RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — In Richmond Saturday hundreds of people marched to the governor’s mansion demanding that Gov. McAuliffe give support to people over pollution, and become a full-time champion of renewable energy.
Today’s march united people affected by environmental policy from many different walks of life.
Demonstrators included farmers affected by proposed pipelines, people whose drinking water has been contaminated by the decision to dump coal ash into local rivers and people affected by rising sea levels along Virginia’s coast.
Abiya Thiel from the group Citizen’s Climate Lobby stressed the importance of converting to renewable energy sources.
“It’s time to stop investments in fossil fuel energy and put our money and energy into renewables,” she said.
Bill Limpert, from the organization Voices of Bath said that he fears what would happen if an accident ever occurred at the pipeline near his home.
“We’re in the impact radius or blast zone of the pipe,” Limpert said. “We and six other families will be trapped in the top of Little Valley if the pipeline explodes with no escape whatsoever.”
Another concern for those at the rally was water quality in Virginia, as many have been affected by the introduction of treated coal ash to water sources.
“Dominion wants to not properly treat water infected with coal ash before they release it into the water, so it’s releasing harmful chemicals like arsenic into the water we drink and that’s not good,” one protester said.
But Rob Richardson, of Dominion Power, said that Dominion is one of the cleanest energy companies in the country, and that they are committed to providing low cost reliable electricity 24/7.
He said some of the conflict comes down to misinformation.
“You can’t have just solar power or just wind power because sometimes the sun isn’t out and sometimes the wind isn’t blowing,” Richardson said. “We’re investing in natural gas because there’s less carbon emitted from natural gas, it’s cleaner, it’s more efficient as we move away from coal and we want our customers to know that.”
Still, the environmentalists at the rally want to make sure their voices are heard.
“This is a lot of people who are here,” Nelson County resident Heidi Cochran said. “People from West Virginia and across Virginia, and they want to be heard by McAuliffe.”
The march was endorsed by more than 60 groups and environmental leaders from across the state in an open letter to Gov. McAuliffe. The letter outlined positive steps that can be taken to improve renewable energy in the state.
A spokesperson for McAuliffe said that he has aggressively pushed for renewable energy development in the state, particularly solar power.