Washington Post Hits Yet Another New Low with Today's Disgraceful Freddie Gray Story

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Washington Post, which according to rightwingers is part of the mythical "liberal media," has hit many lows over the years. For instance, as we've discussed her ad nauseum, the Post routinely prints columns from people who deny climate science, who have advocated fortorture, you name it pretty much. Possibly even more insidious, the paper's "reporting" routinely commits one or more of the following grave mistakes: 1) false equivalency; 2) acting as little more than court stenographers; 3) refusal to properly credit, link, and attribute other people's work; 4) giving far too much attention to topics that aren't important, while almost completely ignoring topics that are extremely important (e.g., climate change); 5) barely covering local politics at all; etc.Having said all that, today the Post hit a new low, even by its already abysmal/non-existent standards. I'm talking, of course, about the Post's top headline all day on its website:
The problems with this story are so legion, it's hard to know where to start. But let's go with the video, in which WBAL reporter Jayne Miller completely demolishes the stinking pile of rotting trash.
1. "The medical evidence does not suggest at all that he was able to injure himself. The force of this injury, akin to have the force involved in a car accident, with all that momentum going, that is much more force than you would get trying to bang your head against the wall of the van."
2. "According to our that stop, when that prisoner is loaded, Gray is unresponsive, not ABLE to bang his head against the wall of the van." 3. "If you watch the video of that stop, what you see are several police officers opening the door - the back door of the van and the inside door - and peering in. Now, if you've got a prisoner in there that he's so irate that he's banging his head against the wall, I don't think that's the kind of thing you the door and give him the chance to escape."
4. "You have to have other injuries. You can't bang your head against the van, to injure yourself in a fatal way...There is just no information that would corroborate that."
Right, this all makes perfect sense. Yet the Washington Post, acting as court stenographer, mostly just repeats the laughable story - by an anonymous prisoner, credibility completely unknown - that a handcuffed/shackled Freddie Gray was somehow able to sever his own spine in the police van on the way to the station. As Media Matters explains, although the Post wrote that it's "not clear whether any additional evidence backs up the prisoner's version," there actually IS "available, credible information that contradicts the other prisoner's account, which the Post could have included before the story was uncritically repeated in other mainstream outlets."
But they didn't. Why not? My guess is that it's a combination of several factors. First, they wanted the "scoop," and didn't want to take the time to get the story right. Second, they want "clicks," "eyeballs," etc. on their newspaper, at whatever cost. Third, they just don't care about getting the facts right in their "news" stories (we've seen this time and time again, on issue after issue, including Virginia politics). Yet, ironically, this same paper lambasted Brian Williams for making s*** up, and also skewered Rolling Stone (see The LAST People Who Should Be Criticizing Rolling Stone) for the same sins their own paper commits on a daily basis, including today's "news" story on how Freddie Gray died.
P.S. The comments section at the Post is the predictable cesspool of right-wingnuttery, bigotry, racism...but I repeat myself.

New "Climate Hawks Vote" Scorecard Ranks Mark Warner Near the Bottom; Tim Kaine Somewhat Better

The graphic is courtesy of Climate Hawks Vote's "first scorecard measuring leadership by Senate Democrats on climate and clean energy." According to Climate Hawks Vote, "Unlike other groups' scorecards measuring how Senators voted, we track how Senators lead" on climate and clean energy.
We began by asking: how can one lead in today's polarized Congress? Climate hawks lead by engaging the public on climate change. They give floor speeches and hold press conferences. They headline community town halls and environmental rallies. They author and cosponsor bills because some good bills make it into budget bills and others will be revived when Dems retake the Senate. They caucus to coordinate their work. Their websites clearly state their position on climate change. They write op-eds for newspapers both national and local. When hurricanes and droughts affect their districts, they publicly connect the climate change dots. They write press releases on noteworthy events such as President Obama's June 2013 climate speech, EPA Clean Power Plan, and reports from IPCC and NCA. They do all this without detaching from other issues.
To come up with ratings, Climate Hawks Vote "analyzed the public records of all current Senate Democrats (and a few voted out in 2014) beginning in 2011, scoring them on public engagement; bills authored; bills cosponsored; press releases (yes, Sherrod Brown staffers, we did read over 200 pages of press releases), working caucuses joined and led; and websites. We've ranked 100-plus introduced bills each session from core to peripheral and awarded more points to authors, less to cosponsors. We've weighted public engagement far more than any of our other factors."So how did Virginia's two Democratic U.S. Senators, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, score on the group's +100 to -100 scale (where a negative score means the Senator "leads backward" by speaking out for dirty energy projects like Keystone XL, while the more positive the score, the better)?
Tim Kaine: +28 in the 113th Congress (January 3, 2013 to January 3, 2015); +2 in the current, 114th Congress. That's a pretty good rating in the 113th Congress, although in relative terms, Kaine ranks in the bottom third of Senate Democrats for that Congress. As for the current Congress, Kaine seems to have backslid a bit: although he's still (barely) in positive territory at +2, he now ranks below Republican Susan Collins of Maine and just above Republian Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, while among Democratic Senators he's eighth from the bottom (just above Bob Casey of Pennsylvania). In contrast, the top-rated climate/clean energy leaders in the current Senate are Sheldon Whitehouse of RI (+71), Brian Schatz of HI (+65) and Ed Markey of MA (+65). The worst-rated Democrats in the current Senate are Claire McCaskill of MO (-29), Joe Manchin of WV (-26), Heidi Heitkamp of ND (-23), Joe Donnelly of IN (-17), Jon Tester of MT (-16), and...
Mark Warner: Yes, our own Senator Mark Warner clocks in at a lame minus 7, sixth worst among Senate Democrats in the current Congress. Maybe this was a fluke, you say? Well, no. In fact, in the previous Congress, Warner was eighth from the bottom, with a minus 1 rating; and in the 112th Congress, he was even worse, fourth from the bottom, with an utterly abysmal minus 20 climate/clean energy rating.
In sum, when it comes to climate and clean energy leadership (or lack thereof), Mark Warner is simply not leading at all on this absolutely criticial, existential issue, while Tim Kaine is doing ok but needs to crank it up a few notches. Why do I say this? Two reasons: 1) as Climate Hawks Votes correctly puts it, "climate change is the greatest challenge facing the next few generations of humanity, not just another Democratic issue;" and 2) a clean energy transition would be a huge plus economically and environmentally for Virginia, a state in which fossil fuel extraction accounts for a miniscule percent of employment and economic output, while potential for energy efficiency, offshore wind and rooftop solar (distributed energy) is enormous. This is, to be blunt, an utter "no brainer;" now we just need our leaders to actually lead.
P.S. One rating that jumps out at me that should be a LOT lower is climate science denier Chuck Grassley.  

Videos: Del. Alfonso Lopez's Kickoff and Arlington County Board Straw Poll

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The following videos are from Del. Alfonso Lopez's 2015 campaign kickoff and straw poll, held at Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse earlier this evening. The videos are of Del. Lopez welcoming everyone (including Delegates Marcus Simon and Kathleen Murphy, Senator Adam Ebbin, House of Delegates candidateRod Hall, and Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada. As soon as I get the straw poll results, I'll post them.

Video: Gov. McAuliffe Falsely Claims Clean Power Plan "Unfair" to Virginia

One last video from my series on Gov. McAuliffe's error-filled, Dominion-friendly interview a couple weeks ago at "The Next Frontier of Climate Change" conference in Richmond. For previous posts, see 1) Video: Sierra Club's Ivy Main is Right; Gov. McAuliffe is Dead Wrong on Natural Gas, 2) Video: Gov. McAuliffe Flat-Out Wrong About Fossil Fuel Divestment, 3)McAuliffe touts gas and nuclear, says it's not his job to worry about risks, 4) Video: Gov McAuliffe Gets In a Heated Argument with Anti Fracking Activist. Who Wins? and 5) Video: Gov. McAuliffe Admits Getting His (Wildly Wrong) Energy Information From Dominion. #FAIL.In this installment, we have Gov. McAuliffe complaining that although he "fully" supports the Clean Power Plan, Virginia supposedly "gets no credit" for "doing the right thing" - namely, our supposedly wonderful (actually super-expensive, heavily-subsidized behemoths), non-carbon-emitting nuclear plants. In fact, that's totally, almost 180-degrees untrue, as Walton Shepherd's of NRDC recently explained.
Virginia's existing lower-carbon power fleet is rewarded by the Clean Power Plan:Some have mistakenly claimed that the Clean Power Plan is somehow "unfair" to Virginia. PJM's analysis confirms the exact opposite: Virginia has already balanced its high-carbon coal with lower-carbon gas and nuclear plants, so each addition of zero-carbon renewables and energy efficiency hits a smaller pool of carbon and is thus more effective at displacing more of the pollutant. Compare that to our neighboring state of West Virginia, which PJM concluded would have the highest carbon price of all the PJM states, due to a reliance on coal that is triple Virginia's. As a result, in addition to making smart investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, the next-cheapest compliance option for West Virginia could be to purchase allowances from Virginia or other neighbors - generating additional revenue for the Commonwealth while the Mountain State achieves compliance more cheaply! Because Virginia's cleaner fleet is rewarded in this way by the Clean Power Plan (as currently proposed), Governor McAuliffe should be gunning for aggressive clean energy gains in his state plan for the CPP: right out of the gate in 2020, Virginia could sell the carbon reductions across state lines.
And yes, I'd listen to an energy and environmental expert like Walton Shephard, "born and raised in the hills of West Virginia," than to Terry McAuliffe, who clearly knows very little about this topic. On that latter point, note that McAuliffe can't answer any of the questions posed to him about specifics - fuel mix, power prices, distributed power, you name it. He also gets a myriad of things wrong, from the cost of transmitting power from nuclear plants vs. renewable energy facilities to the economics and environmental impact of fracked natural gas to the economics of renewable energy name it, pretty much. At one point, the interviewer exclaims in exasperation, "numbers are important in discussions like this" - to no avail. Instead, McAuliffe hems and haws, tries to change the subject, says there are "commissions" that determine this stuff, argues that "you've got to talk to Dominion" (ha!!!), that he's not going to be "held to a number here today...that's not my job." Uhhhhh...alrighty then!So, here's what's truly "unfair" about this situation: that the fossil fuel and nuclear power industries have powerful proponents in their bought-and-paid-for state legislature, while the  governor who we, the people elected says he's powerless to do much of anything, mostly just regurgitates Dominion et al's anti-clean-energy talking points and whines about how "unfair" things are. For someone who claims he's had a "passion" for renewable energy for years, something simply isn't adding up here.

Video: EW Jackson Asks, "What about restraint against these THUGS?"

Just remember, this demagogue and extremist was the Virginia GOP's 2013 nominee for Lt. Governor of Virginia. Here he is, blaming the situation in Baltimore on too much restraint by police officers against "these thugs;" on "leaders who have demagogued the issue of race;" etc. Is there any evidence for any of that? Does E.W. Jackson ever NEED any evidence to hurl unfounded charges around? No, and no. By the way, note that Jackson doesn't even mention the apparent murder by police of Freddy Gray, nor does he mention the numerous root causes - poverty, blight, etc. - behind what's happening in Baltimore. NOR does he mention the many peaceful protests, nor the fact that you can't equate property damage with the loss of human life, nor...oh forget it.

Video: Manassas City Mayor Hal Parrish Attempts, Fails to Explain Anti-Women's-Health Vote

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

So much for Hal Parrish being in any way, shape or form a "moderate" Republican. Or, for that matter, a truth teller. I mean, seriously, does he think we are all idiots? As ProgressVA put it, "Mayor Parrish attempted to tell reporters and a large crowd of people on both sides of the [abortion] issue that it wasn't a vote about abortion." So...what were all these people doing there, if it's just about relatively snooze-inducing "land use?" Answer: Parrish is full of it. Unfortunately, Parrish is also going to be a tough Republican contender for the State Senate seat currently held by Sen. Chuck Colgan (D), who is retiring after many years of service. Democrats absolutely need to hold this seat, which is one of the main reasons I'm supporting Atif Qarni, as I believe he'd be by far the strongest candidate to face Parrish this fall.

Blue Virginia 45th HoD Dem Candidate Interviews: Mark Levine

On April 8, I sent Blue Virginia interview questions to all five Democratic candidates running for the 45th House of Delegates district (Alexandria, south Arlington) seat being vacated by Del. Rob Krupicka. The candidates are Larry Altenburg, Craig Fifer, Julie Jakopic, Mark Levine and Clarence Tong. I told the candidates that I'd post their interviews in the order I received them. The first one I received back, on April 13, was from Larry Altenburg. On April 16, I received responses from Clarence Tong, and on April 21 from Julie Jakopic. Today, I received responses from Mark Levine - thank you. As soon as I receive answers from the remaining candidate (Craig Fifer), I'll post them (note: I originally asked the candidates to get me their responses, if at all possible, within a couple weeks). In the meantime, check out the ones that I've already posted, including Mark Levine's, below. Finally, please note that the primary for this nomination will take place on June 9, so if you're a Democrat who lives in the 45th, make sure you vote!1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the Democratic candidates to represent the 45th House of Delegates district in Richmond.
I have spent much of my life transforming progressive principles into law, as both a citizen activist and Legislative Counsel to Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA).
As a gay Jewish kid growing up in Nashville, Tennessee, I learned from an early age that even if most people have a different view, it doesn't mean they are necessarily right. My aunt had registered Black Mississippians in Freedom Summer 1964, and my great grandfather had opposed the Russian Czar. As for me, I grew up having to defend the fact that I didn't celebrate Christmas, and by age eight, I was demanding to leave a friend's country club that did not accept Jews or Blacks as members. In high school, my first bill in Student Congress was to register guns (where I learned to my shock that most of the other student representatives packed their own). At Yale Law School, I formed the Committee Against Bigotry to protest against prejudice. I also had brief stints during law school as an inner-city school teacher and a Nazi-hunter for the US Department of Justice.
In my twenties, I thought that coming out as gay would be my most difficult life decision, and having resolved that, I settled in to a lucrative career at a prestigious law firm. Then, in the 1990's, two personal tragedies profoundly altered my life's direction.

New Study: Eastern, Northern Virginia Much Less Racist Than Average

Fascinating new study
Interestingly, on the map above the most concentrated cluster of racist searches happened not in the South, but rather along the spine of the Appalachians running from Georgia all the way up to New York and southern Vermont.Other hotbeds of racist searches appear in areas of the Gulf Coast, Michigan's Upper Peninsula, and a large portion of Ohio.But the searches get rarer the further West you go. West of Texas, no region falls into the "much more than average" category. This map follows the general contours of a map of racist Tweets made by researchers at Humboldt State University.
Note that in Virginia, the northern and eastern portions are much LESS racist than average. The further southwest you go, it transitions rapidly to "more [racist] than average" and then "much more [racist] than average." It's also interesting that this map largely aligns with the partisan divide in Virginia, with the "bluest" parts of the state - the "urban crescent" from Northern Virginia to Richmond to Hampton Roads - being the least racist, and the "reddest" parts of the state being the most racist. It would be fascinating to do this study for other forms of bigotry, such as anti-Latino, anti-LGBT, etc. I wonder if anti-black racists also tend to be bigoted in other ways (that would be my guess, a priori).

First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe, Large Crowd of Supporters Join Jill McCabe for Senate Campaign Launch

Monday, April 27, 2015

We really need Jill McCabe to win this race, both for our chances of taking back control of the Virginia State Senate, and also to say "good riddance" to one of the most extreme, bigoted, bat****-crazy members of the Senate, Dick Black. Don't believe me? Check out What Is It With Loudoun Republicans?!? Dick Black on Spousal Rape, "Nighties," etc. and Republican Loudoun-sanity Continues: Dick Black Rails Against Gays in the Military for starters.
ASHBURN - Yesterday, accomplished pediatrician Dr. Jill McCabe officially launched her campaign for State Senate District 13 surrounded by a large crowd of supporters and community leaders. Notables in attendance included First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe; Laura Herring; Senators Jennifer Wexton, David Marsden, Barbara Favola; Delegates Kathleen Murphy and Ken Plum; Leesburg Vice Mayor Kelly Burk; Leesburg Town Councilmember David Butler; and Purcellville Town Councilmember Karen Jimmerson.Set against the backdrop of a lush Loudoun County landscape, Dorothy McAuliffe, the event's keynote speaker, told guests that "We really need Jill in the Senate." She highlighted Jill's strong background in business and health. "As a doctor, a small business owner, and a mom, she knows exactly what it will take in Richmond to give her constituents the best opportunities possible. She'll bring a common sense approach to government that will continue to grow Loudoun and Prince William counties into some of the best places to live and raise a family in the country."
McCabe told the standing-room only crowd that what sets her apart is her focus on the Commonwealth and what's important to 13th District residents. "As a pediatrician, I am constantly focused on my patients and what is most important to them. With the work I do for my kids' school, I focus on the students and what is most important to them. And as State Senator, I will be completely focused on the people who live in my district and what their needs are in order to create the greatest opportunities here in Loudoun and Prince William counties."

Video: Gov. McAuliffe Admits Getting His (Wildly Wrong) Energy Information From Dominion. #FAIL

First, the short answer to the question I ask in the headline is "yes." Actually, it's "HELL YES!!!" Why do I say that? First, check out Lazard's "Levelized Cost of Energy" report, and particularly note the tables "Unsubsidized Levelized Cost of Energy Comparison" and "Cost of Carbon Abatement Comparison". On the first chart, note that the cheapest form of energy (by far) is energy efficiency, at $0-$50/megawatthour (MWh), followed by onshore wind at $37-$81/MWh (and falling!), followed by utility-scale solar PV at $60-$86/MWh (and falling fast!), gas combined cycle at $61-$87/MWh, with nuclear far more expensive at around $124-$132/MWh (and NOT falling!) for current new U.S. nuclear construction. In short, nuclear power is super expensive compared to several other currently-available, non-or-low-carbon-emitting options. That's how you end up with massive costs for building a new nuclear plant, such as the estimated "far north of ten billion dollars" for Domininion's proposed North Anna 3 reactor.Put it this way: you don't have to be a nuclear scientist to figure out that you could get wayyyyyyy more "bang for the buck" from energy efficiency, onshore wind, utility-scale solar, natural gas combined cycle, and several other options compared to nuclear power. No wonder why nobody's been building new nuclear power plants in the U.S. in decades, and no wonder why these things take enormous taxpayer subsidies to make them even marginally economical. Hmmmm.
Now, let's look at this another way: to replace dirty coal-fired power, how much would different power-generation options cost (or save) compared to nuclear? For an answer to that question, see this graph by Lazard. The answer: not considering energy efficiency, which remains BY FAR the cheapest way to slash carbon emissions, Lazard says "an analysis of such implicit costs suggests that policies designed to promote wind and utility-scale solar development could be a particularly cost effective way of limiting carbon emissions." As for nuclear, note that its cost is four times greater than utility-scale solar power to "abate" carbon emissions from existing coal-fired power plants. Also note that, other than energy efficiency, onshore wind power is a super-inexpensive way to "abate" carbon emission from coal-fired power plants.
All of which brings us to Gov. McAuliffe's wildly, breathtakingly incorrect response to the moderator's question, "is the contention that if the state just ramped up renewables and ramped up energy efficiency some more, it wouldn't need more nuclear that a valid proposition?"  McAuliffe's response:

Atif Qarni Statement on Manassas Zoning Laws

The following statement is from Democratic State Senate candidate Atif Qarni, who is showing strong leadership on this important issue. For more on what's going on, see the speech by Brian Devine of Progress Virginia to the Manassas City Council a few weeks ago, as well as the video I've embedded here, in which anti-choice extremist Del. Bob Marshall speaks, followed by Atif Qarni supporting a woman's right to choose.
Qarni Questions Parrish Vote, Calls For Greater Protection Of Women's Health ServicesMANASSAS, VA - Atif Qarni released the following statement in response to Mayor Hal Parrish's vote to implement new zoning laws that restrict the creation of new health centers in Manassas:
"Attacks on women's health should have no place in our community," said Atif Qarni, candidate for Senate in the 29th District. "These ideologically-motivated zoning updates will place excessive burdens on local health centers, preventing residents from getting the medical care they need. Zoning laws should help drive economic growth and development, and should not be a platform for ideological grandstanding. This district deserves a representative that prioritizes education, transportation, and jobs, not a radical anti-woman agenda. I will continue to fight for access to crucial health services for all Virginians."
Qarni has a long record of supporting women's health institutions, and opposing radical agendas that seek to limit a woman's ability to make her own health choices. He was an outspoken champion against radical conservatism in his 2013 campaign, and he will continue to be a strong voice against hyper-conservative agendas intended on taking Virginia backwards.
Atif Qarni was a Marine for eight years, including a tour in Iraq in which he served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and was among the first American troops to enter Baghdad. He is currently an eighth grade math teacher at nearby Beville Middle School, as well as a member of Governor McAuliffe's Small Business Commission. He lives in Manassas with his wife and two young sons.
Atif Qarni is running for the Senate of Virginia because he believes our district needs a committed leader to continue the legacy of Senator Colgan- one who will fight for important issues like improving our schools by reducing class sizes, bringing more jobs to Manassas and Prince William County, and reducing the burden of traffic and congestion. He will be a strong voice for the values of the 29th District. The Democratic primary will be held on Tuesday, June 9th. For more information, please visit

Video: Gov McAuliffe Gets In a Heated Argument with Anti Fracking Activist. Who Wins?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

In our continuing series on Gov. McAuliffe's flawed, false, flat-out-wrong comments at the recent "The Next Frontier of Climate Change" conference," we now present an anti-fracking activist getting into a heated argument with Gov. McAuliffe - and ultimately getting escorted out of the room for not knowing when to stop talking and let the governor dig his own hole deeper. In brief, here's what happened and why I say McAuliffe dug himself into a deep hole.*The activist asked McAuliffe about Dominion Power's gigantic, proposed Atlantic Coast natural gas pipeline, and how McAuliffe's support for this monstrosity squares with what she asserted was McAuliffe "campaign[ing]  against fracking." Actually, as far as I can determine, McAuliffe only stated outright opposition to fracking in the GW National Forest, not in general. Still, the anti-fracking activist is correct that the natural gas for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP will come mostly from "fracked" natural gas in West Virginia. In addition, it IS worth pointing out that the U.S. Forest Service just approved "a permit to survey part of the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia for a proposed natural gas pipeline," and thatthe ACP also would run "through the George Washington National Forest - as well as the Allegheny Mountains, Blue Ridge mountains and the Shenandoah Valley."
*McAuliffe's response was basically a bunch of nonsensical and/or distorted arguments. Argument #1: Virginia has a bunch of pipelines already, ergo there's no reason to be concerned about this gigantic new pipeline. That's like saying, since there already is bad stuff happening in the world, we shouldn't be concerned about far worse stuff happening in the world. It's just a ridiculous, non-argument "argument." The fact is, this pipeline is seriously flawed in its underlying conception, economics, environmental impact, etc. Gov. McAuliffe should respond, on point, specifically on the merits - or in this case, lack thereof - of the ACP, not throw out red herrings and non sequiturs in an attempt to avoid doing so.

Video: Gov. McAuliffe Flat-Out Wrong About Fossil Fuel Divestment

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Yesterday, I wrote about Ivy Main's excellent post on Gov. Terry McAuliffe's interview at "The Next Frontier of Climate Change" conference. The main conclusions of that post: 1) McAuliffe clearly doesn't know a great deal about energy issues, from what distributed power is (e.g., rooftop solar); to how much it costs to transmit electricity from a nuclear plant vs. a renewable energy facility; to the Virginia power mix, both today and in coming years; to the "levelized cost of energy" for different sources of power (perhaps someone can stick this report on his desk and make sure he's read it?); etc. and 2) what McAuliffe DOES know appears to come disproprortionally from a wildly biased, pro-fossil-fuel, pro-nuclear, anti-energy-efficiency, anti-distributed power source -- Dominion Power -- with which he spends an inordinate amount of time (question: could a small business, or an ordinary citizen, get the level of access Dominion Power - $13 million in donations and counting! - has to the governor's office?), and which he alternately claims he has no control over/can tell what to do.Anyway, there were so many misstatements, flat-our errors, etc. in Gov. McAuliffe's 38-minutes-but-felt-like-an-eternity interview at the "The Next Frontier of Climate Change" conference, this is going to require a multi-part series to tackle them. We'll start with McAuliffe's comments on fossil fuel divestment, which were flat-out wrong on several points.
First, the question was specifically about whether "the state of Virginia and its retirement fund and other relevant funds should divest from fossil fuel companies. McAuliffe's answer?
lowkell :: Video: Gov. McAuliffe Flat-Out Wrong About Fossil Fuel Divestment
No! I think they have to make the decision what is in the best interest of whatever they're making their investments; they have a fiduciary duty to make those investments. And clearly as governor I am not going to sit here and tell the people who manage these funds what to do -- not my role. And I clearly understand my role...Jeff, it is not my job to come in and tell our businesses what to do. I am a fiscally conservative, pro-business Democrat; I am socially very progressive...
Just a few problems here.
  • After answering point-blank "no" to the question about whether Virginia's retirement fund should divest from fossil fuels, McAuliffe completely contradicts himself by arguing that it's actually NOT his job/role to tell the people who manage these funds how to handle their "fiduciary duty." So then why answer "no" to the question -- or "yes" for that matter? If McAuliffe really believes he has no role in this, then why doesn't he just say "not my role" and leave it at that?
  • Of course, if Terry McAuliffe really believe that it's not the governor's role to be a leader on the most important issue facing humanity (man-made climate change), and our state (which the last I checked was part of humanity), that's just sad. And I'm just curious: by that reasoning, is it also not McAuliffe's role, as governor, to lead on a whole host of other issues affecting Virginia? Or is it just this specific issue?  If so, why just this specific issue? Perhaps because Dominion Power and other powerful, wealthy fossil fuel interests (and donors to Virginia politicians) fiercely oppose fossil fuel divestment? Or is that just a wild coincidence? Hmmmm.
  • McAuliffe then segues into a complete non-sequitur about it not being his "job to come in and tell our businesses what to do." Except that nobody asked him about "our businesses;" they asked him about the Virginia STATE retirement fund, which covers thousands of employees of the Virginia executive branch - you know, the one that Gov. McAuliffe heads up. Wo why bring up businesses at all? Freudian slip?
  • Anyway, just for argument's sake, let's say we were looking at this issue purely from a "fiscally conservative, pro-business" point of view. Would it make sense to at least CONSIDER divesting from fossil fuels? Actually, yes - big time. Evidence? See this post, which points to several leading private-sector analyses on this topic, such as:1. Impax Asset Management, which found that "over a five-year period, 'removing the fossil fuel sector in its entirety and replacing it with 'fossil free' portfolios of energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other alternative energy stocks, either on a passively managed or actively managed basiswould have improved returns."
    2. S&P Capital IQ, which found that "Endowments That Divested Ten Years Ago Would Have Been 'Better Off.'"
    3. Northstar Asset Management, which "found negligible costs between 0.07 and 0.15 percent annually for divesting from fossil fuels."
    4. Aperio Group, which found that "a portfolio excluding the 15 most harmful stocks as identified by climate change advocates incurs 'virtually no risk penalty.'"
Meanwhile, scientists say that "75% of known fossil fuel reserves must stay in ground," which effectively means that if humanity hopes to avoid environmental catastrophe in the next few decades, most fossil fuels are simply "unburnable". That, in turn, raises the spectre of a massive carbon "bubble" (think the real estate bubble, but possibly even more dire), in which "fossil fuel assets, such as coal, oil and gas, could be significantly devalued if a global deal to tackle climate change is reached."
The upshot of all this is clear: it's imperative for pension funds like the Virginia Retirement System  (VRS) to be considering, seriously and urgently, whether they NEED to divest from fossil fuels, and quickly, in order to protect their investors. And they need to be considering that divestment for purely "fiduciary" reasons, not even taking into account their moral obligation to the planet, future generations, etc. As such, it follows that the governor of Virginia should be leading that conversation, not claiming he has no role to play as the top elected official in our state.
Other than all that, a fine answer by Gov. McAuliffe. :) Stay tuned for more in this multi-part series...

McAuliffe touts gas and nuclear, says it's not his job to worry about risks

By Ivy Main

McAuliffe touts gas and nuclear, says it's not his job to worry about risksA forum on climate change held last Wednesday in Richmond was supposed to be about moving to clean energy, but it sometimes seemed to be more of a platform for Governor Terry McAuliffe to tout plans for more natural gas and nuclear energy in the Commonwealth. It wasn't that he neglected energy efficiency, wind and solar-he had plenty of good things to say about these, and even a few initiatives to boast of. It was just that they paled against the backdrop of massive new natural gas and nuclear projects, to which he seems even more firmly committed.
The event was a conference called "The Next Frontier of Climate Change," organized by The New Republic magazine and the College of William and Mary. Moderator Jeffrey Ball of Stanford University shaped the conference as a series of interviews, beginning with Governor McAuliffe.
Ball started out asking about the politics of climate change, which gave McAuliffe a chance to reiterate his convictions that climate change is real, that we can see it happening today in Hampton Roads, and that part of meeting the challenge involves supporting the kind of 21st century technologies that will also make Virginia an exciting and attractive place to live. That includes offshore wind and solar.
But McAuliffe also made it clear he sees everything through the lens of economic growth, and his top priority is attracting new business to fill the gap left by shrinking federal spending in the state. "When I ran for governor," he explained, "I tried to put everything in an economic issue: what is good for the Commonwealth, how do you grow and diversify. I preside over a commonwealth that, we are the number one recipient of Department of Defense dollars, number one. Now, that's great when they're spending, but when they're cutting like they're cutting today, it has a dramatic impact."
He is also persuaded that renewable energy, even with all its job benefits, won't get him as much economic growth as cheaper fossil energy can, and his friends at Dominion Resources and its subsidiary, Dominion Virginia Power, have convinced him that means backing their plans for natural gas and nuclear.  
ivymain :: McAuliffe touts gas and nuclear, says it's not his job to worry about risks
McAuliffe said he supports EPA's Clean Power Plan, and said in the course of the interview that he thought it would result in lower electricity rates for Virginians over the long run; but he'd still like it to demand less of our utilities. He echoed assertions from legislators and utilities that the draft plan's treatment of existing nuclear plants makes it "unfair" to Virginia. Repeating a line that is now standard among Virginia politicians, he claimed the Clean Power Plan doesn't give us "full credit" for reducing our carbon emissions by building nuclear reactors back in the 70's. He has been raising the issue with the Obama Administration, and feels confident EPA will make the changes he requested.Neither McAuliffe nor anyone else has explained why we should get credit for doing something 40 years ago for entirely different reasons, at a time when very few people had climate change on their radar screens. But never mind that; according to this theory, which he asserted again at the conference, the Clean Power Plan's failure to credit us for our nukes puts us at a disadvantage compared to coal-heavy states like West Virginia and Kentucky that haven't done diddley-squat.
(You know, I hope someone is passing all this along to the folks in West Virginia and Kentucky, who have been screaming bloody murder about how tough it will be for them to comply with the Clean Power Plan. I don't get the sense they are aware they have this terrific advantage over Virginia and can expect shortly to begin luring away our businesses. Mitch McConnell, for one, seems entirely oblivious of the favor the EPA is doing his state. What a shame it would be if all of McConnell's anti-EPA rhetoric were based on a simple misunderstanding!)
Maybe our governor needs to put a few items on his reading list, like the PJM analysis that shows the Clean Power Plan puts Virginia at an advantage over neighboring states, especially if it joins a regional compliance program. He should also check out a new report from Virginia Advanced Energy Industries Coalition and the Advanced Energy Economy Institute that describes the tremendous job growth in renewable energy and energy efficiency that will flow from compliance with the Clean Power Plan. Given the opportunities presented, the Governor should embrace more stringent goals, and should look to clean energy rather than nuclear as the money-saving, job-creating approach to compliance.
However, McAuliffe's enthusiasm for nuclear goes beyond using it to wangle a softer carbon reduction target out of the EPA. He told Ball repeatedly that he is a "huge fan" of nuclear energy, thinks a new nuclear plant should be part of Virginia's compliance with the Clean Power Plan, and expressed delight over Dominion's plans for a third reactor at North Anna.
And yet, when confronted with a question from the audience about the wisdom of building another nuclear plant on an earthquake fault line, he said cheerfully that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission won't approve a plant that isn't safe. Worrying about it isn't his job.
We'd better hope his confidence in the NRC is well placed-and hope too that the NRC successfully resists the political pressure to approve the plant that it will no doubt receive from Governor McAuliffe.
Ball suggested that what was behind the question on nuclear was a contention that if the state ramped up its investments in efficiency and renewable energy it would not need to build a new nuclear plant. McAuliffe assured Ball that wind, solar and efficiency couldn't do that yet. He knew that because-ahem-he'd heard it from Dominion.
I guess no one has told the Governor that asking Dominion for its take on efficiency is like asking Exxon about electric cars.
McAuliffe's enthusiasm for big projects that promise more business for Virginia (and Dominion) has also caused ongoing friction between the Governor and members of the public over natural gas pipelines. This led to the incident at the conference that grabbed headlines, with an angry protester trying to shout down the Governor.
At issue was McAuliffe's support for Dominion's controversial Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The proposed 550-mile natural gas transmission project will require the seizure and clear-cutting of a 125-foot wide right-of-way across Virginia from West Virginia to the coast in North Carolina, through national forests and private land. And of course, it will increase Virginia's carbon footprint by enabling the burning of more fossil fuel here.
Pipeline opponents had brought into the New Republic event a banner reading "McAuliffe: Pipeline will be Climate Chaos." During the Q&A period the protester reminded McAuliffe that he had once opposed natural gas fracking in Virginia.
But McAuliffe remained unruffled even as the protester hurled insults at him, until she was escorted from the room. "We're not doing the fracking here," he said, by way of explaining his support for the pipeline. "The fracking is done elsewhere. I'm not, as the governor of Virginia, going to stop fracking in America today." Therefore, he concluded, we might as well take advantage of the fracking going on elsewhere to "bring cheap gas to parts of Virginia that can open up and build the economy."
It seemed no one had alerted him to research indicating the gas boom will start to go bust just five years from now. If that happens, of course, higher gas prices will make the Governor's manufacturing renaissance go bust, too, leaving Virginia worse off than before. Coupled with Dominion's plans to bring online a staggering 4,300 MWs of new natural gas generating plants by 2019, Virginia is putting itself at the mercy of a natural gas market that is entirely outside our control.
But when I asked the Governor if he wasn't worried about the risks of over-investing in natural gas, he shrugged off the concern. It's not his job to review Dominion's plans, he said.
Well, sure. But there's a problem with cheerleading for every big energy project that comes along and taking no responsibility for their downsides. This is the "all of the above" strategy that brought us the climate crisis. From a governor who knows climate change is happening before our eyes in Virginia, we're still hoping for better.

Much of the "Virginia Christian Alliance" Candidate Questionnaire Has Nothing to Do w/Christianity

Can someone please explain how much, if not most, of this stuff has to do with Christianity? Photo ID? Proof of citizenship to vote? "Illegal aliens?" Eliminating the state income tax? Guns? Offshore oil drilling? Tort reform? Dominion Power? WTF? Of course, this group is a bunch of extremist nuts, but frighteningly, a sizeable number of Virginians agree with them...shuddderrrrr.

"Tea Party Takes Control of Sully GOP"

Friday, April 24, 2015

(UPDATE: See results (Tea Partier John Guevara won; Brian Schoeneman finished third behind yet another Tea Partier) and press release from the Kathy Smith (D) campaign in the comments section.   - promoted by lowkell)

This is amusing on multiple levels, starting with the very concept that Ben Tribbett, a consultant to Fairfax County Board/Sully District Democratic candidate Kathy Smith, would be "with Brian Schoeneman," one of three Republicans vying to run against, and hopefully lose to, Smith this fall. Of course, Schoeneman is the least right wingnut of the three candidates in this race, with the cardinal sin (in Teapublican eyes) of working for a union, but given how far right the Republican Party is these days, that's not saying much. Still, on those grounds alone, one could argue that Schoeneman might be the toughest candidate against Smith in November. Or, one could argue that since this year will be a super-low-turnout, nearly-100% "base" election, that the key for Republicans will be to fire up their right-wing/Tea Party activists, and that Schoeneman would be the LEAST likely to do that. So...would Schoeneman be the strongest Republican candidate, the weakest, or something in between? Got me, but Ben's having fun with it, and who can blame him? :)Even more fun is watching right-wing bloggers fight over What It All Means. For instance, atleading right-wing Virginia blog "The Bull Elephant", the top post right now asserts that since Ben Tribbett posted an "I'm with Brian" graphic on his Facebook page, Schoeneman must be the Republican candidate Kathy Smith and Sully Dems most want to face. "The Bull Elelphant" blogger Jeanine Martin even writes: "This is part of the group, 'Democrats for Brian Schoeneman'. I hear their numbers are growing because so many of them identify with Brian...Ben's telling them to vote for Brian because he considers Brian to be the easiest to beat." Hahahaha.
Then there's the comment thread on Ben's Facebook post, which hilariously has Schoeneman implausibly claiming, "I haven't talked to a single Democrat this primary. Not even Ben." In response, Democratic nominee Kathy Smith writes, "Brian, it was nice to talk with you at my town hall in March." Zing! And Ben adds, "Well, there goes 'I haven't talked to a single Democrat this primary.'" Former Fairfax Dems' chair Rex Simmons then chimes in, "Why am I not surprised that [Schoeneman] lies?" Schoeneman then says he didn't mean it "literally," while Ben notes: "There are pictures of Brian talking to me at the Sully debate. Not sure why he says things that are so obviously untrue." On and on it goes, when it stops...well, maybe tomorrow at 4 pm, when Schoeneman will either win (I'm personally hoping he does, just so this fun can continue another few months! LOL) or loses (in which case Ben can take up a new hobby? haha). Stay tuned, but meanwhile sit back and enjoy watching Ben masterfully mess with Republican minds. :)

Virginia Christian Alliance Launches Crusade Against "transgenderism activity" in Schools

If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to check out this Think Progress story, on the far-right-wing, theocratic Virginia Christian Alliance's latest crusade.
Last month, Stafford County, VA, made national headlines when its school board unanimously voted to ignore guidance from both school district officials and theDepartment of Education that “sex” protections under Title IX protect transgender students’ use of facilities that match their identified gender. After some local parents complained, the school board ordered that a fourth grade student no longer be permitted to use the bathroom of the student’s identified gender. The school system in Gloucester, VA, is currently facing a federal civil rights complaint after it restricted a transgender sophomore boy to using only a single-stall restrooms or designated female restrooms.In light of these stories, the conservative Virginia Christian Alliance (VCA) has launched a statewide campaign to demand school systems deal with "transgenderism activity" and "gender identity confusion" as "a serious medical mental disorder." In a letter sent to school boards across the Commonwealth of Virginia, the group’s chairman and president Donald N. Blake demanded to be “advised of any pending cases involving transgenderism that are presently before your school system” and the policies each system has in place to deal with transgender students. "Accommodation is not the answer," he wrote, "nor is accommodation in the best interest of the child." Though the American Psychological Association stopped classifying being transgender as a mental disorderin 2012, the letter cites a 2014 article by anti-LGBT Johns Hopkins professor Paul McHugh that argued that “the idea of sex misalignment is simply mistaken” and that transgender people should be treated like those with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. McHugh’s widely debunked claims about trans identities run counter to consensus of the medical profession.
Unsurprisingly, this isn't the first time the Virginia Christian Alliance has shown its bigotry. Back in December 2014, for instance, they teamed up with fellow bigoted extremist E.W. Jackson to attack Virginia Department of Health Interim Commissioner Dr. Marissa Levine, who is transgender, as having "a "serious mental illness" and "serious issues." Charming. Also see here for more about what this group believes, including "refuting Darwinian Evolution, Theistic Evolution, Gap and Age-Day Theories, and Progressive Creationism;" "refuting sexual promiscuity: adultery, fornication, heterosexual oral sex, pornography, incest and bestiality, pedophilia, and homosexuality;" and "refuting foreign cultures, legal precedents, languages and religions in opposition to Christianity." So yeah, these are the same people on a rampage about "transgenerism activity" here in Virginia, as opposed to say, fighting to "feed the hungry," "clothe the naked," working for social justice, and other priorities their religion actually calls for.P.S. Can someone please point out to me in the New Testament, which presumably members of the Virginia **Christian** Alliance believe in, it urges people to be nasty, intolerant, bigoted, ignorant jerks?  Right, it doesn't.  

Video: Sierra Club's Ivy Main is Right; Gov. McAuliffe is Dead Wrong on Natural Gas

Over at her blog, Power for the People VA, Ivy Main of the Sierra Club writes about a conference held last Wednesday in Richmond, "The Next Frontier of Climate Change," organized by The New Republic and the College of William and Mary, and featuring an interview with Gov. Terry McAuliffe on energy and environmental issues. According Ivy Main, the forum:
...was supposed to be about moving to clean energy, but it sometimes seemed to be more of a platform for Governor Terry McAuliffe to tout plans for more natural gas and nuclear energy in the Commonwealth. It wasn't that he neglected energy efficiency, wind and solar-he had plenty of good things to say about these, and even a few initiatives to boast of. It was just that they paled against the backdrop of massive new natural gas and nuclear projects, to which he seems even more firmly committed.
Main also notes that McAuliffe seems to be "persuaded that renewable energy, even with all its job benefits, won't get him as much economic growth as cheaper fossil energy can, andhis friends at Dominion Resources and its subsidiary, Dominion Virginia Power, have convinced him that means backing their plans for natural gas and nuclear." Main also debunks McAuliffe's frequently-repeated, but still absolutely false, whiny assertion that the "draft [Clean Power Plan]'s treatment of existing nuclear plants makes it 'unfair' to Virginia." Can somebody please call a waaaaambulance for McAuliffe on this one? My god.I'll have more on all of this in coming days, along with video clips from the conference. For now, let's just say that Gov. McAuliffe has a lot to learn about energy issues, doesn't seem to "know what he doesn't know," and is spending far too muchy time with his pals from Dominion Power, who are about as far from an unbiased source one could possibly imagine on energy and environmental issues here in Virginia.
Finally, with regard to video I've posted above, watch as Ivy Main asks McAuliffe whether he's "worried at all about the gamble we're taking here" with the massive overrliance on natural gas (and relatively paltry, pathetic investments in energy efficiency and solar - including rooftop/distributed solar, about which McAuliffe doesn't seem to have the slightest clue -- see future posts for more on that one), especially given studies suggesting that the "shale gas boom is going to turn into a bust starting in 2020."
In response, McAuliffe disingenusly pleaded powerlessness in the face of Dominion ("as you know, Dominion's authority doesn't go through all I can do is...cajole them to what I think is in the best interest of the Commonwealth...I don't get to determine how Dominion invests their resources or what type of power generation, that's done by a separate authority"). McAuliffe claimed he wants Virginia to be a "global leader on renewables," also that we've (supposedly) "made tremendous project in the last year" on renewable energy. Note, by the way, that McAuliffe is being highly disingenous about his role vis-a-vis Dominion, here claiming powerlessness, but in another part of the forum, he bragged that he basically sat Dominion down in his office and got them to agree to a list of demands, including getting them to invest $700 million in solar, plus low-income housing energy assistance. Bottom line, according to the supposedly powerless (vis-a-vis Dominion, at least) Gov. McAuliffe: "I did ask for four or five things, and they agreed with us." In other words, McAuliffe simultaneously is claiming that he has NO power over Dominion and LOTS of power with Dominion. Pick one?
lowkell :: Video: Sierra Club's Ivy Main is Right; Gov. McAuliffe is Dead Wrong on Natural Gas

As to the substance of Ivy Main's question on putting so many of our eggs in the natural gas basket, when there's evidence the "boom" might could "bust" in a few years (not to mention the huge environmental problems associated with fracking, which McAuliffe's and Dominion's proposed pipelines will encourage in West Virginia and other states), McAuliffe dodges. Instead, McAuliffe talks about how we have a "diverse energy mix...with nuclear, with gas...we have some coal, and we have renewables." Except for one problem: when it comes to renewables, Virginia has extremely little according to EIA (much of which is environmentally sketchy biomass, NOT solar or wind), with the vast majority of Virginia's electricity generation either nuclear (one of the most expensive sources of electricity), coal (the dirtiest source of electricity) and natural gas (which McAuliffe and Dominion are wrongheadedly doubling down on).Worst of all, McAuliffe continues to ignore and/or give short shrift to what is BY FAR the cheapest form of energy -- efficiency. On that note, see Lazard's analysis here, including a graphic showing energy efficiency as the cheapest form of power, followed by onshore wind, followed by utility-scale solar PV. Sadly, this is just the tip of the (melting) iceberg when it comes to Gov. McAuliffe's biased, Dominion-centric view of energy issues. More on that in coming posts, including McAuliffe's almost complete misunderstanding of distributed energy, as well as a jaw-droppingly false claim about the cost of transmitting power from a nuclear power plant vs. a comparable solar facility. It's head scratching, until you hear McAuliffe repeatedly refer to the hours and hours he's spent behind closed doors with Dominion Power...then it all starts to get a lot clearer!

Sen. Tim Kaine: "I am proud that we have finally confirmed Loretta Lynch"

Thursday, April 23, 2015

From Sen. Tim Kaine's office; congratulations and good luck to new U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch! As for the absurd delays in confirming this highly qualified nominee by the right-wing Republican-controlled U.S. Senate, the only remedy is clear: Democrats need to take back the Senate in 2016!
In confirming Loretta Lynch as our next Attorney General, the Senate has chosen a distinguished legal mind and experienced public servant to lead the Department of Justice. Throughout her career, Lynch has developed a reputation for her integrity and trusted leadership, which will serve the nation well as she addresses recent tensions between law enforcement and communities across the country. While it is unacceptable that is has taken the Senate 166 days to act on such a well-qualified and highly-regarded nominee, I am proud that we have finally confirmed Loretta Lynch, and I am confident that she will work hard to ensure justice for all Americans.

Fairfax School Board Member Dan Storck: "Immunizations are an essential part of people's health"

Note: the following email from Fairfax County Board candidate Dan Storck comes in response to my April 10 article on Storck's company, "National Integrated Health Associates," which he manages and co-founded. Among many other strange claims on its website, and/or linked to on its website, include stuff like this: "Autism, ADHD, allergies and asthma (4 A's) and all the other brain disorders are due to neuro-immune dys-function due to too much neurotoxins and the inability of the child to adequately detox or remove these harmful toxins." In addition, the website explicitly blames, completely falsely, the "rapid rise in the vaccination schedules for infants in the last 30 years" for everything from autism to allergies to "leaky gut" to "Lyme, Candida, Herpes virus, Strep, staph, tetanus botulinum, mycotoxins from mold and others."Alrighty then. Oh, and on its Facebook page, it links to an article entitled, "Measles Transmitted By The Vaccinated, Gov. Researchers Confirm," and one about how a "young, brave, wonderful man is showing everyone how to beat cancer, naturally, with no chemo!" It goes on and on like this, with Storck's company claiming that  herbs can cure Lyme Disease, that fluoridated water is heinous, that mandatory vaccines may violate your civil liberties, thatwearing a bra or putting on deoderant can cause breast cancer, that kids with cancer shouldn't get chemotherapy, that women shouldn't get mammograms because they are worthless (they link to this article), thatmeasles is "transmitted by the vaccinated," and...ok, I think you get the idea.
Anyway, I was at the office opening for Scott Surovell and Paul Krizek the other day, and Dan Storck approached me, clearly not pleased about how his company had been portrayed (even though, as I told him, everything in there was stuff ON HIS COMPANY'S WEBSITE or LINKED TO by his company's website). Basically, Storck's counterargument was a combination of: a) claiming the stuff on his website wasn't really on his website; b) claiming it was mostly links to other sources, not implying any endorsement of those sources; c) repeating his belief that what his company does is good for people's health; and d) claiming I must be working for or supporting one of his opponents, which is 100% not true (I'm overwhelmingly inclined not to endorse in this race). Clearly, a dead end there. So, I tried to refocus the discussion on public policy, since Storck is a member of the Fairfax County School Board and a candidate for County Board. The question I asked was whether his personal beliefs and/or work at "National Integrated Health Associates" in any way impacted his public policy decisions on the School Board, or possibly on the County Board if he's elected.  Here's his written response, which I received this morning. I've added bolding for emphasis of what I think are key points.

Governor McAuliffe Signs Clean Energy Jobs Legislation

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Check out the following press release from Gov. McAuliffe's office. Also, as Del. Rip Sullivan (pictured at right) notes on his FB page: "Making progress on net metering in Virginia today. Governor McAuliffe signed HB 1950, which I co-patroned with my friend Delegate Jen McLellan, along with other clean energy bills at the Capital One data center in Chester, Virginia." "
~ Bi-partisan initiatives will expand solar generation, energy efficiency and green jobs in Virginia ~

RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today performed a ceremonial signing of several bills that will significantly expand the growth of clean energy jobs in Virginia.  Governor McAuliffe was joined by a broad, bipartisan coalition of legislators, environmental leaders and industry representatives who were instrumental in securing passage of these pro-jobs, pro-clean energy initiatives during the 2015 General Assembly Session.

Speaking about today’s announcement on Earth Day in Chesterfield County, Governor McAuliffe said, “Building a new Virginia economy is my top priority as Governor, and the emerging clean energy jobs sector provides a tremendous opportunity for economic growth and diversification.  The legislative initiatives signed today are key components of my Virginia Energy Plan and will significantly expand solar generation, energy efficiency programs and green jobs in the Commonwealth.  I sincerely thank all of the bill patrons and stakeholders for their tireless efforts to find consensus on these bills. Through bipartisan leadership and a broad coalition of industry, utility and environmental stakeholders working together, we have taken important next steps for diversifying our economy and making Virginia a leader in clean energy jobs.”

“Energy is a strategic growth sector both in Virginia and the entire United States providing good jobs and good wages,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones.  “Because of the Commonwealth’s significant assets, we have tremendous opportunities in this important arena. This legislative package provides us with the tools we need to capitalize on these opportunities.”

The Clean Energy Jobs legislation signed by Governor McAuliffe includes:

The Truth About Dominion's Power

Earth Day is here and so is the Chesapeake Climate Action Network's eagerly anticipated new website: After months of hard work, we're excited to release this interactive website as an educational platform to expose the dirty truth about Virginia's largest utility company and most powerful corporation: Dominion Power.
Every year around Earth Day, Dominion funds slick ads, community projects like tree-plantings, outdoor festivals and more to paint itself as a "green" and "sustainable" is our way of setting the record straight.
As you scroll through the site, you'll see that Dominion is the state's #1 emitter of the heat-trapping pollution wrecking our climate. Dominion is also the #1 corporate donor to state politicians. For far too long, Dominion has used its power to rig the system against local, clean energy solutions and for costly fossil fuel projects, and Virginians are paying a high price as a result.
We call Dominion's deliberate misleading of the public "greenwashing." This year in particular, we expect Dominion to churn out more greenwashing than ever before - because the company is facing more public scrutiny and protests over its dirty energy projects than we've seen before.
You know there's a serious image problem when sixth graders and senior citizens alike are standing up at county meetings to decry Dominion's 550-mile pipeline for fracked gas; when riverkeepers are joining with history buffs to challenge Dominion's massive proposed transmission lines over Jamestown; and when editorial writers across the state are hammering the company's anti-consumer "power politics."
With so much opposition brewing, particularly in response to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, we're seeing cracks open up in Dominion's tightly controlled corporate image. We're also seeing Dominion's tight grasp over our democracy get renewed exposure and criticism in the media.
When Dominion put forward legislation in the 2015 General Assembly to partially halt state oversight of its electric rates, news stories zeroed in on Dominion's "unrivaled political power" over the General Assembly. Following fierce public backlash, legislators ended up amending the bill to lay the groundwork for 400 megawatts of new utility-scale solar in Virginia and to create new energy efficiency pilot programs.
We know by exposing the truth, and bringing more people across Virginia into our movement, we begin to take the power back from Dominion. And nothing worries Dominion more than losing its power - over our energy system and over our democracy.
Help pull back the curtain on Dominion's greenwashing, and build the movement for solutions, by checking out and then passing it on - especially to your friends and family in Virginia!
P.S. You can find this original blog post on CCAN's website, written by CCAN's Virginia Statewide Organizer Charlie Spatz

Blue Virginia 45th HoD Dem Candidate Interviews: Julie Jakopic

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On April 8, I sent Blue Virginia interview questions to all Democratic candidates running for the 45th House of Delegates district (Alexandria, south Arlington) seat being vacated by Del. Rob Krupicka. The candidates are Larry Altenburg, Craig Fifer, Julie Jakopic, Mark Levine and Clarence Tong. I told the candidates that I'd post their interviews in the order I received them. The first one I received back, on Monday, was from Larry Altenburg. Last Thurday, I received responses from Clarence Tong. Now, I've gotten back Julie Jakopic's answers, which you can read below - thanks! As soon as I receive the remaining two candidates' answers, I'll post them. Finally, please note that the primary for this nomination will take place on June 9, so if you're a Democrat who lives in the 45th, make sure you vote!1. Tell us a bit about yourself, and specifically, what in your background and/or temperament makes you the best qualified of the Democratic candidates to represent the 45th House of Delegates district in Richmond.  
I have a clear vision of where government can create opportunities andmake a difference in people's lives. I've led commissions and nonprofit boards nationally and here in the 45th district, fighting for early childhood education, economic opportunity, social services, and housing. I've also built a business that helps governments and organizations throughout the nation improve the effectiveness of their services. As a delegate, I want to bring this experience to Richmond to help us find ways to give every child and family real opportunities to reach their potential.
My mom raised my brother and me by herself, after my father took his own life. I saw firsthand how hard it was for families to make ends meet and provide all of the opportunities they want for their children, and it taught me the importance of access to quality education, access to healthcare and mental health care, and economic opportunity on a level playing field.
2. What three issues are you most passionate about and why?  What specifically have you done to further those issues? What would be the first bill you'd introduce in the House of Delegates?
Expanding children's access to safe, quality preschool education
Early care and education has lasting impact. We can already identify differences in brain development for low-income or traumatized children as early as 18 months of age. These differences can have longterm ramifications throughout schooling and well into adulthood. As chair-elect of Hopkins House PreSchool Academy, where I have helped expand our programs to two additional schools, I understand the need to strengthen safety requirements, such as background checks, for child-care providers as well as set quality learning standards to ensure that all children start school ready to learn.

Letter: Virginia Environmental Groups Urge EPA Not to Count Forests as Fuel

The following letter (bolding added by me) from Virginia environmental groups was sent in February, but it remains highly relevant, as the EPA's Clean Power Plan nears its one-year comment period. It's also highly relevant - and important - if you care about Virginia's forests, not to mention the clean water, air, habitat, recreational opportunities, tourism dollars, etc. that depend on those forests. Finally, note that on May 4, from 7 to 8:30 pm at Arlington Central Library, there will be a presentation entitled, "Burning Trees for Electricity:  How EPA's Clean Power Plan Puts Forests at Risk in Virginia and Across the Nation," spnosored by  Michelle's Earth Foundation, the Partnership for Policy Integrity, the Sierra Club Great Falls Group and the Sierra Club Mt. Vernon Group. It sounds like it's well worth checking out.
February 25, 2015Gina McCarthy
Office of the Administrator 1101A
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20460
Dear Administrator McCarthy:
We are a group of environmental organizations located in Virginia. We support the Clean Power Plan and believe it has significant potential to reduce power sector emissions in our state, in particular through the expansion of zero-emissions renewable energy and energy efficiency. However, we are extremely concerned that if EPA treats biomass as carbon neutral under the final Clean Power Plan, it will openly invite Dominion Virginia Power, the dominant utility in Virginia, to burn wood from forests to help meet its emission reduction obligations under the Plan.
As EPA knows, wood is the fuel of choice for biomass power plants because it contains more energy and is more plentiful than other forms of biomass. Therefore, labeling biomass as emitting zero carbon would amount to a policy that promotes forest-cutting to reduce carbon emissions. Such a policy would contradict a growing body of science, including peer-reviewed studies in leading journals, commissioned by the state of Massachusetts. This research has shown that biomass power actually increases emissions relative to fossil fuels, and that it takes several decades for new forest growth to re-sequester the carbon released when forests are cut for fuel. In addition, these studies show that burning forestry residues, the fuel Dominion claims to burn, also increases carbon emissions and that it takes years to decades before such emissions are offset.

Ken Cuccinelli Joins the Crazy Crowd on Iran, Says Any Deal is Like Appeasement to Hitler

Yeah, I know, it's not a big surprise that 2013 Virginia Republican gubernatorial nominee (and, as much as I still can't believe it actually happened, Attorney General of Virginia) Ken Cuccinelli's nuts: about climate change, homosexuality (and sexuality in general), government, guns, etc, etc. Now it turns out he's nuts about foreign policy as well.  Did I miss anything? In reality, of course, without a deal, Iran could simply continue pursuing a nuclear weapons program, as it apparently has for many years (e.g., under the Bush administration, which completely failed to stop it; then under the Obama administration, which has a chance of stopping it via negotiations). The only alternative? War, which would be a bloody mess, and which almost certainly wouldn't stop Iran's nuclear ambitions for more than a few years. So what are the alternatives being offered by Teapublicans like Ken Cuccinelli?  No idea, except that they love to bash Barack Obama for whatever reason(s).

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive Sees Fossil Fuels Becoming the "Alternative" Source of Energy

Monday, April 20, 2015

Cross posted from Scaling Green, and recommended reading for all Virginia legislators, members of the State Corporation Commission, Dominion Power executives, etc. Enjoy! :)We wrote recently about new polling, produced for Clean Edge and SolarCity, that found enormous support among Americans for clean energy.  For instance, by a nearly unanimous 87%-7% margin, Americans said that renewable energy is important to America's future. Also, by a 74%-12% margin, U.S. homeowners "back the continuation of federal tax incentives that support the growth of solar and wind." Americans strongly oppose, by a 61%-24% margin, efforts by electric utilities aimed at "being able to charge an additional fee for solar powered homes and businesses." Finally, asked which energy sources they view as "most important to America's energy future," solar power came out on top (50% of homeowners agreed), with wind power second (42%), and energy efficiency (25) also in the top four. In contrast, fossil fuels like coal (8%) and oil (17%) scored near the bottom.
Today, Clean Edge and SolarCity held a webinar on these poll results, with some fascinating insights provided by Lyndon Rive of SolarCity, Ron Pernick of Clean Edge, and pollster John Zogby.  A few that jumped out at us include the following.
lowkell :: SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive Sees Fossil Fuels Becoming the "Alternative" Source of Energy

  • Lyndon Rive of SolarCity notes that while in 2009, only 2% of new power capacity installed in the U.S. was solar, during the first three quarters of 2014, that share reached a whopping 35%. In Rive's view, solar's share of new installed capacity in the U.S. could hit 50% over the next five years.
  • John Zogby said that solar and wind have moved beyond being "esoteric" to being real and visible. Zogby noted that when a homeowner sees solar being installed on a neighbor's home, it becomes more real and more accessible.
  • Zogby also argued that non-renewable energy sources have undergone the "exact opposite of a renaissance" in recent years, in part due to their perceived economic and geopolitical volatility.
  • Rive argued that, despite a perception of a partisan divide on solar power, that actually solar has "total bipartisan support." In fact, Rive noted, if you go back to the beginning of the solar tax credit, it was led by Republican Senators, and was extended for eight years by a Republican president.  It's unfortunate, in Rive's view, that the "Solyndra blowup" turned solar into a "Democratic political football," as "in reality it's supported by both parties."
  • Rive made an interesting point about how the drought in the West could drive more clean energy, as solar power uses no water at all. In stark contrast, Rive explained, the amount of water used by fossil fuel-generated power plants is enormous, while if a homeowner were to install solar power, "the net effect of that is better than using no water at all."
  • With regard to political opposition at the federal and state levels to clean energy scaling, Rive argued that when you have a technology source go from 2% to 35% of new power capacity in just a few years, it's very threatening to incumbent energy sources. In response, those incumbents are "leveraging all their political muscle" to persuade politicians to slow down the growth of clean energy.
  • Even with that incumbent, fossil-fuel-industry opposition, Rive said that the attitude in Congress towards extension of the ITC has gone from "no way in hell" to "how do we make this work...get it extended" in just the last year or so. Rive also noted that in the U.S., the fossil fuel industry has over 13 permanent tax credits, and in general is highly subsidized.
  • Rive recommended fighting back by educating customers to fight for their right to energy competition.  Beyond that, though Rive argued that the solar industry needs to work with utilities to resolve the "natural friction" between the two industries, to make it possible for utilities to make money off the solar sector, in part by changing the utility business model to one where it becomes the manager of the "flow of energy" from "everywhere."
  • Finally, Rive commented that microgrids are growing, particularly in islands and small communities, to the point where fossil fuels are becoming the "alternative source" of energy, not solar.  Rive said he sees that paradigm playing out in the future.

Atif Qarni Demonstrates Why We Badly Need a Teacher in the Virginia State Senate

The following post, by Prince William County math teacher (and U.S. Marine Corps veteran)Atif Qarni, lays out some important challenges Virginia faces when it comes to education, as well as what we need to do about it. That includes: 1) reducing overcrowded classrooms; 2) "rethink our curriculum and how we evaluate it"; 3) "put an end to our toxic testing environment"; 4) stop the "attacks on public education in favor of charter schools and school voucher programs"; and 5) "invest on the front end and support a quality education for all." I couldn't agree more with all of this, and would just add that it demonstrates why we badly need a super-smart teacher like Atif Qarni in the Virginia State Senate!During my time in the Marines, I was taught about how important it is to set high standards for yourself. We should be taking that lesson to heart when it comes to our education standards in the Commonwealth. We need some significant reforms so that we can live up to the promise teachers at my school make to our students: if you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything you want. It's time to lower classroom sizes, update our curriculum, and stop the emphasis on testing.
Our classrooms are too crowded.  It's bad for students to try and learn in classrooms of 35 and 36, which is what middle school math class sizes are in my school.  If we want kids to learn topics well and to think and solve problems for themselves, not just do well on tests, we need to give them a chance in classes that are smaller.
We also need to rethink our curriculum and how we evaluate it. Current Standards of Learning are not updated enough to test what a student should know as they move on with their education. We should be focusing heavily on increasing our students' ability to compete in a global economy. That starts with updated standards of math, science, and technology.
We need put and end to our toxic testing environment. We test our kids on these outdated standards too aggressively. This excessive testing drives our kids to physical illness on testing days. Kids face anxiety and symptoms of depression during testing season. Is this the way to show them the importance of education? Or are we instead driving them out of the classroom and away from wanting to learn. As a parent as well as a teacher, seeing the impact of these tests is heartbreaking. Some kids just don't learn the same way others do, and that's ok. Testing should not punish them for that.
Attacks on public education in favor of charter schools and school voucher programs are to blame for these problems, but it's not too late. For those that want or need it, public schools should be there to provide them a high quality education. A first class education should be the right of all, not the privilege of a select few, and that is what we face if we don't fix our system. Virginia consistently ranks well below the US average in state spending for public education, but above the US average for corrections spending. I think it's time we invest on the front end and support a quality education for all.