Video of this event can be found here.
Richmond, VA—Virginians gathered today to share their stories with legislators and demand action from our lawmakers at the People’s Hearing on Climate Justice. This was an online event where community members spoke about how their lives have been impacted by climate change and discussed the necessity of environmental justice in the Commonwealth.
Kenneth Gilliam, Policy Director at New Virginia Majority, served as the emcee of the event.
Irene Leech, a professor of consumer studies at Virginia Tech and president of the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, discussed the impact of both the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Mountain Valley Pipeline on land she owns. “If you choose to fight, it can be thousands of dollars which means a lot of people just accept it. It is hard to protect your single biggest asset when a pipeline comes knocking.”
Taysha DeVaughan who lives in Wise County and is a member of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, speaking about impact of power plant closures on communities said, “We need to be mindful when transitioning to clean energy that we don’t recreate the same disparities. The burden of transition should not fall on already impacted communities.”
Also speaking about just transition, Adam Malle who also lives in Wise County and is a member of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewardssaid, “Their promises are always overstated and under-delivered. The least they can do—the plants and our legislators—is require the transition [planning] necessary to prepare for the inevitable shut down of these plants. The state certainly has the capacity to ease the transition and give us tools so that we can fill the gap ourselves through economic diversification, sustainable development, redevelopment of abandoned mine lands, and the cleanup efforts necessary to mitigate the damage to our land.”
Ebony Guy, a member of the Danville Chapter and State Governing Board member of Virginia Organizing, said “Dominion is a monopoly. We are forced to pay ridiculous rates, and we have no recourse. We need to make sure that Black people and communities of color aren’t put at risk because of their zip code.”
Carl Poole of Norfolk spoke about the impact of the coal industry on the health of nearby neighborhoods and the disproportionate impact on Black, Brown, and low-income communities. “When you have a Black and Brown neighborhood, it is not just economically vulnerable, but also environmentally vulnerable.”
Participants in the event were calling for legislators to support legislation during the upcoming General Assembly Session that would:
- Hold utility monopolies accountable for overcharging ratepayers.
- Ensure that a community has a just transition plan when coal plants close.
- Strengthen the Environmental Justice Act passed last year.
This event was hosted by Appalachian Voices, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, New Virginia Majority, Progress Virginia, Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative, and Virginia Organizing.