November 17, 2013

How green is Virginia's power?

Not very, even though the EPA gave Dominion Power a green award a while back. Perhaps they were duped by Dominion's claim that they have more than 19,000 green customers. Oops, look closer.

Virginia's Sierra Club points out that Dominion's "Green Power" program purchases solar and wind produced power predominately from outside of Virginia and that they charge a 50 percent "overhead" charge as well. So half of the money their customers contribute for renewable energy certificates goes to education and overhead? That sounds like a lighter shade of pale green to me. Millions of dollars given to Dominion in good faith has resulted in no windor solar facilities in Virginia. So Sierra Club has teamed up with Community Power Network to challenge this award and ask EPA to revoke it. The only achievement by Dominion is that have signed up more customers for this dubious practice than other utility programs. That, my friends, is an award in marketing!

Meanwhile, back at headquarters, Dominion's latest "integrated resource plan" focuses on more fossil fuel consumption over the next fifteen years. That is adding insult to injury.

And there is more. Dominion's "solar purchase program" allows them to buy solar power from homeowners or businesses and resell it to their Green Power Program, adding to the actual cost of that program. Sounds like a dicey business practice to me, but the State Corporation Commission approved it. 

And I will never comprehend the rational behind Dominion charging customers who "net meter" a standby charge because they are energy efficient.

What to do? Consider the actions below:

The Virginia Center for Wind Energy at James Madison University accepts donations to its Wind for Schools program, which helps public schools across the commonwealth install wind turbines for educational purposes. A new non-profit, Three Birds Foundation, is working to put solar on public schools that serve low-income children in Virginia and elsewhere.

November 3, 2013

Fracking in Virginia, part 2

The name, Virginia Outdoors Federation, sounds so green. But these folks might have a conflict of interest. They recently announced that drilling for gas and oil and conservation easements are not mutually exclusive. WHAT, you ask! Is is simply a coincidence that VOF holds 144 conservation easement acres in an area of Virginia east of Interstate 95, part of which runs through the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula? That is getting darn close to Tidewater Virginia and one of my favorite sailing areas.

The jury is still out on just how much damage fracking might do to the land and drinking water in the numerous areas in which it already takes place, but let us please hit the PAUSE button. 

Something called a "pooling law" in Virginia exists. It supposedly prevents landowners from conveying a conservation easement that prohibits oil or gas being extracted by horizontal drilling conducted from well sites on nearby properties. I just re-watched THERE WILL BE BLOOD and the villain in that fictional movie used that rationale too. The infamous "drinking straw argument" again? Daniel Day Lewis might win again.

Millions to clean up the Chesapeake Bay

The good news of the past week for Chesapeake Bay fans was the announcement of about $9.2 million in federal grants to clean up the 64,000 square miles of this once pristine estuary. Virginia will get only $1.8 million of that, but those dollars could go a long way in reducing the runoff from farms and re-establishing oyster beds.

The folks at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission also announced that they will crack down on oyster poachers who have blatantly been reaping a good harvest of oysters in recent years. Oysters alone could clean up the bay if they were allowed to return to their historic highs. I won't live long enough to see clear water in our tributaries but I hope that future generations might.