a landowner in Suffolk who had refused the survey.   Suffice it to say, neither Dominion nor the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) LLC are happy this evening. On the other hand, many landowners across the Commonwealth are celebrating, including Heidi Cochran, a landowner in Nelson County who called us this afternoon to alert us of this victory in court. 
A Virginia court today dismissed the petition of Atlantic Coast Pipeline, LLC against a Suffolk property owner represented by Chuck Lollar of the law firm of Waldo & Lyle, which exclusively represents property owners only in eminent domain and property rights matters.The Court heard arguments from Mr. Lollar and ACP attorney John Wilburn on the constitutionality of Virginia Code § 56-49.01.  Mr. Lollar argued that because property is now specifically referred to in the recent amendment to Virginia's Declaration of Rights (Article 1 Section 11 of the Constitution) as a "fundamental" right, ACP is required to show a compelling governmental interest and no lesser restrictive alternative to the requested entry;  and that applying the required strict scrutiny ACP had not alleged nor could establish either.  Mr. Lollar also noted that ACP was not a Virginia public service corporation and did not have the extraordinary power of eminent domain.
ACP was proceeding under § 56-49.01 in seeking a court order allowing entry to survey and take soil and other samples from private property, prior to filing its application with FERC for a certificate of public convenience and necessity.  The Court did not have to rule on that constitutionality of § 56-49.01 due to the Court's  conclusion that Atlantic Coast Pipeline had neither requested permission from the owner to enter nor sent the owner notice of intent to enter, both of which are prerequisites to actual entry under § 56-49.01. The Court further held that Dominion Transmission, Inc. could not assign to ACP its sending of letters requesting permission and giving notice to owners,  in order for ACP to have met those requirements.

How Are Virginia Dems Doing So Far in House of Delegates Recruitment?

A few weeks ago, I posted a graphic showing Virginia's House of Delegates districts, ranked in descending order by the percent that AG candidate Mark Herring received in 2013. Now, I'm well aware that turnout in 2015 will be even lower than 2013 (a statewide/governor's election year), but it's still a more accurate baseline, IMHO, than any "even year" election.Anyway, what this ranking showed was that there are currently 12 House of Delegates districts where Mark Herring received 50% or greater in 2013, yet are held by Republican delegates. There are also two 49% Herring districts, two 48% Herring districts, two 47% Herring districts, and four 46% Herring districts currently held by Republican delegates. So how are we doing (e.g., how are House Minority Leader David Toscano and Del. Alfonso Lopez, Campaign and Political Chair of the House Democratic Caucus) in terms of recruitment in these districts so far?
According to VPAP, we now have a (super-strong) candidate, Jennifer Boysko, in the 86th district, where Del. Tom Rusthas announced his retirement. Nothing's an automatic, but that one looks like a superb pickup opportunity for Democrats this November. We also have candidates in the following districts:
*HD-87 (56% Herring district): Democrat Jack Tiwari vs. Del. David Ramadan
*HD-32 (54% Herring district): Democrat Elizabeth Miller vs. Del. Tag Greason
*HD-42 (53% Herring district): Democrat Joana Garcia vs. Del. Dave Albo
*HD-13 (51% Herring district): Democrat Don Shaw vs. Del. "Sideshow Bob" Marshall
*HD-12 (50% Herring district): Democrat Laurie Buchwald vs. Del. Joseph Yost
*HD-21 (50% Herring district): Democrat Susan Hippen vs. Del. Ron Villanueva
*HD-50 (50% Herring district): Democrat Kyle McCullough vs. Del. Jackson Miller
*HD-94 (49% Herring district): Democrat Shelly Simonds vs. Del. David Yancey
*HD-100 (49% Herring distirct): Democrat Willie Randall vs. Del. Rob Bloxom
*HD-28 (48% Herring district): Democrat Kandy Hilliard vs. House Speaker Bill Howell (let's hope Tea Partier Susan Stimpson wins that primary!)
*HD-40 (47% Herring district): Democrat Jerry Foltz vs. Del. Tim Hugo
All in all, not too shabby, and we still have time to recruit candidates in remaining potentially competitive, House of Delegates districts. In the end, this could turn out to be an excellent year in terms of recruitment. The question is whether we'll be able to adequately fund these candidates, as Republicans started off 2015 with a big money advantage for House of Delegates.
The remaining top House of Delegates recruiting priorities, as far as I can tell, are: 1) someone to challenge Del. Jim LeMunyon in his 54% Mark Herring district (in 2013, Democrat Hung Nguyen got 45.3%); 2) ditto for right-wingnut extraordinaire Del. Scott Lingamfelter, in his 52% Mark Herring district (last time around, Jeremy McPike lost by just 228 votes; not sure why he's not trying again this year!); 3) ditto against Del. Rich Anderson in his 50% Mark Herring district (Democrat Reed Heddleston got 46% in 2013).
One other seat worth noting is the 2nd, a 56% Mark Herring district being vacacted by Del. Michael Futrell. Our candidate there is Roderick Hall, who will take on former Del. Mark Dudenhefer.
P.S. I just read this morning that "Political newcomer Chuck Hedges, a Democrat, will challenge incumbent state Del. David LaRock (R) in this year's House of Delegates 33rd District election." That's a tough district (44% for Mark Herring in 2013), but what the heck, you can't win if you don't play!

Video: Rep. Gerry Connolly Slams House GOP Draconian Budget

So true!
Mr. Chairman, this year's Republican Budget Resolution is incredulously titled "A Balanced Budget for a Stronger America." But by every measure, the draconian cuts proposed in this budget would severely WEAKEN America's innovative advantage and competitiveness. It might as well be called "Let's Disinvest in America".Consider the cuts to basic research, once a bedrock federal priority that has spurred new discoveries that are now vital in our daily lives and the economy. R&D is critical for my Northern Virginian district, where the technology community is driving innovation. But this Republican budget would slash R&D funding by 15% to its lowest levels since 2002. That is a retreat from America's role as the global innovation leader, and essentially cedes the playing field to our international competition.
Similarly, the Republican budget would disinvest in our classrooms. To achieve their ruse of balancing the budget over 10 years, Republicans would cut non-defense spending 24% below the already-reduced sequester levels. For K-12 education, that translates into an $89 billion cut over the next decade and would surely leave every child behind their international peers. It also would put higher education further out of reach for low- and middle-class families.
America did not ascend to its role as the world's leading economy by quashing the potential of future innovators and leaders.
Mr. Speaker, our Republican colleagues are once again showing they know the cost of everything and  the value of very little. I often hear my colleagues lament that we should run government more like a business. Well, if that's the case, perhaps we should start by listening to the business community, which is advocating for us to invest more, not less, in R&D, in education, and in infrastructure for the future workforce and the building blocks of a competitive economy.
These are investments that yield tremendous returns for our families, for our children, for our future, and the Republican budget would eviscerate these pillars of America's exceptionalism.
I yield back

10 Out of 11 Members of Virginia House Delegation Sign Letter to President Obama on Iran

Yesterday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee announced that 367 members of the U.S. House of Representatives had signed and "released a bipartisan letter to President Obama underscoring the 'grave and urgent issues that have arisen' relating to the ongoing nuclear negotiations with Iran." The actionable part is at the end (see blockquote below), following a list of Iran's transgressions (e.g., " Iran has still not revealed its past bomb work, despite its international obligations to do so;" "Iran's decades of deception," and "Iran's destabilizing role in the regio").  The letter also states a clear demand that any agreement with Iran "must constrain Iran's nuclear infrastructure so that Iran has no pathway to a bomb, and that agreement must be long-lasting." 
The United States has had a longstanding interest in preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability. Over the last twenty years, Congress has passed numerous pieces of legislation, imposing sanctions on Iran to prevent that outcome, ultimately forcing Iran into negotiations. Should an agreement with Iran be reached, permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation. In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief.Resolving the nuclear crisis with Iran remains of grave importance to our nation's security. As the Administration continues to negotiate with Iran, we are prepared to evaluate any agreement to determine its long-term impact on the United States and our allies. We remain hopeful that a diplomatic solution preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon may yet be reached, and we want to work with you to assure such a result.
The Iran letter was signed by 10 out of 11 members of Virginia's House delegation, the only non-signatory being Rep. Don Beyer. I'm curious why Beyer didn't sign (I emailed his office late yesterday but haven't heard back), while the other two Virginia Democrats - Gerry Connolly and Bobby Scott - did. Personally, I can see reasons for signing and for not signing. Although I don't really disagree with anything in the letter, the question is whether it is helpful, harmful, or where exactly in between those two?P.S. For a list of the 59 House Dems and 6 House Republicans who didn't sign the letter, click here -- a mixed bag ideologically, geographically, etc.  

Rep. Beyer Joins Gov. McAuliffe and HHS Sec. Burwell in Arlington on 5th Anniversary of ACA

Monday, March 23, 2015

What amazes me about the Affordable Care Act is how it's worked out so well, even better in some ways than people had predicted, and how Republicans were were wrong about pretty much every aspect of what would happen. Now, just imagine if Republicans had been cooperative, instead of obstructionist, how many more people could have health insurance coverage right now under Medicaid expansion, etc. It's truly disgraceful how Republicans have acted, as well as bizarre, given that the ACA was modeled heavily after their own plans and proposals (e.g., Romneycare).
Fifth Anniversary of Affordable Care ActMarch 23, 2015 (Washington, D.C.) - U.S. Representative Don Beyer joined Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell, along with local officials, leaders, and consumers in Arlington this morning to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.
"Historians will one day write that the Affordable Care Act was the single most important act of moral leadership in the early 21st century," said Rep. Beyer. "Emancipation, women's suffrage, Social Security, the Affordable Care Act - each a bold move to expand upon the idea that all Americans have the equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
"But we still have more work to do. Especially in the Commonwealth of Virginia. There is no denying that we badly need Medicaid expansion. We are lucky to have a true champion, fighting the good fight in Richmond. Governor McAuliffe has been courageous and relentless - and one day soon he will prevail, and the amount of human suffering he will banish is almost beyond imagination."
Governor McAuliffe's plan expands access to care, improve care for veterans and those with severe mental illness, and enhance value and innovation across our health system in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Healthy Virginia Plan provides health insurance to as many as 25,000 Virginians, however more than 400,000 Virginians will continue to be uninsured as long as Medicaid expansion is not passed through the General Assembly.
Over 16 million Americans have gained quality, affordable health insurance since the ACA became law. More than 11 million Americans were able to sign up or re-enroll through the Marketplace during this year's Open Enrollment. Nearly 80 percent of 2015 Marketplace customers using purchased coverage for $100 or less after tax credits.

Shutdown Ted Un-Ironically Announcing Campaign in Virginia

From DPVA:
Ted Cruz couldn’t have picked a worse place than Virginia to launch his soon-to-be-failed campaign for president. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that over 80% of Virginians overwhelmingly disapproved of his government shutdown – a political tantrum Cruz still threatens to repeat today. Virginia, home to thousands of federal workers and military personnel, was more affected than any other state by his dangerous antics.

Cruz would happily keep thousands of Virginians from their jobs and paychecks just to show his opposition to affordable healthcare. Meanwhile, in the Lynchburg area alone, there are over 11,000 Virginians languishing without access to quality care thanks to his national right-wing movement against closing the coverage gap.

“Ted Cruz is remarkably tone-deaf to launch his campaign in Virginia, of all places, after engineering the government shutdown that kept thousands of Virginians from their jobs and cost the national economy $24 billion,” said Robert Dempsey, Executive Director of the Democratic Party of Virginia. “His policies are wrong for the Commonwealth and wrong for the middle class, from repealing all corporate income taxes to opposing a living wage and affordable healthcare. Ted Cruz can take his shutdown politics elsewhere -- Virginians know better than to take him seriously.”
Ted Cruz is the embodiment of everything wrong with today’s Republicans: all he’s done is oppose and obstruct help for the middle class through his bombastic outbursts and unwillingness to govern. Shutdown Ted is starting off on the completely wrong foot coming to a state disproportionally hurt by his partisan brinksmanship to launch a campaign for more of the same. 

At Kickoff, Janet Oleszek Rips Fairfax Supervisor John Cook for Financial Conflicts of Interest

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I'm uploading some video now (including of Delegate David Bulova and Senator Chap Petersen introducing Janet Oleszek) from Oleszek's campaign kickoff earlier this afternoon for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors from the Braddock District. Also, see below for the prepared text of Janet Oleszek's speech today. Remember, Oleszek lost to Republican incumbent John Cook by just 371 votes (12,492-12,121) last time around, in 2011. Since then, Cook has been no better, and in some ways worse. See below and after the "flip" for Oleszek's blistering critique of Cook on ethics issues, specifically noting that "John's firm is representing the Sheriff's office in the recent taser death at the Fairfax jail." Oleszek further notes the John Geer case, and that Cook's "law firm is taking on a number of high profile cases involving Fairfax County," which "means he has to recuse himself at times" on important issues pertaining to Braddock District and to Fairfax County in general. Obviously, if you find this situation unacceptable, you should NOT be voting to reelect John Cook this November. Instead, you can be one of the 372 additional votes Janet Oleszek needs to boot Cook off the Board once and for all. Go Janet!
Thank you all for coming!  Thank you David for that great introduction!  And thank you Chap for your great remarks as well!
Four years ago I decided to seek a seat on the Board of Supervisors because our community was in need.  We were not in need of a new set of priorities, Fairfax has always been known as a community ready to invest in its schools, in our workforce and for those in our community in need.  But over the years in the great recession budgets got tight and we started to see real cracks emerging in the foundation of our community.  That's what made me decide to run for the Board of Supervisors.
Unfortunately we were not successful the first time.  52% of voters in Braddock District voted against Supervisor Cook but we split that vote with an independent candidate and came up short in the closest race in Fairfax County that year.  After that campaign I decided I would watch carefully and only run for this position again if Supervisor Cook continued to work against our priorities.  Unfortunately he has and that brings us to why we are here today.  Let me tell you about what has happened since our campaign in 2011.
lowkell :: At Kickoff, Janet Oleszek Rips Fairfax Supervisor John Cook for Financial Conflicts of Interest
Fairfax County schools have had their full funding requests denied from Board of Supervisors every year.  Because of that, class sizes have continued to rise at the elementary, middle and high school level.  Our teachers have fallen further behind neighboring localities in terms of salary and we have had many great teachers leave us because of that.  That's why I've worked as the Chair of the Coalition to Fully Fund Fairfax Schools- I refuse to stand by while our schools move away from what made them so great!Our human services which were once called the gold standard for localities have fallen as well.  Did you know in Arlington and Alexandria there is no wait list for parents on welfare to get child care assistance while in Fairfax the waiting list has grown by hundreds?  How can we expect a young parent on welfare to get back to working if they can't afford child care?  Public safety has taken a hit in funding, as have many other important county programs.
We are facing a crossroads.  RIGHT.  NOW.  We can either demand that the Board of Supervisors make these needed investments in our community- or the Fairfax that we knew in the past won't exist in the future.
And where has John Cook been on these issues?  He has not been an advocate for making these investments in our community.  John is still taking the salary every other Supervisor makes while he does the job "part time".  
Speaking of his other job... John's small law firm is taking on a number of high profile cases involving Fairfax County.  This means he has to recuse himself at times- taking away our community's voice on the Board of Supervisors.  Even worse- as a partner in this firm, John seems to be directly benefiting from some of the public money that is being paid to his firm.  This isn't just on some minor issues either- John's firm is representing the Sheriff's office in the recent taser death at the Fairfax jail.  After the unacceptable delays in the John Geer case, we need Supervisors who are ready to speak on behalf of the public to ensure this NEVER happens again.  We do NOT need a Supervisor who has to recuse himself from the public safety discussion because of financial conflicts of interest.
So I need your help.  I'll bring the discussion about making larger investments in our community to the Board next year if we can just make up that final 1% of the vote that we needed last time.  I will bring ethics reform to the Board of Supervisors so members are held accountable for creating conflicts of interest- if you can help me find just 372 more votes.
This election will once again be one of the closest in Fairfax County this year.  Let's finish the job and make sure a handful of votes don't silence us again this year!

PW County Republicans Screw Up Big Time, Pathetically Try to Blame Democrats, #FAIL

Saturday, March 21, 2015

You may have seen the article in this morning's Washington Post about the Prince William County Republicans' failure in court Friday to convince a judge "to overturn a decision by the Prince William County Electoral Board that blocked Republican efforts to hold primary nominating contests for several local GOP incumbents who are running for another term." As the Post reports, the decision "angered [Prince William County Board Chair Corey] Stewart and his colleagues [Supervisors Martin Nohe, Maureen Caddigan and Sheriff Glen Hill], although they said they're unlikely to file an appeal." The reason they're "angered" is obvious: because the Republican incumbents stand a far greater chance of losing to a Tea Partier in a smaller nomninating process, such as a "firehouse primary" or convention, then in a much larger primary.I've been following this story in the papers and on the blogs, and have been wondering how it would play out. I was super busy late last week and had very little time to follow up with my sources in Prince William County about this, but I've been eager to do so, as it seemed like such a juicy story. So, earlier this morning, I emailed Prince William County Democratic Committee Chair Harry Wiggins, asking him specifically about this post on the right-wing, Prince William County political blog, "Sheriff of Nottingham", which basically gloats/celebrates the fact that Stewart et al. lost in court, and that "they will now be forced to account to a group of fiscally Republican voters for their horrendous voting records on taxes and spending." (gotta laugh at that claim, but whatever...have at it, Teapublicans, I'll sit back and make some more hot-buttered popcorn! LOL)
By the way, I've heard from multiple sources (including Harry Wiggins; see below) that the "Sheriff of Nottingham" blog is written by Gainesville District Supervisor Pete Candland (R)'s top political aide, Mac Haddow (you can read more about Haddow in the Washington Post, including that Haddow "pleaded guilty to an unrelated conflict-of-interest charge while at HHS and was sentenced to several months in prison for launching a nonprofit foundation with ties to HHS that employed his wife"). I asked Prince William County Dems' Chair Harry Wiggins about this, and about the PW County GOP meltdown generally, and he responded:
The convicted felon, Mac Haddow is the puppeteer for the two puppets, [Gainesville District Supervisor] Pete Candland and [Brentsville District Supervisor] Jeanine Lawson, while Haddow denies [it], there is no doubt he is the "Sheriff." By the way, Haddow's wife - who was the recipient of Haddow funnelling money to her non-profit and resulted in Mac going to prison - is on Candland's staff.Haddow is trying to take out Stewart, Nohe and Caddigan and replace them with nut jobs, nuttier than Stewart.
I talked to Wiggins over the phone a little while ago, and he had a lot to say. Here are some highlights.

Randy Forbes Declares Bigotry is Christian

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sat Mar 21, 2015 at 10:40:28 AM EDT

While Jeb Bush made his usual, mushy, try-to-please-everybody response yesterday in Atlanta when asked about a proposed Georgia law to allow businesses to discriminate against gays by claiming a religious belief, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-4th Virginia) clearly declared his support for such discrimination a few days ago in an op-ed appearing in the Washington Examiner, when he and another Representative, James Lankford of Oklahoma, straight out advocated for prejudice against gays. Bush hedged his support for blatant discrimination by saying that "couples in long-term committed relationships" deserve "respect," but then justified prejudice by stating that people had a right to discriminate because of their "faith." Not Forbes.Forbes and Lankford  used a bizarre, ridiculous  reason for their support of bigotry, tying it to a business decision by Chipotle restaurants to refuse to buy and serve pork from suppliers using cruel factory farming of pigs. Because Chipotle could decide from whom to buy its food, Forbes argues that all businesses  should have the right to discriminate against gays and lesbians because they say their "religion" requires it. Or, put another way, if one can "discriminate" against pork for humane reasons, then bigots should be able to discriminate against other people on the basis of who they love. Huh??
Without even going into the obvious unconstitutionality of such discrimination, my first question for the legally-challenged representative from the 4th District is this: Just how will businesses know a person is gay? In Nazi Germany it was easy because gays and lesbians were required to wear pink triangles. Is that the next step in a Forbes plan to let people justify their hatred through claims of a religious exemption?
It's past time for voters in the 4th District to find someone else to represent them, someone who won't be a national embarrassment.  Randy Forbes does nothing for the citizens of his district, while doing far too much to show the world just how ridiculous he can be.

Ellen Arthur will challenge Ben Cline for 24th District House of Delegates seat

Friday, March 20, 2015

( - promoted by lowkell)

Ellen Arthur, who is retiring after 35 years as a practicing attorney in Lexington and vicinity, will kick off her campaign for the Democratic nomination for the 24th District House of Delegates seat currently occupied by Republican Ben Cline on Thursday April 2 at 10 a.m. in front of the old courthouse in Amherst, 113 Taylor Street. She will similarly kick off her campaign that day in front of the Augusta County Courthouse in Staunton at 1 p.m. and at Hopkins Green Park in downtown Lexington at 4 p.m.  She will appear in Bath County on a date to be announced shortly.The public is invited to all these events.
"Although I've never run for political office before, I am very concerned about the direction that politics have taken in Virginia, especially in the General Assembly," Ms. Arthur said. "Too many legislators are more concerned about pleasing well-funded interests and getting reelected than they are in serving the needs of their constituents.
"I am concerned about the future of Virginia and am running for office to do my part to build a better Virginia for our children and grandchildren.
"I'm especially troubled by Delegate Cline's strenuous opposition to the expansion of Medicaid in Virginia under the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid expansion, which is being implemented even by Republican-controlled legislatures in other states, would allow up to 400,000 working Virginians, including thousands of hard-working people in the 24th District, to obtain health insurance. Virginians currently are paying federal taxes to fund Medicaid expansion and getting nothing in return. Medicaid expansion would pay for itself. Virginians currently pays for services to people who lack health insurance from the state general fund, as do all of us in higher health care expenses. Expanding Medicaid would allow Virginia to use the federal dollars and reduce the state's costs.

Dominion's Bought-And-Paid-For Supporters vs. Grassroots Atlantic Coast Pipeline Opponents

( - promoted by lowkell)

Free Nelson attended Thursday night's Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) meeting in the Shenandoah Valley. The meeting was designed to hear concerns from the public regarding the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), and to contribute input towards the Environmental impact study (EIS) FERC is required to conduct.  What we found truly astonishing about this meeting was the lengths to which Dominion Power continues to sink in its efforts to create the appearance of support for its ill-conceived, dirty fossil fuel pipeline. Some of the tactics used by Dominion are eerily similar to a 6-year-old throwing a temper tantrum, and they're just as unattractive.
After inviting folks who do not live in the affected areas of the proposed ACP, Dominion's uninformed "plants" attended a pre-meeting meal supplied by Dominion. To be allowed to speak, everyone had to stand in line to receive a speaker number. Everyone, that is, except - surprise, surprise! - Dominion supporters. One Dominion supporter even tried and failed to cut into the front of the line. After a commotion, he was summarily sent to the back, grumbling all the way.
When grassroots activists arrived at Stuarts Draft High School at 5 pm, Dominion was already present and had put up its "clean energy" signs.  Friends of Augusta and Augusta County Alliance volunteers put up two large "No Pipeline" signs, dwarfing Dominion's yard signs.  Dominion reps came out and added a dozen more yard signs. Grassroots activists continued by putting up yard signs -- this time, a set of No Pipeline signs harkening back to the old "Burma Shave" signs.
Again, Dominion reps appeared with more "Clean Energy" signs, placing them so as to block the message of the Burma Shave signs. Volunteer Tom Harvey insisted Dominion move those signs from blocking our message. As both the activists and Dominion countered with signs, Mr. Harvey approached a Dominion employee stating he had 1,000 signs in his vehicle. He suggested he could put them all up or they could call a truce, which the Dominion representative readily agreed to.

Video: UMW Student Presents Powerful Case for Fossil Fuel Divestment; Rector Condescends

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Superb job by DivestUMW Representative Zakaria Kronemer. Here's some background on what you see in the videos (part 1 here, part 2 on the "flip").
University of Mary Washington Board of Visitors Rejects Student, Faculty, and Administration VoiceMarch 18th, 2015 - The University of Mary Washington's Board of Visitors, a governor appointed university advisory board, has rejected the student's, faculty's, and the administration's concerns over the university's investments in the fossil fuel industry. The Board of Visitors has refused, without deliberation, to form a subcommittee in order to explore divestment options. DivestUMW, the central organization campaigning on the issue responded within 15 minutes to confront the Board of Visitors with a rally of over 30 students.
Zakaria Kronemer, a member of DivestUMW stated to Holly Cuellar, Rector of the Board of Visitors, "we were asking for information, we were asking you to take our voices seriously, and you flat out rejected it, and we will hold you accountable for that."
DivestUMW has been campaigning for 2 years at the University of Mary Washington to demand a divestment from the fossil fuel industry.
Also see Part 2 of the video, on the "flip," in which UMW Rector Holly T. Cuellar replies in an utterly inadequate, condescending, even insulting fashion to Zakaria Kronemer of DivestUMW. Kronemer's response is right on point: "You didn't respond to us then and you're not responding to us now." I'd just a link to The argument for divesting from fossil fuels is becoming overwhelming, which explains why investing in fossil fuels is so risky (e.g., Paul Fisher of the Bank of England warns, "As the world increasingly limits carbon emissions, and moves to alternative energy sources, investments in fossil fuels - a growing financial market in recent decades - may take a huge hit"), and why divesting from fossil fuels isn't just a moral and environmental imperative, it's also the financially imperative thing for investors (including university endowments) to do - ASAP.P.S. By the way, I sure hope that the great work we're seeing at UMW is going on at every other Virginia college and university. If not, why not?!?

Video: Rep. Don Beyer Speaks Out on the Dangers of Ocean Acidification

A crucially important issue: in short, if the oceans die (or are seriously damaged), we die (or are seriously damaged), in addition to it being a horrendous disaster in and of itself. Thanks to Rep. Don Beyer for speaking out on this issue, and more broadly for his advocacy regarding the need to slash anthropogenic carbon emissions (e.g., from the burning of fossil fuels).

Rubber Stamper FERC, Dominion Shills Come to Nelson County

( - promoted by lowkell)

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Environmental Impact Study scoping meeting was held Wednesday night in Nelson before a standing-room-only crowd in the 600-seat auditorium at Nelson County High School. FERC had "invited" several state police officers to maintain order. We welcomed them and told them we promised to behave.After being told we could not have signs at the venue or in the meeting, we arrived to see numerous Dominion Power "Clean Energy" signs. In an effort to appear to have community support, there were two hand-painted signs, in favor of the pipeline, planted on school property. Problem is, Dominion representatives were seen putting those hand-painted signs up! Of course, Nelsonians were quick to add their "No Pipeline" signs.
Having arrived at 6:15 pm to sign up to speak for a 7 pm start time, Free Nelson was surprised to be designated as speaker number 43, and dumbfounded when FERC representatives told us they had to be out of the building by 10 pm. They handed us a form suggesting we submit our comments in writing.  We questioned why they would end the meeting at 10 pm when there would be hundreds, we believed, who would want to speak, and would be unhappy if not allowed to do so. They answered by shrugging their shoulders and asking us to move along.
Dominion and FERC tried quite ineptly to stack the deck with speakers. This attempt infuriated those with legitimate concerns about the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The first 12 folks to speak were pro-pipeline and many, we believe, were Dominion Power plants. We had a pipefitter from Columbia Gas, a retired Exxon executive, another oil distributor, etc. Also, several of the early speakers lived in Richmond, Albemarle or somewhere other than Nelson.
Saying nothing about the Environmental Impact Study, but using every second of their three minutes, these folks spewed Dominion talking points about jobs and tax revenue, and supporting property rights except if it meant we could have energy independence.  All, of course, are points which have been thoroughly debunked.

Video, Statement: 30+ Virginia Ministers Call on Gov. McAuliffe to Act on Climate

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The speakers in the video, from earlier today in Richmond are, from left to right: Rev. David Bailey, Worship Pastor, Making a Melody and East End Fellowship; Alexei Laushkin, Vice President of the Evangelical Environmental Network; and local Virginia minister Shawn Eubank of Creation Care.Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth Levar Stoney was also in attendance to receive the signed bible and letter from the ministers. It's great to see religious leaders increasingly stepping up to the challenge of environmental protection at a time when it's desperately needed, due to mankind's almost complete failure to be "good stewards" over "creation." For more, see the Creation Care blog by Alexei Laushkin, Vice President of the Evangelical Environmental Network.
More Than 30 Virginia Pastors Call on Gov. McAuliffe to Protect Health, Grow Economy by Acting on Climate ChangeFaith Leaders Call Action on Climate a "Moral Responsibility" - Urge Governor to Implement New Commonsense Limits on Harmful Carbon Pollution
Richmond, VA. - Over 30 Evangelical ministers today called on Governor Terry McAuliffe's administration to develop a strong plan to protect Virginia's health and economy by limiting the harmful carbon pollution that causes climate change.

Virginia Needs a New Department of Environmental Quality Director. Immediately.

You know how, at least in theory, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is supposed to protect the quality of the environment? Well, in the case of Virginia, theory does not apparently translate into reality, at least not in the case of Virginia DEQ Director David K. Paylor (originally appointed by Tim Kaine in 2006, reappointed by Bob McDonnell and Terry McAuliffe). On the "flip" of this post, see the testimony he's delivering today to Congress on coal ash. But first, here's a bit of background on the draft bill Paylor is testifying about.The bill, "Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2015," is authored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), a diehard defender of the coal industry, who says that "attacks on coal from Washington must be stopped." He adds that  [e]xploration and aggressive drilling" for coal and other fossil fuels "should be permitted without further delay." He has a pathetic 8% lifetime environmental rating from the LCV, and in 2014, he actually received a "Champion of Coal Ash Award" "for his work in Congress to protect and promote the use of coal ash and stop the EPA from labeling it as a hazardous material." Seriously. I'm not joking. There's actually such a thing as a "Champion of Coal Ash Award," and this fossil fuel shill received it! Now, he's put in a bill to weaken coal ash regulations, no doubt in the hopes of winning another one of those shiny Champion of Coal Ash awards! LOL
Seriously, though, this is almost beyond parody of how our government is "captured" by corporate interests, in this case polluters, who have their puppet politicians spewing their propaganda for them in the halls of Congress. So what would this particular bill do? According to a letter sent yesterday by 126 public interest groups, private and concerned citizens, it would:
*DELAY the rule's new health and safety protections- potentially for up to 10 years"
*WEAKEN the rule's mandate to close inactive (contaminated and abandoned) ponds by
extending the deadline for closure, allowing these legacy ponds to operate without safeguards for at least 6 years;  ELIMINATE the rule's guarantee of public access to information and public participation;
*ELIMINATE the rule's ban on storing and dumping coal ash in drinking water;
*REMOVE the rule's national standard for drinking water protection and cleanup of coal ash-contaminated sites;
*REMOVE the rule's national minimum standard for protection of health and the environment and allow state programs to eliminate critical safety requirements;
*PROHIBIT effective federal oversight of state programs; and
*PROHIBIT EPA enforcement of state program requirements unless invited by a state.
Yeah, it's that bad.Oh, and here's what environmental group Appalachian Voices had to say about Paylor's testimony today, in support of this "Champion of Coal Ash" award winner's bill (see the "flip").

Video: Gerry Connolly Announces Winner of St. Patrick's Day Straw Poll for President Is...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

...Hillary Clinton, with 48% of the vote; Jim Webb 15%; Elizabeth Warren 10%; Bernie Sanders 7%; Joe Biden 6%; Martin O'Malley 6%; others 8%. Note that, according to Rep. Connolly, there were close to 1,000 people in attendance at his St. Patrick's Day fete tonight. More video to follow...

Virginia Ranks #7 for "Criminal's Choice" Due to Super-Weak Gun Laws

According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Virginia is one of the top places in the country for criminals looking for the "perfect getaway" due to the following "highlights": 1) In Virginia, you can "get a gun with no background check;" 2) It's "easy to get a permit to pack heat in public" in Virginia; 3) You can "buy guns in bulk and load up the van for a roadtrip" in Virginia; and 4) Virginia is a "great state for trafficking guns!" Wonderful, huh? For more, check out the video below as well as the Virginia page of
Discuss :: (0 Comments)

DBL Investors: For States, More Renewable Energy Means Lower Power Prices

Another day, yet another strong piece of evidence that sticking with a fossil-fuel-heavy power generation portfolio isn't just bad for the environment and for people's health, it's also bad for the bottom line. This time, it's a study by DBL Investors, entitled "Renewables Are Driving Up Electricity Prices? WAIT, WHAT?" The key takeaway is as follows:
... states with the greatest share of electricity generation from renewable sources have often experienced average retail electricity prices that are cheaper than both the national average and also states with the smallest share of electricity generation from renewable sources.
In 2013, U.S. states generated electricity from renewable sources at a variety of different levels. And yet, as the graph below demonstrates, greater generation from renewables did not mean skyrocketing electricity prices. In fact, states generating more electricity from renewables often experienced average retail electricity prices well below states producing less electricity from  renewables.
Or, as this article puts it, "states boasting robust green energy programs have the nation's cheapest electricity," and "trend lines suggest it's only going to get better for their consumers." Actually, switching to renewable energy at this point is basically a no-brainer, that is if you want an inexhaustible, clean, and increasingly cheap form of power for your state. Keep in mind that:*The cost of wind power has decreased 58% over the past 5 years, and there's no reason to think that improvements in wind technology and cost will end anytime in the foreseeable future.
*The cost of solar power has been plummeting, down 78% between 2009 and 2014, and that trend is highly likely to continue indefinitely, utlimately leading to the "singularity", in which "solar power will be close to free in the coming decades."
*As for natural gas, which some people foolishly want to lock us into for decades to come, it's cheap right now, but that is highly unlikely to continue. Also, as this article notes, the price of natural gas is highly volatile, to the extent that it "can increase by a factor of six over the course of five years, then decrease by the same amount in four years."
*Finally, of course, energy efficiency continues to be the cheapest form of energy that exists -- far, far less expensive than a new coal-fired power plant, for instance, and without any of the environmental damage that comes with coal.
As always, the lesson here is that you shouldn't believe anything the entrenched, "incumbent" fossil fuel companies try to tell you about renewable energy, as they've got it exactly backwards. Of course, as Upton Sinclair said,  "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." That certainly helps explain the disinformation coming out of the fossil fuel industry folks and their political allies. As for the rest of us, our futures depend on understanding that clean and cheap energy, not dirty and expensive fossil fuels, represent the future for our states, our country and the planet.