The first southern state with carbon-free energy goals

Virginia has become the first southern state to establish carbon-free energy goals by the year 2045. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed into action the Virginia Clean Economy Act that will require such utility powerhouses as Dominion Energy and Appalachian Power to transition to carbon free operations. Read More.
The following article is reprinted on our webpage from the Washington Post written by Gregory S. Schneider.
Virginia becomes the first Southern state with a goal of carbon-free energy
By Gregory S. Schneider
April 13, 2020 at 9:26 p.m. EDT
RICHMOND — The coronavirus is scrambling Virginia’s budget and economy, but it didn’t prevent Gov. Ralph Northam (D) from signing legislation that makes it the first Southern state with a goal of going carbon-free by 2045.
Over the weekend, Northam authorized the omnibus Virginia Clean Economy Act, which mandates that the state’s biggest utility, Dominion Energy, switch to renewable energy by 2045. Appalachian Power, which serves far southwest Virginia, must go carbon-free by 2050.
Almost all the state’s coal plants will have to shut down by the end of 2024 under the new law. Virginia is the first state in the old Confederacy to embrace such clean-energy targets.
Under a separate measure, Virginia also becomes the most Southern state to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative — a carbon cap-and-trade market among states in the Northeast.
The actions “will create thousands of clean energy jobs, make major progress on fighting climate change, and break Virginia’s reliance on fossil fuels,” state Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond), a sponsor of the omnibus bill, said in an emailed statement.
Democrats promised to do more to protect the environment during elections last fall in which they won control of the state legislature for the first time in a generation.
They used their new power to pass a mountain of ambitious legislation in this year’s General Assembly session, and Northam had until midnight this past Saturday to sign bills into law, suggest amendments or veto them. He proposed delaying some actions — such as raising the state’s minimum wage — and freezing all new spending in anticipation of the impact of the pandemic, which is likely to cost the state about $3 billion over the next two years.
But Northam cast the energy legislation as an antidote, saying in a statement that it would prove “that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand.”
In addition to the clean-energy goals, the legislation sets energy efficiency standards for the state’s electricity providers, mandates the development of offshore wind energy and opens the door to more rooftop solar.
Some consumer advocates have criticized the legislation for continuing to allow Dominion Energy to pass costs along to customers and insulating the giant utility from regulatory oversight of its rates. Dominion is the most influential corporation in Richmond, and many of the Democrats who won last year had promised to disrupt the utility’s special status.
Although Dominion participated in crafting the legislation, it was not the driving force. Instead, a coalition of alternative-energy companies and advocacy groups worked with lawmakers on the idea.
Many environmental groups praised Northam for signing it.
“This is undoubtedly the boldest climate action legislation ever to come out of the South,” Southern Environmental Law Center lawyer Will Cleveland said via email. “We look forward to continuing to work together to ensure the best possible implementation of this groundbreaking legislation and to ensure that this transformation of our energy landscape benefits all Virginians equally.”
Gary Moody, director of state and local climate strategy at the National Audubon Society, said that the legislation “shows the success of a pragmatic, market-based approach in achieving state economywide solutions.”
Plus, he said, it’s good for the birds. “Even in this time of uncertainty, both threatened communities and vulnerable birds like cerulean warblers and saltmarsh sparrows will have a fighting chance against climate change.”

Backyard Talk

Vulnerability to Pollution and Susceptibility to Covid-19

A new screening tool is now available that identifies populations across the country that are most vulnerable to severe complications following exposure to the coronavirus and development of covid-19. This community vulnerability map which was developed by Jvion, a health care data firm, in collaboration with Microsoft. Jvion uses socioeconomic and environmental factors, such as lack of access to transportation, exposure to pollution, unemployment and mortality rates at the census block level to identify communities vulnerable to severe effects of covid-19.
In an article about his new mapping tool in Grist magazine, Jvion is described as using “machine learning to analyze block-level data from the U.S. Census to identify ‘environmental health hazards’ as one key socioeconomic factor that makes a population more vulnerable  to severe covid-19 outcomes, based on the health effects of polluted air, contaminated water and extreme heat. They also factored in how chronic exposure to outdoor respiratory air pollutants such as fine particulate matter can increase the risk of cancer, respiratory illness and cardiovascular disease – preexisting conditions that make exposure to the novel corona virus more severe and fatal.”
This interactive and searchable map differs from others available on the internet in that it identifies the populations that once infected will likely experience severe outcomes ranging from hospitalization to death.
This vulnerability map can be used together with the USEPA’s EJScreen, an Environmental Justice Screening and Mapping tool. The EJScreen uses 11 environmental and health indicators and standard demographic data to identify communities most susceptible to air quality pollution. The EJ screen specifically includes a cancer risk and respiratory hazard index that is provided as a percentile in the state or nationally.
When the vulnerability mapping tool is matched with the EPA’s EJ Screen, the results are astounding. The relationship between a community’s proximity to industrial facilities and the projected risk of severe covid-19 outcomes is very clear and very strong. The areas of high vulnerability identified on the Community Vulnerability map match well with areas with high pollution from industrial facilities identified by the EJScreen, painting an all too familiar picture of communities suffering disproportionately from multiple and cumulative risks.
The preexisting respiratory and other health conditions that African Americans suffer from living in the shadows of industrial facilities in sacrifice zones across the country contribute significantly to their susceptibility to the lethal effects of covid-19. This reality isn’t an accident, but the result of economic and environmental conditions imposed on people of color over the long history of discrimination in this country.
In spite of these obvious disparities and the growing threat that people of color and African Americans in particular face from covid-19, EPA announced this month that it has stopped enforcing regulations that hold corporate polluters accountable for releasing toxic chemicals into the air we breathe. This is another outrage. Sign our petition to demand that the government reverse this disastrous decision.

Homepage News Archive

The EPA gave polluters a license to kill

There are tens of thousands more communities where the pollution continues unabated. These are known as “sacrifice zones” — places where the health of residents is permanently sacrificed to industrial contamination. Our government just told polluters they are free to pump deadly chemicals into our air and water. That’s because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has suspended all enforcement indefinitely, until the COVID-19 crisis is over.  Read more.


Coal Miners and Covid-19

As a result of economic cutbacks in the fossil fuel industry during the pandemic, coal companies are requesting relief from taxes that contribute funding to retired coal worker health benefits. Nearly 25,000 retired coal miners receive support from the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund. The program is funded by an excise tax on the mining industry and is set per ton of coal extracted. If the excise tax is cut back, more strain could be put on a population that is already vulnerable to serious impacts from the virus. Read More.


How vulnerable is your community to Coronavirus? New maps reveal familiar pattern.

The predominantly black and low-income communities living near the back-to-back petrochemical refineries of Louisiana’s “cancer alley” have long suffered compromised immune systems and high rates of disease. Now, the state’s fast-growing COVID-19 outbreak is poised to hit them especially hard. <Read more>


Baltimore’s Right to Clean Air and Zero Waste

The Baltimore City Council unanimously passed a resolution on Monday, April 6th to adopt Baltimore’s Fair Development Plan for zero waste. Residents are now calling for supporter to sign on to encourage Baltimore’s Mayor Young to defend the city’s right to clean air and zero waste by breaking Baltimore’s contract with BRESCO, a trash incineration company. BRESCO is the city’s largest polluter, accounting for 55 million dollars in damages each year.
Baltimore City Council Resolution
Baltimore’s Right to Clean Air Petition 


Is Air Pollution Connected to Higher Coronavirus Death Rates?

Is air pollution connected to higher coronavirus death rates? The Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health released findings on a study that found a positive correlation between long term exposure to particulate matter (PM 2.5) and higher death rates from disease. The study concluded that exposure to air pollution leads to more severe outcomes to patients infected with COVID-19. The study may be important to how health officials allocate virus resources, such as ventilator or respirators, to more vulnerable regions. Read More.
Find Harvard University’s health study here.


NRC Pushing Regulatory Exemptions During the Pandemic

Nuclear power plants are among the many other industries that will be receiving regulatory relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among some of the proposed changes are longer work days and work weeks for some employees because of shortage in available staff. Some employees may be permitted to work upwards of 12 to 16 hours a day or 86 hours a week. Additionally, repairs, inspections and replacement of equipment might go undone during the pandemic. The NRC has assured that safety and security at facilities will not be compromised; however, with the proposed changes and limited staff, the risk of accident is higher than normal. Read More.


Pandemic and Pollution – An Op-Ed By Lois Gibbs

In response to the COVID-19 virus, the Environmental Protection Agency suspended regulations requiring facilities to monitor and report emissions. CHEJ’s very own Lois Gibbs provided commentary on the impact this action could have on individuals living in sacrifice zones, or areas overburden by pollution from industrial facilities. Although the regulation change comes at a time during a global pandemic, it is not the first change to facility requirements. While families are required to stay at home to avoid risk of exposure to the virus, they are “sitting ducks” to the toxic chemicals they are exposed on a daily basis from polluting facilities. Read More.

Backyard Talk

COVID-19 vs Past Pandemics

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Blog by: Joy Barua
COVID-19 has caused a major disruption in the entire world and have paused our daily life. It might even go down as the greatest challenge of its kind that we have faced in our lifetime. While the world is on pause and is unpredictable at the moment there is still hope that we will come out of this stronger than before.
As of this writing, there are 1,289,380 cases of COVID-19 in the world and a total of 70,590 deaths according to the John Hopkins Coronavirus resource center. That adds up to about a 5% case fatality rate (CFR). However, that 5% doesn’t paint the entire picture as to when looking at individual countries, the numbers shifts dramatically as for example, the CFR in Italy currently stands at 12%. It changes more for better or worse when dividing things up by regions or states in each country. For example, in our nation, the cases and CFR in New York are significantly higher than the rest of the country.
To provide a bit of background, COVID-19 is a single-stranded RNA virus. It is a zoonotic disease. Over the past 100 years or so, zoonotic diseases have become a major concern for the world of public health. Millions of people die each year due to some form of zoonotic diseases. Some of the deadliest zoonotic diseases includes Ebola, West Nile, Lyme Disease, Nipah Virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)and now COVID-19 which happens to be a strain of SARS or known as SARS-CoV-2. The first SARS outbreak took place in 2003 and also started in China. There are many more emerging zoonotic infectious diseases that are appearing in some of the lower-income countries. Most of the zoonotic diseases are considered to be RNA viruses. For those not aware, RNA viruses are considered more threatening than DNA viruses cause of their high mutation rate compared to DNA viruses.  As a result, creating a vaccine for an RNA virus takes longer than it would for a DNA virus.
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The goal of this writing is not to give you information that you are already aware of but to provide in-context how COVID-19 compares to past pandemics. Going back to the 1918 pandemic of the H1N1 virus, known as the Spanish Flu, infected about 500 million people or at the time 1/3 of the population. It claimed 50 million lives. That works up to a 10% CFR which is much higher than the current CFR of COVID-19. But similar to COVID-19, mortality was higher among the under 5 and over 65 age groups.
There was a second strand of flu pandemic in 1957 known as H2N2 or the Asian flu that claimed 1.1 million lives. Not long after, a third strand of the flu pandemic took place in 1968 known as the H3N2 virus that claimed another million lives. Similarly, the mortality rate was higher among those ages 65 and higher. The latest flu pandemic took place in 2009 known as the swine flu pandemic of the H1N1 virus. While it infected nearly 1.5 billion people, the CFR was much lower compared to past pandemics with deaths of about half a million people. There have also been other pandemics such as the Ebola outbreak, Zika (still active), HIV/AIDS pandemic (still active).
With the emergence of every new pandemic, the mortality rate slowly decreases. While the statistics differentiate between DNA and an RNA viruses, with the advancement of modern technology and modern medicine we are better equipped to deal with these types of pandemics than ever before. As COVID-19 continues to progress and has yet to peak in certain areas, just know that while it is still deadly, there is still hope that we will come out of this stronger than before.[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]