SVEC Board Candidate Questionnaire

The Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) is currently holding an election for three seats on their Board of Directors. Only the seat for the Southern District is being contested, with three candidates: incumbent Brent Arbogast, Eric Beck, and Charlie King.

To learn more about these candidates’ views on how SVEC can be instrumental in efforts to curb fossil fuel emissions that are causing global climate changes, members of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley’s steering committee have requested their opinions through the questionnaire below:

Hello Candidates for SVEC Southern District,

We hope this email finds you well. This request is being sent out on behalf of the Steering Committee of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV). We hope to elicit responses, either in written or video form, from you all regarding the following questions so that we may share the information with our members on our social media.

Our questions are as follows:

1. What is your vision for how SVEC might become more environmentally sustainable?
2. Do you have ideas for how SVEC ratepayers can be protected from the rising price of fuel used to generate electricity?
3. What are your ideas for how SVEC might rely more heavily on renewable energy?

We request that your responses be submitted back to us by July 19 at 12 noon at the latest.

We truly appreciate your time, and we look forward to hearing back from you.

-Steering Committee of the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley

From SVEC Board candidate Eric Beck:

1. What is your vision for how SVEC might become more environmentally sustainable?  As an electric provider, I tend to orient my thinking in lines of sources of electricity.  ODEC is the not for profit electric generation company, who have been more focused on fossil fuels as a source for energy.  I would like SVEC to engage in exploration of alternative renewable sources of energy, or encourage ODEC to develop more sustainable sources.  The Member Owner model also could be deployed in a way to leverage the customer/owners to use distributed solar on their properties to create additional sources, i.e. acres of poultry buildings, factories, and so forth.

2. Do you have ideas for how SVEC ratepayers can be protected from the rising price of fuel used to generate electricity?  Having diversity in fuel sources is key.  Currently the cost of electricity produced by solar is less expensive.  Additionally, distributed energy with more widely distributed solar production can be used to minimize the vast loss of electricity thru miles of transmission.  I think solar, though consistently growing, is still a long ways off of being in balance with the use of coal or fossil fuels.

3. What are your ideas for how SVEC might rely more heavily on renewable energy?  To be honest, the utility industry is complex and I will have much to learn about large scale development of renewable energy.  It is a different “animal” from smaller residential or light commercial deployment of renewable energy.  SVEC has been somewhat opaque in its higher level decisions or board deliberations.  Privacy is valued in its bylaws about board of directors abilities to share deliberations.  However, I do want to be a voice in the room to actively advocate for different considerations, options of alternative energies, pilot programs, and broader policy decisions.

Thanks for your consideration of how to support voices supporting Climate Action in SVEC.

– Eric Beck

As of July 19, neither of the other candidates has submitted responses.

The election “closes” on August 8, 2022. Members may vote by email or USPS mail.

Songs for Solar

Thanks to everyone who participated in this fundraiser! We raised over $2000 for the GiveSolar Seed Fund.

Click on the image above to listen to Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay of Friction Farm as they perform the song they wrote for this event.

Join the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley and GiveSolar for an evening of music by acoustic duo Friction Farm, to benefit GiveSolar‘s work in spreading the wealth of solar energy.

Friday, September 10 | 7-9:30PM

Community Mennonite Church
70 S High St, Harrisonburg

Free-will donations accepted at the door or on the GiveSolar website HERE.

“Songs for Solar” is a fundraiser for GiveSolar’s Solar Seed Fund which is raising money to install solar panels on new Habitat for Humanity homes in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Find out more about the Solar Seed Fund initiative on their website HERE and through their Facebook page HERE.

Come for the music, to hear more about the inspiring work of GiveSolar, and for snacks and socializing! Update: due to the uptick of COVID cases in our area, no food or drink will be provided, but the music will feed your souls.*


Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay of Friction Farm come from their self-built solar powered home in the hills of South Carolina to support GIVE SOLAR.  The non-profit is working to raise $100,000 as a seed fund that will be used to install solar on 20 Central Valley Habitat for Humanity homes the in the next five years. The work is all done by volunteers in “solar barnraisings.” A generous donor is matching each dollar given so contributions will go twice as far. Jeff Heie, founder of GIVE SOLAR, will talk about the project and how you can volunteer to help before the concert begins.

“Modern-folk duo Friction Farm is a husband and wife team of traveling troubadours. Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay combine storytelling, social commentary and humor to create songs of everyday life, local heroes, and quirky observations. From ballads to anthems each song is filled with harmony and hope.

  • Kerrville New Folk Finalists
  • Falcon Ridge Emerging Artists
  • South Florida Folk Festival Song Competition Winner
  • Susquehanna Music and Arts Festival Songwriter Finalists
  • Southeast and Southwest Regional Folk Alliance official showcase artists

Friction Farm has performed internationally and toured the US. They feel at home on the road and on stage. Audiences lean into their stories, laugh at their humor, are inspired to do a little good in the world, and even sing along once in a while.

Aidan and Christine have been performing as a duo for [fifteen years.] He’s from Berkeley, CA and she’s from Woodstock NY. They met in college studying geology and engineering. Though they each had successful careers, their sense of adventure and love of music and travel were too strong to ignore. They hit the road with a handful of songs and never looked back. Friction Farm has performed across the US and in Europe, Asia, and Africa. When not touring Aidan does some woodworking and Christine bakes. They have a big garden and a small orchard at the sustainable home they designed and built in South Carolina.” — Tedx Greenville, 2016

Their latest album is “Evidence of Hope,” which is what we all need more of right now!

Find more about them HERE.

They’ve written a song just for this event. Be the first to hear it!

Other sponsors of this event include the Shenandoah Group of the Sierra Club, the Harrisonburg Unitarian Universalists, Community Mennonite Church, Earth Day Every Day Harrisonburg, and Trinity Presbyterian Church.

* To address COVID concerns, in addition to mandatory masking, there are lots of doors we will prop open around the room and with the large ceiling fans in the vaulted ceiling space, we think it will provide a relatively safe environment for us and for our performers, Aidan Quinn and Christine Stay of Friction Farm.

Also, seats will be spaced out around the room, two together (though of course you can pull chairs together for your family members.)

This will mean fewer people can come in and once we reach capacity, others will very SADLY be turned away.

Reflections on “Going Native” webinar

Click HERE to watch the archived version of the webinar as posted to the Shenandoah Group of the Sierra Club’s Facebook page. Thanks to Jonathan Stewart!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021 | 7PM

Hosted by the Shenandoah Group of the Sierra Club and the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley

Join Dr Maria Bowman and Shenandoah Group of the Sierra Club and the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley for a presentation about nature.

In this presentation, Maria will discuss her experience growing and cultivating native shrubs and perennials, and advocating for their use in public spaces in her community. She will give some tips and tricks for growing native plants in your own yard, share some of her favorite resources for learning about and purchasing native plants, and discuss some of the challenges and benefits of bringing them into the spaces we inhabit. Bring your questions!

Maria grew up in Verona, VA, and currently lives in Poolesville, Maryland with her husband, dog, and cat. In addition to her passion for native plants and exploring the natural world, Maria holds a Ph.D in Agricultural Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, a Master’s degree in Forestry from Virginia Tech, and a B.S. in Environmental Science from Juniata College (PA). She has worked in nonprofits, agricultural industry, and government, and has lived and worked in Ecuador, Brazil, and Mozambique.

Register here:

CAAV and 50by25H’burg at JMU’s EarthFest

Luciano Benjamin, representing CAAV and 50by25Harrisonburg, uses visuals to deliver his message: “The situation is urgent, worldwide action is needed and is occurring, Virginia is acting, and local action is happening in Harrisonburg.” Photo by Becca Gvozden for JMU’s The Breeze.

EarthFest – “Restore Our Earth” Virtual Earth Day Event

In addition to hosting Reflecting on Earth Day, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley participated in another Earth Day event. This one was led by Earth Day Every Day and presented by James Madison University’s Bluestone Communications. In a livestreamed event, the students marched through the campus ending near JMU’s famed Spirit Rock. Before students painted their Earth Day thoughts on the rock, they offered representatives of several local environmental organizations, among them CAAV and 50by25Harrisonburg, the opportunity to present information about the work they are doing.

The graphics below illustrate what CAAV’s and 50by25’s spokesperson, Luciano Benjamin, said. The message was: “The situation is urgent, worldwide action is needed and is occurring, Virginia is acting, and local action is happening in Harrisonburg.”

CAAV is a sponsor of 50by25Harrisonburg and one of our steering committee members, Joy Loving, actively participates in that group’s activities.

Click on a poster image below for a larger pdf version of these graphics.

These were designed by Doug Hendren of 50by 25Harrisonburg with content help from Joy Loving with CAAV and 50by25Harrisonburg.

Virginia Environmental News Roundup – utility regulation special report

The Climate Action Alliance of the Valley is pleased to provide Harrisonburg’s The Citizen with a monthly survey of energy and environmental news stories about Virginia.

With their permission, we are re-posting these pieces here after they appear in The Citizen.

The link to this piece as first published by The Citizen is HERE.

Editor’s Note: This is a special installment of the periodic contributed news roundups about statewide environmental news. This piece highlights selected utility reform bills that the Virginia General Assembly considered in 2021, with links to further coverage in various media outlets. Future perspectives will cover other important 2021 legislation, about energy, energy efficiency, and other environmental matters.

During 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic, most utility customers enjoyed a moratorium on paying utility bills. Anticipating the lifting of that moratorium, some legislators examined existing state law with a view to identifying and addressing some that favored utilities over consumer. The result was introduction of several bills that, together, would expand the State Corporation Commission’s authority to regulate Virginia’s investor-owned monopoly utilities in a more balanced manner than current law allows. All but one were filed in the House of Delegates.

Although consolidated and modified versions of these bills passed the House, all failed in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Thus, the full Senate never had the opportunity to vote for or against them. The same Senate Commerce and Labor Committee also killed the one bill introduced in that chamber. Below is a table of the major bills and whether our area Delegates and State Senators supported them. Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) sits on the Commerce and Labor committee.

Bill No.PurposeDel. WiltDel. GilbertDel. RunionSen. HangerSen. Obenshain
HB 1914Give SCC discretion on counting utility costs against revenuesNoNoNoN/ANo
HB 1984Give SCC added discretion to determine fair rate of return & order rate changesNoNoNoN/ANo
HB 2049Prevent using overearnings for new projects rather than refundingNoNoNoN/ANo
HB 2200Change SCC procedures re setting fair rate of return, crediting 100% overearnings to customers, & eliminating $50M refund limit, starting 2021.YesNoNoN/ANo
HB 2160Give SCC authority to set fair rate of return & require crediting 100% overearnings to customers rather than current 70%NoNoNoN/ANo
SB 1292Require crediting 100% overearnings to customers rather than current 70%N/AN/AN/AN/ANo

As noted in the brief descriptions above, the bills were designed to lower ratepayers’ bills, return excess charges to ratepayers, and give the SCC the ability to set fair ratesAdvocates and bill sponsors, as well as those legislators who supported these bills, took note of the fact that Virginia’s largest monopoly-owned utility—Dominion Energy—had been successful in avoiding periodic SCC review since passage of a 2015 law. After that, it had become obvious that Dominion had overcharged its customers around an estimated $500 million.

A previous General Assembly restored the periodic SCC review, to occur every three years starting 2021. That review will be underway soon when Dominion files the necessary paperwork with the SCC. The promise of the above 2021 bills was to enable the SCC to ensure that such large overcharges would not recur and that any refunds it ordered would in fact go to the overcharged customers. The latter was a priority because of other prior legislation that allowed Dominion to (1) hold onto 30% of any overcharges and return only 70% and (2) make a case that it should keep all overcharges and apply them to the costs of future approved projects.

Despite strong support in the House of Delegates and strong advocacy by many individuals and groups, none of the bills became law. It is likely efforts to achieve these and similar reforms will happen for the 2022 General Assembly session. It might be useful to understand your representatives’ reasons for their votes on this year’s bills.

Reflecting on Earth Day

Thanks to everyone who participated in Reflecting on Earth Day for Earth Day 2021!

Click HERE for a page with everyone’s reflections compiled on it.


Stop by the Pond at Purcell Park anytime between 5 and 6PM on Earth Day, Thursday, April 22, 2021, to join others in finding hope and solidarity in our love and caring protection of our home planet!

Not sure how to find the Pond at Purcell Park?

Here is a map:

Click HERE to find Purcell Park on a Google map.

A Housing Trust Fund for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County

At their February 16, 2021, steering committee meeting, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley voted to endorse Faith in Action’s efforts to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.

“Faith in Action is a non-partisan, faith-based organization that speaks in the public arena. We have no common theological, political, or ideological agenda. We work annually on a pragmatic, workable, local issue that is selected by our members. This work does mean that we ask elected officials and other local government personnel to make changes to work toward justice.” –

The group’s current work focuses on local affordable housing:

“There is a lack of affordable and accessible housing in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. Access to a stable home improves health, education & economic outcomes. It gives our community’s children a good start in life, ensures our seniors have dignity and a place to call home, and creates a Valley community that works for everyone. Faith in Action is working to pass a resolution for the City and County to work together on a Housing Trust Fund for a long-lasting solution.”

“… Faith in Action [,] has led a year-long effort [to pass a Housing Trust Fund resolution] in close collaboration with agencies on the front lines of housing and homelessness. These include Mercy House, Our Community Place, Habitat for Humanity, and support organizations like the local United Way, and people directly impacted by housing insecurity. ”

“The goal is to create a fund that receives at least $1.5 million annually that will be spent on building and preserving affordable housing in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County. The trust fund aims to: maximize public-private participation; secure a dedicated continuous funding source; leverage other resources. A potential list of uses include: new construction, rehabilitation, acquisition, rental assistance, land trusts, cooperative housing, transitional or emergency housing, preservation of assisted housing, weatherization, emergency repairs, housing-related services and more.”

Learn more about the Affordable Housing Trust Fund for Harrisonburg and Rockingham County from Faith in Action HERE.

Divest MVP: Stop funding for the Mountain Valley Pipeline!

In collaboration with the Sierra Club and other environmental groups across the country, the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV) is joining the movement to call for divestment from the Mountain Valley Pipeline (the MVP). 

For those of you that have not heard of the MVP, it is a 303 mile fracked gas pipeline that stretches from northwestern West Virginia to southern Virginia. The project has proved to be a profound disaster for our environment and natural waterways. To date, the pipeline, which is still under construction, has threatened over 1,000 waterways, has been responsible for over 350+ violations of commonsense water protections, and has been fined over two million dollars for environmental damages.

Now is the time to join the fight to end the construction of the MVP. 

As stated previously CAAV has joined other environmental groups across the nation in calling for the Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and 5 other major banks to divest from this environmentally disastrous project. There is a wide range of actions you can take to help us do this. 

  • The first action you can take is signing the Sierra Club petition calling for divestment. The link to that can be found here.
  • The next thing you can do is participate in the DivestMVP Coalitions’ Virtual Rally on February 25, 6-7 PM EST! The link to register for this is here. This virtual rally, hosted by the Sierra Club, Rainforest Action Network, Oil Change International, and POWHR, will get you up to speed on the latest MVP news, the banks behind MVP, and what you can do to help stop MVP from ever getting completed.
  • You can also write letters to the editor of your local newspaper and post on social media supporting the call for divestment. The full Sierra Club media toolkit, which contains suggested postings for your Facebook and Twitter, as well as sample letters to the editor, can be found here!
  • Finally, you can check out the POWHR Divest MVP webpage that contains great additional information, like how to divest from your bank if they choose to continue funding this awful project.

We have a duty to protect our natural waterways and stop this terrible project from being completed. Together let’s make our voices be heard and put an end to this pipeline! 

Thank you all for your continued support and activism.

-Luciano Benjamin for the CAAV steering committee, February 18, 2021

CAAV’s Chair on the Paris Agreement for “1on1”

1on1: What it means as Biden rejoins climate agreement

Climate Action Alliance of the Valley Chair Jo Anne St. Clair spoke with Bob Corso on January 21, 2021, for WHSV’s 1on1 about the importance of President Biden’s action to have the United States rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. Watch the interview here.