Community Support For Local Students’ Climate Strike

Daily News-Record, October 3, 2019

We should be proud of our youth who organized two recent local youth climate strikes. Whether you agree with them or not, they worked together to literally shout to all of us that they fear for their future and want us to help them save it. We should not disparage their efforts.

I met kids from Harrisonburg High School, Eastern Mennonite University, Turner Ashby High School, and James Madison University.

Two candidates running for office, April Moore and Brent Finnegan, were there. Their presence encouraged me because I expect all Virginia legislators to enact legislation to address our children’s concerns. I did not see their opponents, though perhaps they were there. If they were not there, we need to ask them why not.

The fervor and energy I saw inspired me and gave me some hope for my grandchildren’s future.

Joy Loving, Grottoes

Responsibility On Climate Change

Daily News-Record, September 13, 2019

Open Forum: H. Bishop Dansby

For a number of years now, local citizens have urged our representatives at the local, state and federal levels to develop policies on climate change and the related issues of renewable energy and energy efficiency. The city of Harrisonburg has been relatively receptive; for example, it formed the Environmental Performance Standards Advisory Committee. A key issue for the city is whether its municipal electric company, HEC, will transform itself to be part of the renewable energy future. The city School Board took a big step forward in building its new elementary school to a high level of energy efficiency, but then it missed a golden opportunity to outfit the new school and others with solar energy.

At the state level, Sen. Mark Obenshain has taken the position that nothing can be done as to climate change at the state level, and that it will be decades before solar energy is practical. At the federal level Rep. Goodlatte and his successor, Ben Cline, believe that action taken on climate change, “if it exists,” would unduly damage the economy.

Meanwhile, Rockingham County, skeptical that policies related the climate change have anything to do with county governance, has been confronted sooner than they ever imagined with climate related issues, such as unprecedented stormwater management challenges, the need for a solar system ordinance, and at least one application for the installation of utility scale solar system (solar farm).

The county denied the application of the solar farm ostensibly on the grounds that it would not be the best use of agricultural land, which presumably means the use is not consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan. If the county had a climate change policy, it would weigh the impact on agriculture against the value of providing renewable energy to the electric grid.

What is Rockingham County’s obligation with respect to climate? For starters, you could say that Rockingham has an obligation to produce enough renewable energy to meet its own energy needs. The state of Virginia has a population of 8,500,000 which consumes 111 billion kWh of electric energy per year. Rockingham County has a population of 85,000, which suggests it consumes about 1.11 billion kWh. If you do the math, the amount of acreage required of utility scale solar to provide all of Rockingham’s electric energy would be in the order of 5,000 acres. The county Board of Supervisors could say that it is reasonable for Rockingham to allow as much as 5,000 acres to be consumed by solar farms. Rockingham has a total area of 545,000 acres, of which 222,000 is agricultural land, so the 5,000 acres of solar would represent only 1 percent of the land in the county, or 2 percent of the agricultural land.

Provisions in the comprehensive plan that reflect this kind of obligation would allow the county to grant applications for solar farms without the fear of threatening agriculture, while at the same time doing its part to fight climate change.

H. Bishop Dansby lives in Keezletown.

Letter to Congressman Ben Cline

Sally L. Newkirk
Harrisonburg, VA

May 4, 2019

Congressman Ben Cline
10 Franklin Road SE Suite 510
Roanoke, VA 24011

Dear Congressman,

Thank you again for meeting with Bishop Dansby and myself at your Staunton office on April 29, 2019.

I know Bishop has written you a follow up letter, and I feel compelled to do the same.

I was shocked to hear your understanding of Climate Science.  By shocked, I mean the same reaction I have when I find out that some people still smoke cigarettes.  Hopefully you are aware that the tobacco industry denied the medical science that cigarettes cause cancer for over 50 years?  Of course, they didn’t have the science to back up their claims, so they hired a PR firm to spin the story.  That story was “the government is trying to take away your cigarettes”.  How many lives could have been saved but for industry choosing profit over the health and welfare American citizens?

It was the same story with the lead industry.  By the late 1900s both the lead industry and U. S. Government (USG) agencies knew that lead was poison, but they considered it “essential” to our economy and consumers.  So, they allowed its use in gasoline, pipes and paints.  As a result, hundreds of thousands of children have suffered (more than from polio, which we quickly acknowledged and mobilized our resources to eradicate it.)  Many continue to suffer from lead poisoning today (think:  Flint, Michigan).  The USG was complicit in this preventable tragedy, because of powerful lobbyists.  ‎

The same pattern of denial and obfuscation has happened because of actions by Big Carbon.  I recommend you read the book Merchants of Doubt by Naomi Oreskes‎ and ‎Erik M. Conway.  The authors spell out very clearly just how effectively the oil industry hid the truth about the effect of greenhouse gases on our climate’s stability and raised doubts about the validity of the scientific consensus.

Fortunately, although it’s very late, there are many folks aware of the threats climate instability pose to all of us, including many in your party.  I urge you to check into efforts like those espoused by Bob Inglis of RepublicEn, Rev Mitch Hescox of Evangelical Environment Network, Evangelicals for Social Action, American Conservation Coalition, and Virginia Conservatives for Clean Energy, to name but a few.  Their web addresses appear at the end of this message.  I hope you will come to agree that there are market solutions to addressing our carbon addiction and embrace efforts to use them.

One other point about the evidence supporting the impacts of excessive greenhouse gases.  Notwithstanding the current Administration’s preference to avoid the term “climate change” and even deny the problem, there is a vast chasm between the assessments of most life-long civil servants and scientists who work hard to protect this country’s interests and the relatively small number of those who dismiss the problem.  I am speaking of the employees like those in DOD, the National Weather Service, NASA, and even the EPA.  They all have made it clear that Global Warming is real, caused by human actions, and is a grave threat to this county and the world.

I would welcome the opportunity for another exchange of ideas with you in order to find some common ground on what to do about the huge risks that we all face.  I hope you can offer some good suggestions on possible actions that you can support.  Solutions are many, but of course we have to have people, in all levels of government, who are open to understanding the issues and figuring out ways to address them.  I would love to partner with you on ways to do this.  Thanks again for your time on the 29th.


Sally Newkirk

Suggested Resources

Evangelical Environment Network:
Evangelicals for Social Action:
American Conservation Coalition:
VA Conservatives for Clean Energy:

Champions of Us All

Daily News-Record, April 1, 2019

Open Forum: Irvin Peckham

I read Michael Meredith’s open forum, (“Tony Wilt A Champion for Business,” March 14) in which he promoted Tony Wilt’s 26th District voting record, calling him “a champion for business.” Certainly, our representatives should support local business owners; but they should also support other citizens, education, community infrastructure and environmental preservation. At times, these elements may seem in conflict with one another; how a candidate negotiates these conflicts influences how many of us will vote.

Like Wilt and Meredith, I am not a fan of big government; but I do support government that works in the interest of all citizens, protecting consumers against fraudulent business practices, prioritizing public education, supporting community development and protecting the environment.

Wilt says he supports a “balanced approach to environmental and water quality issues.” A “balanced” approach implies that he might tolerate some degree of water pollution and environmental destruction if government regulations would hamper business profits. To suggest that we should balance current benefits at the expense of environmental preservation takes one down the infamous slippery slope. At what point is environmental destruction less important than business profit? Are we not concerned about preserving our environment for our children? Or is it: After us, the storm?

Because concrete contributes to CO2 production, global warming and water run-off, it should go without saying that Wilt, the owner of a concrete company, has an interest in voting against bills protecting our environment. Although loosely related through energy consumption, Delegate Wilt’s adherence to a “balanced” approach might explain his recent votes restricting solar development in Virginia, siding with Dominion and Appalachian Power over organizations promoting renewable energy.

Wilt’s vote is one example of how he might resolve issues when different interests, including his own, are in conflict. I am equally concerned about his positions on public education, the minimum wage, and Medicaid expansion. Although I applaud his position on testing, his attempts to divert monies from public education will undermine local schools, accounting for his low rating of 50 percent from the Virginia Education Association.

In support of Wilt’s positions on the minimum wage and Medicaid expansion, Meredith says that a wage of $15 an hour is “ridiculously high,” a claim that makes me shiver, and that Medicaid expansion would increase health cost, a claim not supported by the Kaiser Foundation research and the experience of other states in spite of recent efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act. But even if Medicaid expansion increases costs, I believe that in the interest of the whole community, such an expansion would be worth supporting.

Although I respect champions of small business, I am looking for a representative who will be champions of us all. Mr. Meredith suggests that these priorities are socialist; I see them as caring for others, including our children and their children.

Irvin Peckham lives in Harrisonburg.

Irvin serves on the Steering Committee of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley.

Common Sense Vs. Partisan Nonsense

Daily News-Record, March 23, 2019

Open Forum: Dave Pruett

On Feb. 13, 26th-District Sen. Mark Obenshain voted for an extraordinarily shortsighted bill. House Bill 2611 “prohibits the governor or any state agency from adopting any regulation establishing a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program … ”

The bill intentionally hamstrings Virginia from joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. It passed narrowly on party- line vote.

What is RGGI? It is a market-based consortium of 10 Northeastern states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont— organized to reduce greenhouse gases by capping overall emissions and trading “allowances.” Since 2005, carbon emissions in RGGI states have fallen by 40 percent while their economies have grown by eight.

What’s so disagreeable about RGGI? Carbon reduction? Economic growth and new jobs? Health benefits? Were no climate catastrophe looming, RGGI would still make sense in terms of energy efficiency, economic impacts, and health. But in the wake of two recent and terrifying climate studies — the National Climate Assessment and the 2018 Report of the International Panel on Climate Change — not to commit to a proven program of carbon reduction borders on indefensible.

Yet, at national and state levels, the GOP seems firmly committed to the fantasy that climate change is a hoax. Never mind that 73 percent of Americans think global warming is happening now, and most are worried, according to a national survey called Climate Change in the American Mind.

Never mind the consensus of America’s premier scientific bodies that burning fossil fuels is the primary cause. Among these agencies: The National Academy of Sciences, American Physical Society, American Geophysical Union, NASA, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Never mind as four decades of predictions by climate scientists materialize before our very eyes. Seasons are shifting, ice caps melting, hurricanes stronger and wetter, wildfires larger and more devastating and tides are inundating Miami and Norfolk.

Never mind the assessment of our armed forces that changing climate is a global “threat multiplier” and rising sea level puts Norfolk Naval Base at risk, according to a Pentagon report from 2014.

Why then deny? Because denial pays handsomely. According to the watchdog agency, eight of Obenshain’s top 25 campaign contributors are linked to fossil fuels, including Koch Industries, Dominion Energy and Consol Energy.

And so Obenshain and GOP colleagues: Heed former Virginia Air Quality Board member Rebecca Rubin: “If you cannot lead from a position of environmental justice in this day and age, then you cannot lead.”

Come November, I will cast my vote for a senatorial candidate of integrity who refuses the fossil-fuel lobby’s 30 pieces of silver, blood money for selling out the futures of our children and grandchildren. I will vote for April Moore, a candidate of common sense, not partisan nonsense.

Dave Pruett lives in Harrisonburg.

Solar Caucus Support

Please join CAAV in urging our representative Ben Cline to join the Solar Caucus to make progress on this local energy and jobs opportunity. Find a letter writing tool from Solar United Neighbors here:

Congressman Cline:

We are writing to encourage you to join the new Bipartisan Congressional Solar Caucus. Co-founded by Republican Ralph Norman and Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi, the caucus is an important opportunity to find common ground on federal solar policies.

In the Shenandoah Valley, and in Harrisonburg City / Rockingham County, there are no significant energy producers with greater economic ability than renewable wind and solar.  We produce no coal, no natural gas, no oil, and we have an agricultural climate that we seek to sustain.

We believe that every home, business, and farm in America should have the
ability to make clean, inexpensive, local power with solar panels. It will add to America’s energy independence and it will create great local jobs. It is a way that private citizens can use private property and their own investments to rebuild their local communities.

Because solar is pro-consumer, pro-business, and pro-environment, solar is an issue that can bring together people from all walks of life and political perspectives.  As Rep. Norman observes, “The public always hears we are fighting; this is something we can get together on”.

By joining the Bipartisan Congressional Solar Caucus, you will be helping to grow solar use in the U.S., and you will be sending a clear message that Congress can work together on issues that directly impact our energy rights, costs, and quality of life.

Thank you for your consideration.

To join the Solar Caucus, please contact Hillary Caron in Congressman Krishnamoorthi’s office at

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley

Delegate Wilt Votes Against Jobs

The Daily News-Record (Harrisonburg, VA) – February 22, 2019

By Sally Newkirk

On Jan. 24, I went to Richmond for Solar Lobby Day, together with several Harrisonburg and Rockingham County residents. We sat through seven hours of the House of Delegates’ Commerce and Labor Subcommittee for consideration of over 40 bills related to energy efficiency and renewable energy, broadband and other matters related to Virginia’s utilities. The subcommittee members’ votes would determine what bills would be passed on for consideration by the full committee and, if passed there, eventually would be voted on by all Delegates. Del. Tony Wilt is a member.

I was interested in about a dozen bills that were introduced to help Virginia’s distributed solar industry continue to grow by removing existing barriers. Energy and solar kept being pushed back to late into the day. Finally, after 6 p. m., they were introduced, and then advocated for by businesses ( Google and Microsoft, and installers), environmental groups, and political groups ( Conservatives for Renewable Energy, Earth Stewardship Alliance, and the Green Party of Arlington, to name a few). Dominion and Appalachian Power voiced consistent opposition to bills designed to remove barriers to solar.

One example: Virginia law now sets a 1 percent cap on distributed solar ( rooftop) that can be “ net- metered” in a utility service area. Under net metering, utility customers who produce their own energy from solar or wind can receive credit for that production against electricity usage, thus lowering their bills. The catch is that, if one lives in a service area in which the 1 percent cap has been reached, the utility can deny net metering. Another example: There are limits in Virginia’s law on third- party financing using power purchase agreements that hamper efforts by nonprofit and municipal institutions to reduce their energy costs.

Advocates for these and other bills considered that day made the clear points that these barriers represent unnecessary and market- unfriendly rules that discourage growth of solar companies and, by extension, jobs. Solar and wind industry jobs can’t be outsourced and local installers who employ these workers can boost their local economies because the wages earned will be spent locally.

Needless to say, all these bills were voted down along party lines, most Republicans voting nay, including our local delegate, Wilt. Let me make this clear: With his vote, Mr. Wilt opposed jobs, job creators, schools, nonprofits, lower- and middle-income folks who could benefit from lower electricity bills — in other words, many of his constituents. Instead, he voted in favor of government regulations and the for- profit monopoly for- profit utilities ( that put investor interests first).

My question for Mr. Wilt: How he would have grown his business if the state slapped a cap on how much concrete he could pour? I would also challenge the voters to look at what your representative stands for before you cast your ballot. It seems like just because Tony Wilt has an “ R” after his name doesn’t mean he is for growing our local economy, and antigovernment regulations, because in this case, he didn’t.

Sally Newkirk lives in Mount Crawford.

Sally serves on the Steering Committee of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley

To stop this climate lawsuit, get behind a price for carbon

The Washington Post
Letters to the Editor | Opinion
March 11, 2018

If the Trump administration wishes to stop a lawsuit by children and teenagers, all it needs to do is get behind a price on carbon [“Trump fails to halt 21 youths’ climate suit,” news, March 8]. There are several excellent proposals that most citizens would support. Similar proposals by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby and by a group that includes James A. Baker III and George P. Shultz could make great progress toward reducing our carbon footprint and be a beginning bipartisan solution to climate change.

Having fasted in front of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission several years ago with one of the young people involved in the federal climate-change lawsuits, I am thrilled to see young people coming forth on issues that involve their future.

Charles Strickler, Harrisonburg, Va.

Link to the original posting is here:

Senator Hanger keeps the RGGI Bill from going to committee

Dear Senator Hanger,

We are writing to thank you for your long-term and hard-fought efforts in the areas of mental health, Medicaid expansion, Chesapeake Bay cleanup and stewardship, and others. We also appreciate your sponsorship of legislation allowing local taxing entities to exempt certified solar equipment from personal property taxes [§ 58.1-3661].

However, we also want to express our extreme disappointment that you chose to vote against allowing SB696 (VA Alternative Energy and Coastal Protection Act) to obtain due consideration by the Commerce and Labor Committee. As you no doubt know, this is the 3rd year this legislation has been introduced and summarily dismissed by your party’s majority. It has done so despite the fact that this proposal would allow VA to take a much-needed step in the direction of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, at least for carbon, and do so through a market-driven approach. Surely the need to do that is not partisan, since we all breathe the same air, drink the same water, farm the same land, depend on nature’s diversity and resilience, and rely on an economy that depends in large part on environmental predictability and stability–all of which are in serious jeopardy.

During these 3 years, we don’t believe your party has come up with legislative alternatives to what this bill proposed–i.e., that VA partner with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) states to assess fees on carbon and use that revenue to cover the costs of such pressing matters as sea level rise along our coast, increased energy efficiency, and assistance to our southwest counties in their transition away from coal. Although it’s clear that your party–and also you apparently–do not favor RGGI, we are most interested in approaches that you do favor.

Some of the signatories are your constituents; all are engaged citizens who believe strongly that our legislature needs to focus–and do so now–on ways to foster sustainability and adaptation to climate-related weather events and to reduce our carbon emissions. We believe that, if you choose to do so, you can lead in this arena and we are offering our services to assist your doing just that.

Several years ago following a budget hearing, you spoke with one of us (Joy Loving, a constituent) and recommended that she “push” you in this direction by letting you know of relevant events and facts. She has been doing that periodically but has not recently requested a meeting with you to understand your positions and solicit your support in moving VA in the direction of greater sustainability and adaptation.

We think the time has come to sit down with you and have a frank discussion about what needs to be done and how best we can work together to do it. We will request a meeting with you once the current session has ended. At that point, we will know just what progress the General Assembly has made and what remains to be initiated. We sincerely hope you will be willing to have that discussion.

Thank you.

Joy Loving, Grottoes/ Rockingham Co
and sixteen other local concerned citizens

January 29, 2018

Time For U.S. To Choose The Future

Daily News-Record, October 2, 2017
H. Bishop Dansby, Opinion (Open Forum)

energy-1989341_960_720Progress in addressing climate change is, of course, held up by the interests vested in coal, oil and natural gas energy resources, and by those who fear that we cannot replace these energy sources without damaging the economy.

Coal, oil and natural gas are natural resource-based sources of energy. The prices of those products has tended to stay flat with some temporary spikes. Technology-based energy, by great contrast, will tend to go down in price over time.

We are not accustomed to thinking in terms of tech-based energy, but we have had some forms of it for a long time, such as nuclear and hydroelectric power. Today, we also have solar, wind, wave, geothermal, and eventually we’ll have fusion. These will not consume natural resources, except in the more limited way of fabricating technology. The “fuel” of tech-based energy is intellectual and informational. While the need to reduce greenhouse gases has hastened the rate at which we transition from natural resource-based energy to tech-based energy, we will reap the benefits to quality of life and standard of living earlier.

If the Apple iPhone X were implemented in vacuum tubes in 1957, the transistors alone would have cost $150 trillion in today’s currency (one and a half times today’s global annual product), taken up a hundred-story square building two miles long and wide, and drawn 150 terawatts of power — 30 times the world’s current generating capacity.

The last factoid is worth reemphasizing. A single computer in 1957 matching the computing power of today’s iPhone would have required 30 times the electricity generation capacity of the whole world!

The Apple iPhone is a metaphor of the future. We can have a higher standard of living for less cost while consuming fewer resources and using less energy. The necessity of mitigating climate change may be hastening arrival of the future, but the good news is that we will have this new world sooner rather than later.

The technologies that will reduce greenhouse emissions, including solar power, electric vehicles, advanced batteries, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, self-driving vehicles, 3-D printing, net zero energy buildings, and increased energy efficiency are creating a world consistent with the Apple iPhone metaphor.

Hanging onto fossil energy will put America more in step with North Korea than with the world of the future. Need I note that the U.S. is the only country in the world not part of the Paris Climate Agreement?

Although much of our private sector and many state and local governments are embracing the future of green energy, the federal government is dismantling environmental protections and propping up energy industries of the past. Meanwhile, China and Europe and the other 192 nations that entered the Paris Climate Agreement are choosing the future.

Mr. Dansby lives in Keezletown.