Climate Press Conference Held in Charlottesville

Local Elected Officials, Business Leaders, and Environmental Groups Urge Support for Climate Action

Environment Virginia

Charlottesville, VA—  A coalition of elected officials, green business owners, and environmental organizations gathered outside Charlottesville’s City Hall today to urge action on global warming and support for President Obama’s new Climate Action Plan.

Environment Virginia was joined by Kristin Szakos, Vice Mayor of Charlottesville; Dede Smith, Charlottesville Council Member; Dan Boyle, owner of Central Virginia Wind Energy; and Steve Pence, co-founder and board chair of the Rivanna Conservation Society.

“President Obama gave us all a reason to celebrate last month when he unveiled a national climate action plan to reduce carbon pollution, encourage investment in renewable wind and solar energy and energy efficiency, and assist our communities in becoming more resilient to the impacts of climate change,” said Sarah Frost, Environment Virginia’s assistant field director.  

For years, scientists have warned us about the extreme weather impacts of climate change. In 2012, the U.S. experienced its hottest year on record and its most widespread drought since the Dust Bowl.Over the last six years, federally-declared weather-related disasters have affected 126 of 136 counties and independent cities in Virginia, home tomore than 95 percent of our population.

Scientists predict that extreme rainfall, hurricanes, and heat waves may continue to become more frequent or severe in a warming world unless we enact dramatic emissions cuts in global warming pollution. Power plants are the largest single source of the carbon pollution fueling global warming, responsible for 40 percent of the carbon emissions in the United States every year. 

“We’re concerned because with every new coal burning plant comes a threat of further degradation in air quality in Charlottesville and Central Virginia, because we are downwind of these sites,” said City Council Member Dede Smith.

In Virginia, power plants and major industrial facilities emitted 45 million metric tons of carbon pollution in 2011, equivalent to the yearly pollution from 9.2 million cars, in a state with a population of 8.2 million.

In response to this ongoing crisis, last summer Americans submitted a record 3.2 million comments to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — 130,000 from VA– asking the president to direct EPA to use its authority under the Clean Air Act to limit carbon pollution from power plants, just as the agency does other dangerous pollutants.

Adding their voices to the chorus, leaders from around the state signed onto a letter to the president, asking him to cut carbon pollution, increase energy efficiency and clean power from wind and solar, reject dirty energy sources, and engage the country in a dialogue about global warming.

In addition to the speakers at the event, signatories of the letter from around the state include:  

  • Charlottesville City Council Member and former Mayor Dave Norris
  • Albemarle County Supervisor Ann Mallek
  • Alexandria Mayor William Euille 
  • State Senators Adam Ebbins, John Edwards, Barbara Favola, and Donald McEachin
  • State Delegates Patrick Hope and Kenneth Plum
  • Green energy businesses Old Mill Power Company, Helios Solar Systems, and the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals
  • Environmental groups Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League and Appalachian Voices.

The president’s National Climate plan would:

  • Limit carbon pollution from new and existing power plants: In order to put the country on track to meet his goal of reducing carbon emissions 17 percent by 2020, the president directed the Environmental Protection Agency to set the first-ever limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, currently the largest single source of the carbon pollution in the U.S.
  • Invest in energy efficiency: New efficiency measures for buildings and new appliances will cut costs by reducing our overall energy demand and reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons by 2030.
  • Build more renewable energy: The plan focuses on expanding production of clean energy sources like wind and solar, through projects like permitting enough renewables projects on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes, and installing 100 megawatts of renewable energy on federally assisted housing by 2020. 
  • Rebuild U.S. leadership internationally: The president’s plan calls for the U.S. to actively engage in international efforts to address global warming. 
  • Support affected communities: The currently forming Climate Resiliency Task Force and other efforts on the part of the administration to partner with local and state officials will ensure that communities are better equipped with best practices to prepare for and recover from the impacts of global warming.

“Issues of climate change affect us all.  In our long-range planning, the City has recognized that we may experience growth in the future as oceanside communities have to evacuate because of higher ocean levels.  That’s a really sobering thought,” said Kristin Szakos, Charlottesville’s Vice Mayor.

President Obama’s plan is a major step forward in protecting public health, spurring innovation in clean energy technologies that will create jobs, and reducing the extreme weather impacts of climate change on Charlottesville and other U.S. cities. 

“We urge President Obama to finish implementing strong limits on carbon pollution from power plants, and to reject dirty and dangerous energy sources like the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline,” concluded Frost.