Kevin Comer


Sally and Kevin, Nov 20, 2018

Climate Action Alliance of the Valley Steering Committee member Sally Newkirk invited Kevin Comer of the Antares Group to our meeting on November 20, 2018, to share about his company’s work on renewable energy projects in Virginia.

Originally from Page County, Kevin is a mechanical engineer working out of Antares’ Harrisonburg office. Started by three guys in 1992, the company has grown to have multiple offices around the country and work on large scale renewable energy projects, especially those involving wind, solar and biomass energy.

Through his work for Antares in Virginia, Kevin has helped develop solar projects for Dominion Energy of up to 150 MWs covering 1200-1500 acres of land. It is likely projects like these will keep coming as Dominion has plans to install a total of 3000 MW of solar between now and 2022. This is the equivalent of three 1 GW nuclear power plants and could power some 750,000 households.

Kevin let us know that this relative boom in solar for Dominion Energy has been largely driven by the likes of Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, the Department of Defense and even the state of Virginia requesting the utility company to provide them with Virginia-generated solar or wind energy.

When the Merck & Co. plant near Elkton started planning a 1.5 MW solar installation in partnership with Dominion a few years ago, Rockingham County developed a large scale wind and solar ordinance to guide this and future projects like it. Kevin was among the planners of these regulations which included representatives from some 25 groups with interests and needed knowledge to create a sound and equitable ordinance.

Kevin also sits on the board of the Virginia Renewable Energy Alliance which supports and promotes renewable energy in the state by creating networking opportunities for all KC11.20.18stakeholders, education, research, and policy creation.

Many thanks to Kevin for taking the time from the valuable work he is doing to share his work and wisdom with CAAV members.

– Adrie Voors for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, November 2018

Most months, Sept – May, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.



Doug Graber Neufeld

Coalition Partner of the Month:  Doug Graber Neufeld
September 18, 2018

Doug.G.NThe Coalition Committee brought Doug Neufeld, Director of the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions, headquartered at Eastern Mennonite University to the steering committee this month. Founded with a generous gift from a member, CSCS is a “collaborative initiative of Eastern Mennonite University, Goshen College and Mennonite Central Committee to lead Anabaptist efforts to respond to the challenges of climate change,”as described on their website here.  In this position barely more than a year, he is bringing energy, vision and far-reaching programs to life, focusing on four broad areas of development:

  • Student engagement
  • Pastoral leadership development
  • Explorations in innovative solutions
  • Leveraging global connections with climate-burdened individuals who can speak to the effects.

In student engagement, they now have three students enrolled in “climate futures” fellowships.  They propose their own issues and methodologies.  The three are all EMU graduates.  They propose year-long podcasts and photojournalism to distribute their discoveries.  The three are working in areas of Appalachia with an environmental justice focus on stories of climate change and extractive industries.  There are also undergraduate interns in several roles: One has been working in the Mennonite Central Committee office in Washington DC on an election resource for Mennonite congregations, another is working on faith outreach building networks between Mennonite institutions in Indiana.

Pastoral leadership development in this area focuses on development of a curriculum for pastors and other congregational leaders on climate change, especially theological aspects, not climate science.

Innovative solutions includes economic, technical, sociological focus, as well as theological.

The first event on global connections comes soon, with “Global South Voices” speaking at 28 venues on the east coast. The first event in this area is scheduled for September 30 at Harrisonburg Mennonite Church, 6-9pm, with speakers from Zimbabwe, El Salvador, and Nepal with stories of climate change and its effects.  It will be repeated at EMU from 10-11am October 3 in Lehman Auditorium.

The Center is developing an extensive email list, has done a broad survey of thousands of Mennonites, gathering opinions on climate change, and has a newsletter published in print and online at the website twice/year.  Daniel Bellarose who came to a CAAV steering committee about a year ago is responsible for the newsletter.   Doug sees the general mission beginning simply to get people talking about climate change, and discovering the barriers to those conversations, as well as finding “trusted voices”, those who can speak in ways that go to the heart of the problem and are remembered.

We wish them all God speed in this difficult task.

– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, September 2018

Most months, Sept – May, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.


Pete Bsumek

Coalition Partner of the Month:  Pete Bsumek
May 15, 2018

Pete.5.15.18.picWe invited a long-time friend to tell the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley’s steering committee about progress in a very important and interesting volunteer effort with Renew Rocktown: Climate Action Advocacy for Harrisonburg, VA.

Pete Bsumek is Professor of Communication Studies at James Madison University; he has been involved with Renew Rocktown since it first organized in 2015.

Renew Rocktown (RR) embarked on the difficult journey of Climate Action Advocacy for Harrisonburg because:

  • It’s the right thing to do at the right time: to help bring local government into consensus with the international community in commitment toward control of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Since the national movement toward that goal has been closed off, state and local effort is the logical transition. California is leading the way, but New York City and others are also stepping up.
  • Change is inevitable as the status quo on fossil fuel use is challenged.

Possibilities at the local level

  • Harrisonburg has a new city manager, Eric Campbell, who has worked in cities where climate policies are not unheard of and some are involved.
  • Some local support already, as from Council Member Richard Baugh.
  • The success of the Paris events at Pale Fire Brewery in 2015 and 2017.
  • The creation of the Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee (EPSAC) by the Harrisonburg City Council last year.

The February Meeting
Hosted by RR to develop a campaign strategy to get the city of Harrisonburg to adopt a Climate Action Plan. Meeting notes.

  • Started with a specific proposal.
  • Designed an inside/outside strategy. Inside: EPSAC’s sustainability action plan; outside: RR grassroots action to encourage City Council to adopt the proposal.
  • Constraints:
    • Harrisonburg Electric Commission’s (HEC) contract with Dominion Power lasts until 2031. HEC is a part of a conglomerate of other municipal electric providers.
    • There is a shortage of City staff to implement a plan.


  • Promote more rooftop solar.  (This may be challenged by a large rental market for businesses and homes.)
  • Work on conservation measures.
  • Renegotiate the HEC contract with Dominion (HEC is not excited about that possibility)
  • Look for a new partner when the contract expires or a new type of contract.  Could the city commit to 100% renewables by 2035?
  • Help identify City staff capacity. Who has time for efficiency planning or working locally to conserve more?
  • Identify who can work across sectors to effect change.
  • Could we reduce energy footprint by adopting conservation and energy efficiency measures at the Council level?

Refining the Outside Ask

  • All of the above, but still must deal with HEC
  • The need for City staff capacity that can work with HEC as well as the business community, with plans from EPSAC.  Might the City environmental compliance officer be that connection?

From the Q&A Discussion 

EPSAC is expected to report to the City Council at the end of May or in June.

Harrisonburg is fast approaching the 1% cap on solar. “There is an overall cap of 1% of a utility’s peak demand that can be supplied by net metered systems (as measured at their rated capacity).” (from Ivy Main’s blogpost 7/2017)  It could be raised but HEC is not enthusiastic about that.  It will take a community effort to move the dial now, but solar on the two new schools could blow past the cap. This may be what is needed to force the issue.

A map of current solar/renewable energy installations in Harrisonburg could be helpful.  This could be used to calculate the current percentage of all power used in Harrisonburg that is derived from solar energy. Additionally the map could demonstrate all potential available solar power in Harrisonburg given existing rooftops and their orientation and sunlight exposure.

Could HEC supply the data?  Enlist journalists from the Daily News-Record (DNR) to raise interest? It has been reported in the DNR that 100 homes in Harrisonburg have rooftop solar now.  Who could help?  JMU’s ISAT faculty?  A team of students?  A senior project?  A broad coalition, perhaps public safety, transportation, sustainability?

A new comprehensive plan is underway; Renew Rocktown representatives have participated. It will have some statements on climate and greenhouse gases, but it is aspirational only, no teeth.

Pete urged everyone to engage in any public comment period on the comprehensive plan, particularly:
–what’s in it
–what should be strengthened
–what was left out.

– Anne Nielsen, with Adrie Voors, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, May 2018

Most months, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.

Mayor Reed on Earth Day 2018

Harrisonburg Mayor Deanna Reed was invited to say a few words at the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley-hosted Earth Day Celebration, Picnic and Tree Planting in Purcell Park on Sunday, April 22, 2018. Thank you Mayor Reed for participating in the event and sharing your heartfelt and inspiring thoughts!

Thank you so much for having me to share a few words today as we have our “picnic in the park” and honor our Mother Earth. So we all know the history of today close to 48 years ago on April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, suddenly realized they shared common values. On this day people will march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, clean up their towns AND as we will do today … plant trees. It is a wonderful day of being earth conscious.

Now since I have been elected I have come to appreciate and advocate for the environmental movement. But I have to be honest and I must admit I have not always been aware. I was one who didn’t care if we recycled or about going green or about global warming. But I can say now I do care. And I especially care now that I am Mayor. I’ve learned so much since I have been elected. I’ve learned that Climate change is real! We have snow in April and summer weather in February most of the time we can’t tell what season we are in. And along with that comes climate change health risk. According to a new study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a 48-year-old environmental organization.

The study, “Climate Change and Health in Virginia,” warns that as heat waves increase, the risk of heat-related illnesses and deaths in Virginia will grow. Allergy season is starting earlier and lasting longer, and asthma attacks are increasing in the southeastern United States. “Climate change is already affecting the health of Virginians, and it’s getting worse. The idea that we could be facing more intense allergy seasons is likely and that affects me personally. So how do we as a city get people like me involved about our earth. Well it starts with you. If you are here today then that shows that you are passionate and concerned about our environment. You are concerned about these issues that should be looked at. You know we need more efforts to cut carbon pollution, which drives climate change, you know we need to use wind and solar energy rather than coal, oil or natural gas. We need You to continue to educate us and be the voice for our community. I believe as a community we have made progress in our Environmental Initiatives. If you go on the city website you will see all of our initiatives, programs and organizations. However we have a lot more work to do. As Mayor, I would love to see Harrisonburg lead the way and be the example of promoting an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

So let me remind all of you that we have a very important local election coming up 2 seats for city council 3 seats for school board. We need to see where these candidates stand on sustainability. And let us continue to have community discussions so that we can progress toward a more sustainable future for Harrisonburg. And last Thank you to the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) for 10 years of dedication to climate change. Thank you for being the environmental compass of our community. Thank you so much for having me here today.

– Mayor Deanna Reed, April 22, 2018

Tom Benevento

CAAV Coalition Partner of the Month:  Tom Benevento 
April 17, 2018 came racing up to WVPT’s community meeting room to meet with the CAAV steering committee on his bike, just back from Dulles by air, via the Megabus. He had been in the Dominican Republic, helping with a project on food forests and tilapia farming. He was joining us to report on progress with the Sustainability Action Plan for the City of Harrisonburg, through the Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee (EPSAC).

It is envisioned as a holistic, integral plan, incorporating three E’s of sustainability: environmental integrity, economic vitality, and equity (social).  He would like to add reverent humility and reciprocal gratitude.

There are currently eight steps to the plan:

  1.  Getting Harrisonburg to approve some targets: visionary, but realistic in terms of the science.
  2.  Greenhouse gas inventory
  3.  Key sectors
  4.  Develop goals and strategies for accomplishing them
  5.  Prioritize targets and goals
  6.  Gain citizen feedback
  7.  Finalize the plan
  8.  Incorporate means of monitoring progress

Draft targets that are under initial review in Step 1 include hiring a sustainability coordinator and the use of “ICLEI” founded in 1990 as the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, as an aspirational model for sustainability. ICLEI is a network of local governments with similar goals headquartered in Bonn, Germany. These initial target requests under review include a local greenhouse gas inventory (with James Madison University’s involvement), 25% renewable energy by 2025, 100% by 2045, 90% decrease in waste by 2050, and greenhouse gases at 80% of 2004 quantities by 2050.

There are seven sectors of the Action Plan under development:

  1.  Energy efficiency (buildings)
  2.  Transportation
  3.  Affordable renewable energy
  4.  Waste management and recycling
  5.  Land use planning
  6.  Stormwater management and conservation
  7.  Regional food systems and forest canopy for the city

The process of building subcommittees for each of these is under development with certain sectors given higher priority such as energy efficiency and waste and recycling. The use of the international building code, which would save 30% more energy than the current standard is not yet possible because of Virginia’s refusal to adopt it (the Dillon rule again). They have begun working on energy efficiency for schools, etc. and there is much interest in solar PV for schools. It is anticipated that there will be a May or early June meeting with City Council members and staff as the first step toward setting targets for the city.

It is clear that an awful lot of stretch and strain has been involved so far in envisioning the Action Plan, as it appears it would involve just about every facet of life in the city. We wish them every success, and sit in awe that these are all volunteers. 

– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, April 2018

Most months, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.

Adam Fletcher

adam.fletcher.2.20.18At the steering committee meeting of February 20, our guest was Adam Fletcher, currently the Director of Community Development in Harrisonburg.  He has also been City Planner, so he has a grasp of much of what is happening in Harrisonburg just now.  WARNING!  Adam speaks very very fast!  So what follows may only resemble what he had to say!

His department has much to do with regulations:  with property, land use, engineering, planning and zoning as well as building inspections.  They are the ones who help us all avoid nasty surprises in public places as well as on private property.

They have adopted International Building Codes as well as Virginia Building Codes to ensure that what’s put up doesn’t fall down.  There are 25 people working in the department.

Listed in the Department’s section of the City of Harrisonburg website are both “By Right” uses as well as those closely regulated by the Commonwealth.  Virginia is a “Dillon Rule” state:  established in the 1860s and never overturned:  Whatever the state says you can do is OK.  If there is no mention, no ruling applicable to your question, you can’t!  Other states reverse that.

By state code, localities have the ability to control land use (zoning: 1939) i.e. what you can or cannot do.  “We list permitted uses.”  All others are prohibited, governed by zone:  residential, commercial, industrial. This includes set-back regulations, how close you can build to the property line.  However, state institutions like JMU don’t have to abide by local zoning:  observe how close the new Madison Hotel/parking lot is built to the curb and property lines.  Streets and water/sewer are controlled, so they have to abide by rules of interconnection.  All have to abide by environmental rules that come from the state, such as storm water management, air quality, etc.

Zoning such as “R-1“ means that to create a new lot, there must be at least 10,000 sq.ft. of land, and no more than 4 units/acre may be built.  B-1 (such as downtown) has the highest density, mixed use, in that you can both live and work in the area with no minimum space requirement. In B-1 zone there are no set back requirements and no parking requirements.   “Special use” permits may be requested and issued in an area zoned for another use.  That is a rule that is circumstantial, based on the characteristics of the property as well as the surrounding neighborhood.

Annexation is the only way political entities may grow.  In 1983 the state outlawed “hostile annexations” after Harrisonburg annexed the most highly valued commercial area of the county: Valley Mall. But if both entities agree, “friendly annexations” still occur.

Following a question about the Comprehensive Plan for the City, Mr. Fletcher replied that the current required periodic update is expected to be completed by late fall of this year.  These recommendations are only suggestions.  The voting is left to elected officials.  Updates of data, on the other hand, are staff originated.  Then the community gets involved.  Community involvement is aspirational and may run into legal barriers and previous regulations.  “Ordinance amendments” are of critical importance.  Pay attention!

Planning staff do respond to community groups that persist in petitioning change, and staff reports are an important “change detection tool”, posted online.  At the state level, “loopholes” are more often created by specific entities rather than community groups.

In closing he said “The democratic process does work if people get involved.”

– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, February 2018

Most months, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.

Joshua Vana

CAAV Coalition Partner of the Month:  Joshua Vana of RAPTORS
January 16, 2018

JoshuaVana.1.16.18A native of Maryland, Josh arrived in Harrisonburg to acquire a degree in Justice Studies from James Madison University.  A fine guitarist, he currently performs with Nora Jane Struthers’ supporting band, The Party Line.  A little over a year ago, Appalachian Voices’ Virginia Field Organizer Lara Mack held a couple of anti-pipeline solidarity interest meetings in Harrisonburg. Out of these was born the Rockingham Alliance for the Protection and Transformation of Our Resources and Society (RAPTORS) with Josh as a founding member and chief organizer. Josh knew Lara from their days of working together at the iconic Little Grill Collective, of which they have both been worker-owners. RAPTORS was formed to address concerns over the Standing Rock pipeline conflict in the Dakotas, and to bring those concerns to the local area to fight the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines.  The goal of the group is to increase awareness of these issues locally and to act in solidarity with all those working on pipeline issues statewide and possibly beyond into North and South Carolina.

He notes that long term, it is difficult for the group to maintain the sense of urgency with which they began, but the fact that communities and owners of land that the pipelines will cross now have their backs against the wall helps to keep them focused.  The agencies in place ostensibly to protect communities appear instead to have “railroaded” the issue to support Dominion Energy and other corporate and private interests.

That said, the pipelines have not yet been built, and construction is not yet certain.  Until they are constructed RAPTORS is still attempting to delay and prevent that.  One piece of good news is that Senator Kaine recently recommended that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) re-conduct hearings on both pipelines.  At the time FERC gave approval, the Board was down by two members, and it was a 2 to 1 vote.  Kaine also asked about “tolling orders” on the pipelines:  a set of FERC guidelines for the preconstruction work that must be done.  These orders are unclear, especially as regards eminent domain issues.  They are also contradictory:  by example, they prohibit “land disturbing activity” but allow felling trees, which is certainly “land disturbing”.

Recognition of the political muscle of Dominion Energy is increasingly recognized and opposed, particularly by aspiring young politicians like Sam Rasoul and Brent Finnegan.  (Note:  CAAV steering committee member Alleyn Harned intends to research allies of Dominion and legislative bills on the pipeline issue).   A packed house at the Augusta County Board of Zoning Appeals hearing on January 4 caused the tabling of a decision on a 34 acre Dominion pipeline construction yard on route 42 near Churchville that would fatally impact an innovative and productive, well-established sustainable family farm. They are likely to make a decision at the February 1, 1:30pm meeting in Verona. A petition against the zoning approval generated over 30,000 signatures within a couple of weeks.

Josh feels these pipelines may still be defeated, and that there are still many legal hurdles to their successful operation, regardless of whether they are constructed or not.  Letters can still be written, and he urges all who will write to do so, and to keep the issue local. (More things you can do below.)

– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, January 2018

Most months, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.

From Josh: a few notes on some simple actions anyone can take to support pipeline fighters in our region.

Our next RAPTORS meeting will be Wednesday, January 31st at 6:45PM, Lucy Simms Center music room. For anyone who’d like to join our email list, send a message to RaptorsOfTheValley [at]

The next day, Thursday, February 1st, Augusta County will be holding their Board of Zoning Appeals meeting and presumably will be deciding on the Blosser issue. Meeting’s at the Augusta County Government complex in Verona, 1:30PM. Here’s the FB event link and Petition to stop the rezoning of a 34 acre lot in Churchill, VA for use as ACP’s construction staging yard.

In the case of Mountain Valley Pipeline, I believe the comment period is still open for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, which holds a permit that MVP must obtain concerning state-owned subaqueous bottomlands in Virginia. Their public hearing is January 23rd, 9:30AM at the VMRC in Newport News. I’ll be attending. More info on commenting here. Also, FB event link here. You might notice that this hearing will be extremely difficult to attend for anyone in Western VA – the VMRC has apparently not taken much from our petition to hold hearings along the route, closer to those affected. I’ll be driving down early that morning.

You may also have seen that Tim Kaine recently made a statement asking for rehearings from FERC on ACP and MVP. You can sign the Sierra petition to legislators supporting the statement here. Calling legislators here to follow up and amplify the cause would be great.

Also, you can Vote for Bold Alliance to receive charitable donations from CREDO this month – Bold Alliance is an allegiance group of pipeline fighters combating KXL, MVP, ACP, and a number of other pipelines. Their organization has spread from Nebraska to Appalachia, from Iowa to Oklahoma, and now to Louisiana in their fight against Bayou Bridge. Bold Appalachia is the wing fighting MVP & ACP primarily.


Ben Meredith

ben.meredithThe Climate Action Alliance of the Valley’s long-time friend Benjamin Meredith, founder and owner of Building Knowledge, a company that does energy audits and guides energy efficiency improvements, came to present to the November 21 steering committee meeting. Benjamin is one of 10 persons selected for a new committee established by Harrisonburg City Council in 2016, the Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee, or “EPSAC”. Two elected officials, Richard Baugh representing City Council, and Deb Fitzgerald, representative for the School Board, are among the group. Ritchie Vaughn was elected chairperson of the group to present back to the City Council. City planner Thanh Dang gives overall guidance.

EPSAC began functioning this year. In only three meetings they have reached consensus on a substantial number of issues and possible actions. Excellent minutes are available online at City of Harrisonburg/EPSAC. The purpose of the committee has been established and many ideas have been submitted. Chris Brown, the city attorney, was brought in to explain how Dillon’s Rule governs what can be done by the city independent of state approval. At this point, much research is going into what is getting done and by whom on the issues of interest. The lofty ideals in evidence at the first meeting have been trimmed somewhat by the political climate in which we live. They are reaching out to both Roanoke and Charlottesville for input from their sustainability officers.

Members of EPSAC have now divided into three groups based on their particular interests and expertise: Water Quality, especially concerning the Dry River watershed; Sustainability, led by Tom Benevento; and Building Standards, led by Ben. As so much work has been done already by various city departments on water issues, Ben says that committee appears to be dissolving, although there is no city-wide conservation plan that he knows about. Underway is a plan to draw water from the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in the future. Currently Harrisonburg water comes about equally from Dry River at Switzer Reservoir (the original source) and North River in Bridgewater.

The Sustainability/Integrated plan under development by Tom Benevento’s subcommittee, after hearing from Roanoke and Charlottesville sustainability personnel, are working on a first draft action plan to include many environmental initiatives: greenhouse gas emissions inventory, energy efficiency for buildings, affordable renewables, transportation issues, water, and waste and recycling. The draft will be submitted to city council for feedback in January, after which an action plan and monitoring program will be developed.

The Building Standards subcommittee, led by Ben, will be developing proposals for city properties, including schools, and private commercial properties. They have met with building managers of many of these, and there are complications. While the city has little latitude on how state building codes are enforced, it also isn’t surprising that builders don’t like being pushed to change what they are doing. All MUST build to a minimum standard, but that is rarely more than the Code dictates. There have been recent attempts to track energy usage by city buildings, and all agree on the need for more data collection.

The new Bluestone Elementary School was built “solar ready”. The school board is interested in adding solar panels, and hopes to have the new high school built to the same standard. EPSAC members are encouraging that.

There is a lack of state incentives for energy efficiency, improvements for which often drive up building costs; but, Harrisonburg owns its buildings, so this is in their control. This subcommittee is working on how they can do that without substantial greater expense, and calculate the payoff from improvements.

Ben suggested that the subcommittee would like to create a working group among city operations staff to allow them to upgrade energy efficiency each time repairs or remodeling are done. THAT MAKES EMINENT SENSE TO US, BEN!

– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, November 2017

Most months, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.

Matthew Wade


Matt Wade at the October 17 CAAV meeting.

About the biggest thing to happen lately in the world of Virginia Clean Cities (VCC) is the allocation of $14 million from the Volkswagen emissions scandal settlement to establish a network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in Virginia. This dramatic expansion of the state’s EV infrastructure stands to support and encourage putting a million EVs on the state’s roads over the next decade.

But this was an aside to the discussion Matt Wade, Deputy Director of VCC, brought to the CAAV meeting on Tuesday, October 17 as our invited Coalition Building partner of the month. Matt brought us up to speed on the current use of ethanol in fuels for gasoline engines. Ninety-seven percent of all fuels at the pumps are at least a 10% blend of ethanol with gasoline (E10). All cars made since 2001 can use E15, a fuel blend with 15% ethanol. E85-enabled vehicles have a yellow gas cap and can accept any blend up to 85% ethanol.

The use of ethanol in gasoline offers a locally made product that utilizes the carbon short term cycle and therefore reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

E85pumpsSince 2015, VCC has been involved with the Mid-Atlantic Biofuels Infrastructure Partnership which was granted $5.8 million in federal funds to expand the number of E15 and E85 fueling stations in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC. Waynesboro and Mt. Jackson each have an E85 pump at a Sheetz Store. These are the closest to Harrisonburg. Find them all here.

Hopewell, VA, on the James River about 20 miles south of Richmond is home to the only ethanol plant on the east coast. It operates 24 hours a day using corn grown by Virginia and Maryland farmers.

Thanks to Matt for his work on climate-friendly transportation and for sharing his enthusiasm for clean air with CAAV.

– Adrie Voors, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, October 2017

Photo below is from the Harrisonburg July 4, 2017, celebration at Turner Pavilion. CAAV and VCC along with members of Renew Rocktown showed off EVs and staffed tables with information about renewable and clean energy initiatives.


Most months, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.

Fred Kniss

Fred Kniss

We were delighted to have Eastern Mennonite University Provost Fred Kniss as our Steering Committee speaker this month.  He brought a surprise in the form of Doug Graber Neufeld of the EMU Biology Department, who has recently been named Director of the Center for Sustainable Climate Solutions (CSCS).  CAAV committee members have been greatly anticipating more information about how the Center is developing, and what the role of the Center is expected to become.  We learned all that and a great deal more that has transpired in the past year from Dr. Kniss who has been the interim director for the CSCS.

A very important meeting was held last spring and several important partners have joined on the CSCS venture.  Right now those include not only the founding collaborators (EMU, Goshen College, and Mennonite Central Committee), but also representatives from various other Anabaptist stakeholder groups, including Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Mennonite Mission Network, Everence, and the Mennonite Creation Care Network.

Begun with a generous gift from EMU alumnus Ray Martin, as a “visible statement to the larger world that Mennonites are serious about climate change,” the Center is intended to advance thinking and action in faith communities to mitigate climate change through fostering research, innovation, education and collaboration to promote sustainable living on earth in the context of environmental justice and creation care.

Dr. Kniss pointed out that a sustainability component is already a part of all majors at EMU.  An energy audit by Siemens Corp. found little at the university to critique, as they have been working on energy efficiency and renewable energy for years, installing the first solar panels on their library before other universities in the area found that impetus.   They have completed a broad survey of 33,000 Mennonites, starting with clergy, on behaviors and practices.  They describe the results in terms of Yale University’s  “Six Americas” with the 6,000 responses in categories ranging from “alarmed” about climate change to “dismissive”, but were pleased to learn that Mennonites already appear more concerned than other faith groups or Americans in general in surveys of a similar nature.

A big question for both staff and the oversight board is the role of advocacy in the Center.  This is a school where students and donors don’t all agree, and there will have to be work to bring them along. Also should they focus on mitigation (the founding donor’s intent) or, at this point, adaptation or both, since the climate has already changed in many parts of the world?  Should they focus on one or two things where they might have a real impact, or spread resources more widely?–focus on their own efforts or on supporting those of others?  These are big and important questions, and it is obvious that the necessary focus and study—and probably a lot of prayer—have been put into beginning to discern the answers that will guide the future of the Center.  We congratulate all those who have brought the Center this far in a very short time, and feel thankful for major help in the endeavor to fight Climate Change in still beautiful but increasingly challenged Earth.

D.Graber.9.19.17.anNew CSCS Director Doug Graber Neufeld (photo at right) had just one remark to make at the end of the meeting.  He has recently returned from a two year sabbatical and research period in Kenya, and says “There are no climate change deniers there”.

There is a wonderful website at where many questions may be answered; you are encouraged to check it out.  A lovely and informative brochure is also available upon request.

– Anne Nielsen, for the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee, September 2017

Most months, the CAAV Coalition-Building Committee invites a community member or group to present to the CAAV steering committee about projects with which they are involved. We are grateful to be working with so many other groups and individuals passionate about creating a more resilient, healthy and just world.