Year 2013 in Review: Looking Back to Go Forward

We kicked off 2013 with the Sierra Club’s participation in the largest Climate Rally in U.S. history held next door in our Nation’s Capital. As many as 40,000 activists from around the country, including thousands from Virginia, heard speeches and music, then marched to the White House waiving signs and shouting chants, hoping to convince the Obama administration to stop the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline from being built and to take action against climate change on that cold February day.

CutCarbon2Sierra Club played a major role in the success of the rally. Virginians boarded busses departing from cities all over the Commonwealth including Norfolk, Willamsburg, Richmond, Roanoke, Charlottesville and Harrisonburg. Hundreds of activists from all around Northern Virginia travelled in to the rally on Metro.

Our other highlights from 2013 include:

Our 2013 Election Victory:
Hundreds of Sierra Club members volunteered in our election efforts which paid off with victories in the Governor, Lt. Governor and Attorney General races. Climate deniers Bob McDonnell and Ken Cuccinelli are now history, and we look forward to working with the new McAuliffe Administration to foster investment in wind, solar and efficiency, take steps to fight climate change and prepare for sea level rise in Hampton Roads, and clean up our air and water.

Big Victory Keeps the Ban on Uranium Mining:
People power won big this year when bills that would have paved the way for an end to Virginia’s 32-year moratorium on uranium mining were killed. Together, we’ve developed strong teams across the state, collected thousands more signatures on our petition, hosted 4 major showings of the Hot Water documentary around the state, earned the support of dozens of businesses and political leaders, garnered statewide media coverage of the issue, and even won over our next governor who recently stated he’ll veto any bill to repeal the current ban!

Ison Rock Ridge Stands:
Another mountaintop removal coal mine stopped – For years, the prospect of a new mountaintop removal mine has hung over the town of Appalachia like a black cloud of coal dust. Working with Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards (SAMS) and Appalachian Voices, the Sierra Club legal team has successfully challenged the Ison Rock Ridge mine for more than three years. As a consequence, no new MTR coal mines were permitted in Virginia during that time. Then in early summer 2013, the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) drove a final nail in that MTR coffin by dismissing a long pending permit for the Ison Rock Ridge mine. DMME denied A&G’s permit after it failed over the course of two years to take the necessary steps to resolve outstanding mine permit violations.

Virginia Moves Ahead with Offshore Wind Energy Development:
After years of intensive problem-solving attention by all stakeholders involved, including the military, the shipping industry, government and environmental interests, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in September this year finally held a lease sale on 112,799 acres offshore Virginia for commercial wind energy development. The auction represents the second competitive offshore lease sale for renewable energy in the nation; Virginia being second behind a Rhode Island/Massachusetts lease area. The Feds have now passed the baton to Virginia’s new developer of its offshore wind resources, Dominion Virginia Power, and Sierra Club plans to keep the pressure on to insure that Dominion has “steel in the water” before 2020 .

Big Pressure Delays Deadly Seismic Airgun Blasting:
Thanks to the efforts of Sierra Club, Oceana and other allies, we have stopped for now deadly seismic airgun testing in the Atlantic. In September this year, the Department of the Interior announced that it will postpone its decision allowing seismic airgun use off the Atlantic coast until 2014. This delay gives us more time to convince lawmakers and regulators of the danger of seismic airguns— devices that will injure or kill 138,500 marine mammals to include endangered North Atlantic right whales. And that’s all before oil drilling starts. The battle against seismic airguns and offshore drilling continues in 2014!

Ongoing efforts:
While not quite victories, we’ve held off fracking in the George Washington National Forest and drilling for oil and gas off our coast. Dominion has proposed a long range energy plan for Virginia that would increase its greenhouse gas emissions by 50%+ in the next 20 years, and this plan will be under review in 2014 so we’ve got our work cut out for us. The work continues!

On behalf of our large Sierra Club family of staff, volunteers and friends, Happy Holidays to you and yours!

P.S. Please consider giving to the Sierra Club-Virginia Chapter in your year-end environmental contributions. Thank you for everything you do to explore, enjoy, and protect the planet.

About the Author

Eileen is the Virginia Conservation Program Manager with the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club.