Free Weatherization Info Meeting

Community Housing Partners and the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley invite you to learn how income-qualified families can get their homes weatherized for free.

craftsmen-158689_640Simms Center
640 Simms Avenue, Harrisonburg VA
Monday, April 11th
7:30 pm

Through the federally-funded Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) adminstered by the Virginia Department of Housing and Development (DHCD), Community Housing Partners‘ (CHP) weatherization services reduce energy costs for families by improving the energy efficiency of their homes, while also assessing and eliminating related health and safety issues. The Energy Solutions team completes a site-specific energy audit of a home that includes blower-door-directed air leakage diagnostics, heating system safety and efficiency diagnostics, duct leakage diagnostics, and insulation needs. Following the energy audit, CHP’s weatherization team performs repairs and improvements to home heating and cooling systems and provides for the installation of energy-saving measures in the house, such as improved insulation and air sealing.

CHP’s weatherization services are for low-income families, particularly for households with elderly residents, individuals with disabilities, and families with children. Households are typically qualified based on income and recipients must be residents of the state of Virginia.

Facebook event page here.

More about CHP’s program here.

Weatherization Wizards

JMU students Melissa, Yen, Isabella, Max, Jake and Brendan meet with CAAV members Laura Dansby and Joni Grady on February 8.

For the spring semester of 2016, CAAV’s efforts to increase home weatherization in the Harrisonburg area through the Community Housing Program-administered Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is getting a boost of energy from six JMU interns, self-dubbed the Weather Wizards. Their main goal will be to work on overcoming barriers to spreading the word about and getting homes more energy efficient through the federally funded WAP home weatherizing program which is free for income qualified families. The past year’s efforts have only succeeded in getting work done on six area homes.

The Weather Wizards are: Isabella Bauer, Max Florence, Yen Lopez, Brendan Queenan, Melissa Swan and Jake Walters, all taking Dr. Jennifer PeeksMease’s Organization Communication class. More about them below.

“The Weather Wizards’ mission is to assist the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) in their weatherization initiative, while maintaining their standard of beliefs and values. Using our resources effectively, we aim to spread awareness of energy
issues, as well as communicate effectively with community members.”

Among items under discussion are finding out what has worked in other communities, talking to families who have successfully navigated the application process to find ways to facilitate this, and developing an effective flyer as an outreach tool.

CAAV welcome’s the talent and energy of these JMU students!

Max Florence: I am a creative individual who enjoys analyzing and debugging structural
processes, primarily in movies. I excel at viewing a situation holistically and finding
solutions that benefit a group rather than an individual.

Isabella Bauer: I am an organized and dedicated student with an interest in identifying
organizational structures and creating ways in which to help them better perform.
Through past experience working in an office setting, I can aid in organization
management as well as applying knowledge to benefit others. In addition, I am a German
minor and can use my language skills to benefit the group as necessary.

Jake Walters: I’ve worked in a variety of fields that have had a focus of dealing with
many different clients (construction, appliances, food delivery, sports management). I
also have a genuine interest in participating alongside an organization that looks to
benefit the public. Additionally, I do have an Italian minor and although I wouldn’t say
I’m fluent, these skills could be helpful when needed. I’m a pretty easy guy to get along
with as well, and look forward to helping my group in any way that I can.

Yen Lopez: I am a junior Media Arts & Design and Public Relations double major. I
enjoy applying creative processes to find solutions to problems. I am bilingual; I can
speak fluent English and Spanish. I look forward to working with CAAV and aiding
diverse background families.

Melissa Swan: I am majoring in Communications Studies with a minor in Environmental
Studies. I very much enjoy learning about the natural world in which we live and I am
excited to work towards the goal of weatherizing homes of those in my community. I am
a very organized and persistent student who enjoys utilizing creative processes that will
solve communication issues that exist around me.

Brendan Queenan: I am an individual who enjoys a team environment and excels in
managing multiple tasks. Although I do not see myself as a big picture person, I do
believe that I am an individual who is fully capable of coordinating team members and
assigning roles in addition to conflict mediation.

Free Weatherization

AttHomeOwners.cropIf you qualify* as a low-to-moderate income household, Community Housing Partners can help reduce your energy bills and make your home more comfortable, energy efficient and affordable year round.

Clients approved for the Weatherization Assistance Program will receive a FREE ENERGY AUDIT, which will determine the work that can be done to your home. This may Include:

  • Energy-Saving measures to reduce heat loss, such as attic and wall insulation, caulking and weather-stripping
  • Inspection of heating equipment and duct work in order to assure safe and efficient operation
  • Assessment and remedy of unsafe conditions (carbon monoxide emissions, back-draft conditions, fire hazards, bad wiring etc.)
  • Other energy-related improvements

To learn more or obtain an application, please contact:

Karen Vincent 540-949-5879 x 5108

Community Housing Partners/ Energy Solutions
126 S. Bayard Ave., Waynesboro, VA 22980

Meghan McMillen  mmcmillen[at]

More here through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development website.

Pass it on, to family and friends!

* Weatherization Assistance Program income eligibility levels are here: Weatherization Income Limits


Please consider printing out flyers to hang on your area bulletin boards or to give to anyone who may be interested: CHP half page flyer in English or half page flyer in Spanish

Weatherize Harrisonburg for Energy Efficiency

The next meeting of Weatherize Harrisonburg/Rockingham will be on:

Monday, April 20, 2015 5:00-6:30PM, Gilkerson Community Activities Center Craft Room 2
Westover Park
305 S.Dogwood Dr., Harrisonburg.

All welcome!

fullchp.200We are helping to plan a Public Meeting with representatives of Community Housing Partners sponsored by the Northeast Neighborhood Association on Thursday, March 26 at 7:00 PM, Simms Center, 620 Simms Ave., Harrisonburg.

If you qualify as a low-to-moderate income household, Community Housing Partners can help reduce your energy bills, make your home more comfortable, energy efficient and affordable year round. Clients approved for the Weatherization Assistance Program will receive a free energy audit which will determine the work that can be done in your home.

Join the Northeast Neighborhood Association at this meeting with representatives of Community Housing Partners and Weatherize Harrisonburg/Rockingham to learn more and obtain an application.


February 26, 2015, Meeting at the downtown library:

First Meeting!
First Meeting on February 26!

Our agenda for the meeting is to learn who you all are and where your interests and expertise lie.  Are you interested in helping to ferret out all existing weatherization programs and funding sources, whether “official” or volunteer?  Do you work with an agency or business or volunteer group already involved in a program ?   Do you know groups of people who might be in need of having their houses worked on?  Do you have useful contacts with any of the above​ or would you like to develop some?

We want to flesh out the list we’ve begun from online sources and add to it with personal contacts, and we​ need your help to gather as much information as we can. Only then can we decide the best ways of making the information available to the people who need it, whether it’s an online website, public meetings, or going door to door–or all of the above.

We can also decide how often we need to meet, when, and where.​

Hope to see you tomorrow.
Joni Grady, Joy Loving, Les Grady

infrared houseFind our working document of resources here: WHAT WE KNOW and DON’T KNOW about Local Weatherization/Energy efficiency options. Please offer any comments and contributions you may have!


We ended the advocacy workshop last month talking about ways to improve the energy efficiency of low and middle income homes in our area. Energy efficiency is the cleanest, cheapest fuel there is.  It is one of the cornerstones of the President’s Climate Action Plan.  It can save low and middle income families real dollars and let them benefit even more should a revenue neutral carbon fee be put in place. And the feds have been working on it since 1976, almost 40 years!  Here in Virginia, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed a proclamation designating October 30, 2014, as Weatherization Day. The WAP (Weatherization Assistance Program) network was also recognized at the Governor’s Housing Conference in Norfolk, Virginia last November.

There are other programs that Valley residents could tap into if they only knew about them and had some assistance in making use of them.  Members of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley have decided to create an ad hoc committee to:

1)  create a database of programs already in place or potentially available, the people involved, what they offer and to whom

2)  get the information out to the people who need it and help them connect to the help that’s offered

3)  hopefully hold a one-day volunteer weatherization event, put actual (work) boots on the ground

We need your help.  The first step is the research and data gathering, an activity a lot of you who came to the workshop were very interested in!  We have begun making lists of program/contacts, just as we did at the workshop, but we also need to figure out exactly what information we need to put into the database.  And when that’s done, we need people who will gather that information from the online links and then call the contacts to fill in missing information.

I know you’re interested in making a real difference in the Valley so join us for an hour to plan and organize. Also, please let us know if you’re interested in the project but just can’t make the meeting.

Joni Grady, ad hoc committee on Energy Efficiency

Update, February 16, 2015.

Joy Loving and I have been busily gathering some background information to find out what we know and what we don’t know about the weatherization options available to low and middle income residents of Virginia and Harrisonburg in particular.

Please look it over–it’s the Weatherization document on Google Drive –and make any comments (using Review) you might have about people you know, groups that you know, etc.  When we do meet, we’ll at least have this as a basis for making a plan for further action and know what blanks we need to fill in.  We’ll update it as we continue to find more clues to what we can do and we’ll incorporate your comments appropriately.  One overall impression that I have gotten is that Virginia and Harrisonburg are strong supporters of energy efficiency action–as long as the feds are paying for it.  Which means that there will be ample opportunity for advocacy as well as local action.

We have been asked to attend the NorthEast Neighborhood Association meeting Thursday, February 19 at 7pm at Simms School to introduce what we’re thinking of doing and the information we need from homeowners.

I’m excited about the opportunities we have for making even a small difference where we are.

Joni Grady

What Is Solarize Harrisonburg?

Full house at Solarize Hburg's June 2, 2014, exploratory forum.
Full house at Solarize Hburg’s June 2, 2014, exploratory forum.
  • The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) sponsored an initial public meeting on June 2, 2014.  An informational session, it was well attended, with over 100 persons listening to several speakers, including representatives of Community Power Network (CPN) and Sierra Club.
  • The second Solarize Harrisonburg meeting, to formally launch this initiative, will happen on July 28, 2014, at Massanutten Regional Library, 174 S Main St., Harrisonburg, VA, at 6 PM.  The public is welcome.   Representatives from Community Power Network will provide specific details about the project and answer questions.  After the meeting, the effort will continue with organizational activities and development of a request for proposal (RFP) to be issued to solar installers.
  • Solarize Harrisonburg has a web site:  To sign up in advance of the meeting and receive a free satellite roof analysis of your building’s solar suitability, complete the survey form at this site.  Solarize Harrisonburg is partnering with CPN, which has extensive experience in helping communities increase their “solar footprint.”  The email address is:
  • Solarize Harrisonburg desires to support low-income energy users, energy conservation programs, renewable energy programs, and the advancement of green building principles. To that end, Solarize Harrisonburg seeks to dramatically increase the use of clean, renewable solar power in the Harrisonburg area and to provide local home and business owners with an opportunity to install solar panels at an affordable rate.
  • Across VA, families have wanted to take control of their own electricity for decades to provide relief from rate hikes and from unreliable utilities and to reduce their impact on our environment.  The solar power option has been too expensive, with large upfront costs that have put it out of reach for middle-class families, and without standardized financing options.
  • Solarize Harrisonburg will address these issues in the area by creating an easy and affordable way for area homeowners and businesses to own and benefit from their own solar electricity systems.  The project will include the following components:

1.    Bundling of individual solar contracts to allow participants to benefit from bulk purchasing through a competitive bidding process.  The chosen installer will provide a single price per installed Watt for all participating cooperative members.
2.    Community-based marketing strategy to encourage neighbors to go solar together.  This marketing strategy will include public solar seminars and information sessions, email and personal outreach, and earned media opportunities.
3.    Consumer advocacy and technical analysis for cooperative members—ensuring that members receive unbiased, third party assistance from providing trained site assessments, to reviewing bids on behalf of the group, to arranging affordable financing, and ensuring quality installations.
4.    A streamlined financing procedure that removes the upfront cost barrier for families and farms in Harrisonburg, VA.

  • CPN will provide consulting services to the Solarize Harrisonburg effort, including:

1.    Develop informational materials to help educate participants on the basics and economics of going solar.
2.    Conduct initial satellite assessment and answer technical, policy, and financial questions to prospective homeowners.
3.    Conduct due diligence and review of proposals, to allow coop members in making a final choice of installers.
4.    Ensure quality and timely installations.
5.    Bring any concerns about installer workmanship, pricing, or activities to the attention of the chosen installer and Solarize Harrisonburg.
6.    Continue post-installation engagement to build the movement for solar in VA.

  • CPN will support the formation of Solarize Harrisonburg through:

1.    Promoting public information sessions to its membership and the broader Harrisonburg community.
2.    Serving as the community anchor and public face for this local effort.
3.    Providing institutional backing and community support to the project through social and traditional media channels.
4.    Helping ensure the project reflects the culture, needs and desire of the local participants.
5.    Helping design follow up actions and next steps for the group.

Click on the image below for a full-sized view of this one page flyer about Solarize Harrisonburg. Consider printing copies to distribute to your neighbors! The more homes involved, the greater the success of this project.


Frequently Asked Questions with more details about how VA Solar Co-op programs work is here.


RMIlogoThe Rise of Solar Co-ops, Laurie Guevara-Stone, April 22, 2014, Rocky Mountain Institute blogsite.

Getting “Performance Standards Coordinator” in next year’s City Budget

HburgBudgetSustainability Coordinator, Facility Manager … Performance Standards Coordinator. Let the Council and City Manager know to make this position a budget priority. It will likely pay for itself in financial savings while streamlining and facilitating city efforts to save energy and reduce our carbon footprint for the health of our community and planet. More about the possibilities for this role in this earlier posting.

“… at the Budget work session (February 8, 2014) for City Council, City staff recommended that the next budget include a Facility Manager/Sustainability Coordinator.  The City Manager said he would like that new job to take effect before the budget goes into effect.  The staff circulated the attached beginning thoughts about a job description.  I spoke with Kurt (Hodgen) afterwards and he said they are interested in getting comments about what else should be in the job description or how it should change.  He stressed this is their first effort and expect it to change because they have not done this before.

This is very very good news.  Pete Bsumek and others have been working on this for years and this is a great development.

So, if you have ideas for what should be in the job description then send those to the City Manager.  Also, we should encourage people to use the budget survey at and let the City know that this proposed new job should definitely stay in the budget. The recommendation from City Staff is tremendous but City Council has to know not to remove it.

Truly this is huge.  Great work Pete and all who have been working on this issue.    – Thomas D. Domonoske

More from Tom about this position:

The Comprehensive Plan that was adopted by the City in 2011 had Goal 8:  To preserve and enhance the City’s natural resources and encourage development that is compatible with nature.  It specifically listed adoption of performance standards for the following:  Pollutant discharges into water resources; Air emissions; Erosion and sediment control; Noise exposure limits; Excessive light emissions; Energy use and efficiency;  and Protection of environmental features: floodplains, wetlands, steep slopes, sinkholes, tree cover.

Many of our public buildings use far more energy than necessary and do not deliver consistent comfort to the occupants.  A Performance Standards Coordinator would both save the City money and implement the vision in the Comprehensive Plan.

Here is what is in the Comprehensive Plan – see specifically 8.3.1 at the end.

Goal 8. To preserve and enhance the City’s natural resources and encourage development that is compatible with nature.

Objective 8.1 To keep abreast of environmental issues facing the City and to monitor the City’s environmental health.

Strategy 8.1.1 To tap local expertise as available to keep abreast of environmental issues facing the City and to monitor the City’s environmental health.

Strategy 8.1.2 To prepare an annual or biannual “state of the City’s environment” report using compiled data collected by the City, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation and other sources and describing and recommending programs to address environmental issues.

Objective 8.2 To develop water and air quality improvement programs to comply with federal and state standards, programs and requirements.

Strategy 8.2.1 To continue to implement the City’s MS4 Phase II storm water management program dealing with improving the quality of storm water runoff.

Strategy 8.2.2 To continue working with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, and other partner organizations that implement best management practices to improve stormwater and water quality.

Strategy 8.2.3 To collaborate with Rockingham County and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in developing an air quality improvement plan, should the region be declared to be nonattainment for ozone pollution.

Objective 8.3 To create a set of environmental performance standards for public and private development and redevelopment projects.

Strategy 8.3.1 Using state standards where applicable, to prepare a set of environmental performance standards for all development which may include such issues as:

  • Pollutant discharges into water resources
  • Air emissions
  • Erosion and sediment control
  • Noise exposure limits
  • Excessive light emissions
  • Energy use and efficiency
  • Protection of environmental features: floodplains, wetlands, steep slopes, sinkholes, tree cover


Daily News-Record’s Preston Knight reported about this issue on February 10, 2014:

City Eyes “Green” Keeper: Sustainability Position Would Help Track Carbon Footprint

The Harrisonburg Rockingham Green Network’s request for the city to add a sustainability coordinator may be granted a year after the fact. …

Read the article here: DNRonline _ City Eyes ‘Green’ Keeper.

The Case for a Net Zero Energy School Building in Harrisonburg

A coalition of a number of local activist groups is on a mission.The Harrisonburg City Public School Board is in the planning phase for a new middle school to be located next to either the Harrisonburg High School or the present Thomas Harrison Middle School. It is the perfect time to consider designing a showcase net zero energy building (ZEB) which can function as a model and learning center for area students as well as offer significant energy and money savings benefiting our climate and taxpayers.

NZEB image
image from’s story on New York City’s first net zero energy school

CAAV is one of the members of the coalition, dubbed New Middle School LEED/ZEB Project. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, a program of the U.S. Green Building Council which offers nationally accepted certification for sustainable building. CAAV member Bishop Dansby says: “The City of Harrisonburg School Board is going to build a new middle school. The architect, Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates Architects, has been chosen but the design has not been developed, yet. We are on a campaign to convince the school board to make the new middle school a net zero energy structure. This will mean that via the addition of about 500kw of solar panels, the school’s net energy use over the course of the year will be zero!”

“… schools are the best opportunity to build NZEB (net zero energy buildings). They have low energy density (50% commercial), have long holidays and summer where use decreases, and the ‘owner’ has a long investment horizon (to justify the investment in solar).

You can think of NZEB as LEED plus solar. Of course, you could have NZEB without LEED, since some of the aspects of LEED have little to do with operation energy cost. However, when LEED is combined with NZEB, you have the best we humans can do for sustainability at this point in time. Further, the school becomes a learning laboratory for school children, and this is the way these schools have been used in other states.

This would be the first NZEB school in Virginia, but there are several around the country.

Frankly, the proposed new Harrisonburg middle school is large. It is actually at least as large as the Lady Bird Johnson Middle School, in terms of number of students. I found out from the meeting last night  (School Board Meeting, 10/15/2013, see Architects Agenda)   that the estimate of 900 students is a low estimate. This will make this NZEB project even more outstanding: it is one thing to build a small NZEB, but even more interesting to build a large NZEB. This could mean the solar array could be even larger than 500 kw.

… the School Board has the option to buy the solar array outright or to enter a power purchase agreement (PPA). Today, for a system this size, solar will cost $3.00 per watt, for a total or $1.5M for a 500w system. If we want to put pressure on the School Board, we can make the case that it would be economically irresponsible to not at least enter into a PPA, as this would reduce their power cost by 10% with no investment. By the way, we have found no evidence that LEED cost more than conventional construction, but let me know if you know different.”

Formed by the Harrisonburg Rockingham Green Network, the coalition currently consists of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley, the local Shenandoah Group of the Sierra Club, Valley 25 X ’25, The Voluntary Gas Tax, and local architect Charles Hendrick’s The Gaines Group, PLC. Becky Johnston of the Harrisonburg City Schools’ Safe Routes to School has also endorsed the effort. They will be “reaching out to actual users of the schools, that is, the parents of the children in the school district where it will be located (basically on the northwest side of town).”

Paul Hutton, AIA, LEED AP, founding Principal of Hutton Architecture Studio, in Denver, Colorado writes for the Council of Educational Facility Planners International: “One of the fastest growing trends in school design is Net Zero Energy Schools. There are now at least a dozen or more schools completed or in construction that have achieved, or have committed to, this incredible level of energy efficiency.”  Bishop recommends his article Zero Energy Schools – Beyond Platinum for an “excellent primer on the subject.”

LEED accredited architect Charles Hendricks of the Gaines Group writes about this project on his website, Design Matters: Why build a ZEB Middle School in Harrisonburg.

A Zero Energy Building solution shows the community that our leaders care about future costs to run a facility, tax burdens imposed on community members, and the health of our environment. More important, it shows that our community cares deeply for our children and their future.  – Architect Charles Hendricks

green school factsLearn more about the benefits and cost savings of LEED-certified schools from Ashley Katz of the U.S. Green Building Council here.

“LEED-certified schools provide students, teachers and visitors with clean and healthy air to breathe, better acoustics, regular access to daylight, thermal comfort and moisture control. LEED for Schools emphasizes strategies to create spaces that enhance learning …”

va beach sustainable schoolsBy way of example, Virginia Beach City Public Schools subscribe to a sustainability plan where, “Any new or renovated building will be designed to achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver rating at a minimum.”

walk and bike on opening day
City Council meeting, March 28, 2013
photo from Becky Johnston

Earlier this year, the Harrisonburg City Public School Board’s request to the Harrisonburg City Council for the new school drew a packed audience interested in seeing that bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure be included in its planning and funding. See the Northend Greenway’s post about this here.

To further the coalition’s efforts to promote a net zero energy (and bike/ped accessible) Harrisonburg Middle School:

Journalist Emily Sharrer covered this project for the Daily News-Record on November 11, 2013, here.

Bishop Dansby’s Open Forum piece in the Daily News-Record on November 23, 2013, here: New School Should be Green.

New Middle School LEED/ZEB Project co-leaders Bishop Dansby and Jeffrey Tang offered comments about the new middle school design at the Harrisonburg City School Board meeting on Tuesday, November 5. Click on either image below for video of the meeting. School discussion begins at 44 minutes.

bish with coalJeff at Bd meeting school petition
Click on this image to sign the coalition’s online petition!


December 10, 2013 update from Tom Domonoske:

Dear All:

Last week Bishop and I went to a meeting at the School Board’s offices that we were told was with the architects. It turned out to be a meeting with the architects, the engineers, both mechanical and physical, school reps and a person from Chicago helping to organize the design process. They were very interested in the concepts and made clear that the limiting factor is how the City Council makes the money available. If, as in the past, the City Council provides a lump sum and says “build the best school you can with this money” then the money is hard to allocate to future energy savings beyond what the Building Code requires.

They repeatedly said that LEED certification at one level is almost a given because of Building Code requirements. That does not necessarily translate into energy efficiency or production because LEED points can be obtained in a number of different ways.

The real work is on City Council and the budget process. The issue is that savings from future budgets regarding lower utility payments are a totally different budget than capital improvements budget for putting up the building. We need the City to add the current value of the future savings into the dollars made available for the building. Then the School Board can spend money on energy efficiency.

I do not know when will be the best time to have a bunch of people attend a City Council meeting, but we need to figure that out and plan it. I am assuming it will be after a site is chosen in January but am really not sure.

Also, I have added Scott Kettelkamp to this list. He is local contractor who has built three passive solar townhomes in Harrisonburg that also have active solar panels. They include things like shades on light sensors that automatically open and lower, etc. He has data on how they have performed through the seasons that is Harrisonburg specific and his wife teaches elementary school in the City Schools and they have children in the school system. We need people like him to attend whatever meeting we will have in front of City Council to present their experience and what they want.

Finally, if you have not filled out the school’s survey, then please do so. Go to

Thomas D. Domonoske
461 Lee Avenue
Harrisonburg, VA 22802
(540) 442-7706
Member, National Association of Consumer Advocates,

Meet Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s Todd Akin

critical choiceby Josh Israel, December 3, 2012

Virginia’s Republican Party appears poised to nominate state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to be its candidate for governor in 2013 — embracing a man whose extreme political views bear striking resemblance to those of unsuccessful 2012 Senate candidate Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO).

With his fervent anti-science, anti-choice, and anti-LGBT, anti-federal government activism, Akin’s extreme positions were well known long before his infamous August pronouncement that victims of “legitimate rape” are unlikely to become pregnant helped derail his 2012 U.S. Senate campaign. Cuccinelli’s views closely mirror Akin’s in all of those areas.

Over seven-and-a-half years as a Virginia state senator and three years as the commonwealth’s attorney general, Republican Ken Cuccinelli II has been, in the words of the Washington Post’s editorial board, “the most overtly partisan attorney general in Virginia’s history.” Though he claims he is “best known for his efforts to preserve liberty and defend the US Constitution,” it is his opposition to liberty for women and LGBT Americans and his frequent court losses based on his flawed constitutional theories that have defined his political career to date.

While perhaps not as careless as Akin with his rhetoric, Cuccinelli has embraced many of the same extreme positions:

3. He is a climate-change denier. As part of his efforts to cast doubt on climate-change science, he used his position to launch an inquisition against a former University of Virginia climate scientist. Citing possible “fraud against taxpayers,” Cuccinelli demanded the university provide him with a wide range of records relating Dr. Michael E. Mann’s grant applications. A circuit judge and then the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the Attorney General was incorrect in believing he had the legal authority to undertake such a fishing expedition. He blasted the ruling, newspapers blasted him for wasting Virginia tax dollars. He also failed in his federal lawsuit challenging the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas — a unanimous appeals court upheld the agency’s regulations as based on an “unambiguously correct” reading of the law. Since his legal efforts for climate-change denial failed, he often relies on mockery, asking audiences to exhale carbon dioxide in unison, during his speeches, to annoy the EPA. …

Please find Josh Israel’s entire piece here:

via Meet Gubernatorial Candidate Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s Todd Akin.



Hydrofracking in the George Washington Forest

Switzer Lake
Switzer Lake, photo from Friends of Shenandoah Mountain

Our area forests are life providing reservoirs of clean water, fresh air,  biodiversity, and carbon sequestration in addition to offering managed use opportunities for timber, game, and recreation.

Newer technology is also making our forests a valuable source of natural gas from their underlying shale formations. The ability to extract this energy without tremendous ecological consequences is in question. Lynn Cameron explores these issues among others for Friends of the Shenandoah Mountain here.

Jeremiah Knupp reports on the April 24 “Fracking Travelogue” public forum here for Old South High. Candace Sipos writes about the issue for the Daily News Record here as published on May 3.

Old South High continued its coverage in Jeremiah Knupp’s entry on May 8: “In Rockingham County, the forest contains hiking and mountain biking trails, campsites and hunting land, and one of the country’s greatest areas of biodiversity. Fracking opponents note that the drilling process is a large-scale industrial operation. In addition to the five to ten acre sites required for a well, roads and other infrastructure must be built into the forest.”

Charlottesville’s The Daily Progress reports in an April 20, 2013 article by Aaron Richardson:

“The U.S. Forest Service is expected in June to end two years of wrangling over whether to ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the George Washington National Forest.

Debate has raged about the issue since 2011, when the service initially proposed a 15-year moratorium on fracking in the swath of largely undeveloped wilderness stretching down the spines of the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains in western Virginia.”

Laura Peters covered recent conversations about this on April 26 for the News Leader here. She writes:

“Ken Landgraf, planning staff officer for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, said the decision on banning horizontal drilling or making it an option is still up in the air.

An important part of the Forest Service’s consideration, Landgraf said, will be public comment.”

Rockingham County’s Community Alliance for Preservation and the Shenandoah Valley Network are urging last minute appeals to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and our US Senators to support the George Washington National Forest’s proposed fracking ban:

“Please contact Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at, who oversees the US Forest Service, and ask him to support the GWNF’s proposed fracking ban. It’s our last best chance to make sure the sensible horizontal drilling ban stays in the final forest plan, coming out soon. It’s not too late for the Forest Service to make the right decision.

After you email Secretary Vilsack at, please contact our US Senators with the same message.”

The Virginia Sierra Club is also supporting the ban. They offer easy online messaging to our representatives here.

And from the Don’t Frack George Washington National Forest facebook page:

Here are the contact details for commenting on the GWNF management plan. Official comment period is closed but you can still send comments to show support for continuing to keep GWNF off-limits to fracking and other industrial activities.

Submitting Comments
If you wish to submit a comment, please send it to:

Karen Overcash                                                                                                                5162 Valleypointe Parkway , Roanoke, VA, 24019                        

Harrisonburg Energy Efficiency Improvement Opportunity

footprints on courthouse

From Councilmember Kai Degner regarding the May 14, 2013 council vote on funding city building energy efficiency:


Thank you for your support in the last months for the performance contract for the Public Safety Building.  Your advocacy, along with others, produced a 3-2 vote on Tuesday night FOR performance contracting on the Public Safety Building AND smaller investments in a few other buildings.

You can see the discussion at the City Council meeting at this link:

My personal preference was to assign the contract directly to ABM as they have twice been selected by CIty staff to provide the best value to the City; however, it became evident to me in the discussion that I may not get the third vote on a motion identifying ABM as the contractor.  So, the specific motion approved 3-2 directs the City Manager to pursue performance contracting and report back by the end of July about how to make that happen, including giving performance contractors additional to ABM a chance to bid on the project.

Please also note in the discussion (video) that Mayor Byrd, who did not support the motion, did suggest that council could create broad energy savings goals, and hold staff accountable to meeting them.  This approach, I believe, is possible strategy to adopt in pursuit of having the city pursue energy and other sustainability goals.

This is a major step forward in making this project happen, and I believe the project would not have received these three votes without your advocacy.  I hope this is encouraging and motivating for all of us to continue this work.

Thank you-   Kai


An energy efficiency proposal for Harrisonburg’s Public Safety Building (see Councilmember Kai Degner’s description below) elicited considerable public comment during the April 23, 2013 council meeting. The Council scheduled a work session to address concerns on Wednesday, May 1 from 4-7 at the Council Chambers. The public was welcome to attend but not offered input during the session.

According to this May 2, 2013 Daily News Record account by Preston Knight: “At the behest of Harrisonburg residents who spoke in favor of energy improvements during a recent public hearing, council discussed energy savings in its buildings.

But the main target for savings — the Public Safety Building on North Main Street — is a freestanding project outside the normal budgeting process, officials say.

That resulted in no changes to the budget proposal during Wednesday’s work session, at least not from sustainability efforts.”

The budget will come to a vote at the May 14 council meeting before which voters continue to have an opportunity to contact their council members and city manager asking that sustainability measures for the city be funded.

Local attorney and energy efficiency advocate Tom Domonoske offers this strategy:

“If 100 people contact the City Council and ask for energy efficiency modifications to public buildings and a sustainability coordinator position to be put in the budget, then the Council will have a hard time not doing so.  The next meeting is May 14 where the council will vote on the budget.

The emails can go to ‘‘; ‘‘; ‘‘; ‘‘; ‘‘; ‘

Letters can be sent to:  City Manager’s Office, Room 201, 345 South Main St., Harrisonburg, VA 22801, with a request to forward them to City Council.  Telephone calls can be made to the same office at 540-432-7701.  Faxes can be sent to 540-432-7778.

The message should be: ‘ I am a city resident, and I ask the City Council to fund energy-efficiency renovations to our buildings. and to create a city staff position to develop energy reduction, energy efficiency, and sustainability practices.’ ”

See Tom’s letter to the council and City Manager Kurt Hodgen regarding the “2014 Budget, Energy Efficiency, and Sustainability Coordinator” here.

Please read the HR Green Network and Climate Action Alliance of the Valley’s letter to the council and city manager in support of energy efficiency and a sustainability coordinator by clicking here.


Austin, TX was able to prevent having to build a new power plant by conducting comprehensive building energy efficiency improvements. See Conservation Power Plant from the film Kilowatt Ours.

Here in Harrisonburg we have an opportunity to improve the energy usage of some of our public buildings thereby reducing our carbon footprint and saving money.

A proposal to improve the energy use of the Public Safety Building is part of the 2014 budget.  The Tuesday, April 23 council meeting included a public hearing on the budget. Councilmember Kai Degner is supporting the energy efficiency measure for public buildings. Here were his comments on the issue before the April 23 meeting:

I need your help to help save half a million Harrisonburg tax payer dollars from being wasted in inefficient buildings this year.  There are doubts that enough Harrisonburg residents would prioritize this project, so it may not happen.

Please read below and plan to attend the April 23rd (Tuesday) City Council meeting at 7PM.  Join the public comment session to express your opinion (either way).

To learn more, I’ll be at the Artful Dodger at 8pm this Wednesday(4/17) and Thursday(4/18), and at 1pm on Sunday (4/21).

Hi everyone,

The City Council has an opportunity to redirect $100,000+ from annual unnecessary utility costs towards energy efficiency upgrades in the City’s Public Safety Building.  The City School Board has their own opportunity to redirect $400,000 of unnecessary utility costs towards energy efficiency upgrades using the same “Performance Contracting” concept.

The City of Harrisonburg and Harrisonburg City Schools have contracted with an Energy Services Company (ESCO) to study and implement energy- and water-saving facility upgrades using a “Performance Contracting” approach.  Performance contracts are 100% self-funding and are completed within existing budgets – without raising taxes.  Basically, borrow money to fix the worst efficiency problems out there, save money on utility costs, and use the annual savings to repay the loan over time.  By using the State of Virginia’s Performance Contracting Process, savings are guaranteed for up to 20 years.  Savings are measured annually, and, if they fall short, the contractor pays the difference.

Based on the study of Harrisonburg’s buildings and infrastructure, major reductions in the City’s operating costs and carbon footprint can be achieved in the Public Safety Building by replacing obsolete and end-of-life equipment, tuning up buildings, training occupants and staff, engaging students with energy awareness curriculum, and diligently tracking the energy usage over time.

The costs of these efficiency-related activities in the Public Safety Building is about $2 Million.  That sounds crazy expensive, maybe, until you figure we spent $189,000 last year on utility costs for this SINGLE building, and we will again next year if nothing changes.  Instead, we could use about $110,000 of those costs to repay a loan to make the improvements.

Over 15 years, the City’s savings in utility and operating costs would be $3 Million (factoring in that electric costs increase modestly every year). Incidentally, the school’s proposed costs would be a seemingly-whopping $6.5 Million – but they stand to save $8 Million over 15 years.

For those concerned with carbon: together, the annual CO2 reduction is 3,745 Metric Tons (equivalent to electricity for 561 homes every year for 15 years or equivalent to taking 700+ cars off the road for a year every year for 15 years).

For those concerned with economic development: we are trying to designate Harrisonburg as an “innovative” community.  What’s innovative about blowing half a million tax dollars out of inefficient buildings?  Let’s instead redirect this tax payer money into sensible infrastructure improvements.

For those concerned about politics: performance contracting is supported by the Republican-controlled Virginia government, and has been supported by both Democratic and Republican governors.

Harrisonburg utilized this process in 2009 to reduce energy consumption at the Community Activity Center at Westover Park (some of you might remember this success story presented immediately after we approved $1 Million for bicycle infrastructure this past Fall).  It worked, even better than predicted.

I believe we should do it again, but I don’t think there is enough public support to guarantee it will happen.

Will you attend Tuesday’s Council meeting and speak in support of the Performance Contracting for the Public Safety Building?  Your attendance at the meeting and other communications (or lack thereof) can help influence this decision.

I’ll be at the Artful Dodger 8pm this Wednesday and Thursday and at 1pm on Sunday (April 17, 18, 21) if you want to learn more.

Thank you for all you do to make Harrisonburg a great place to live.

Harrisonburg City Councilmember

Here are some links to performance contracting about the Performance Contracting process: