For over a decade, Dominion Energy, the largest energy utility company in Virginia, has been dumping tonnes of coal ash into Quantico Creek--a tributary of the Potomac River. They have been contaminating this prime source of drinking water, which services Virginians in 39 counties and 16 cities.
In the last couple of months, I’ve been able to work with the student organizers of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition (VSEC). This coalition unites the efforts of students from nine universities to fight against the regional impacts of the fossil fuel industry and collectively build towards a just and sustainable future in Virginia--a place that has become home to me since studying there in college.
For over a decade, Dominion Energy, the largest energy utility company in Virginia, has been dumping tonnes of coal ash into Quantico Creek--a tributary of the Potomac River. They have been contaminating this prime source of drinking water and Dominion Energy has not been fined or punished at all for their actions. Instead, on January 14th, the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued a permit allowing dominion to dump 150 million gallons of coal ash wastewater into both the James River and Potomac River--both of which provide drinking water thousands of Virginians in 39 counties and 16 cities. This volume of pollution would more than triple the DEQ’s regulatory safety limits of arsenic concentration in water. This permit goes into effect on Wednesday, March 9. In less than a week, Virginians’ water will be further poisoned due to Dominion Energy’s greed and negligence.
David Paylor, Director of the DEQ, allowed Dominion Energy to contaminate Virginia’s drinking water. This is a clear indication of the DEQ choosing profit over people, risking the safety and livelihood of all Virginians. When democracy is controlled by the interests of the disastrous fossil fuel industry, it is the people who must intervene.
As this devastating news spreads, people are rising up to resist Dominion Energy and the DEQ. I've been able to work with divestment students from Virginia Commonwealth University, James Madison University, UVA, Virginia Tech, and University of Mary Washington. These students are extending their reach and influence beyond the limitations of their campuses, and are pushing for change in their local communities.
Students are increasing the stakes by demanding universities and state government disentangle themselves from the fossil fuel industry. As a National Organizer for the Responsible Endowments Coalition, this marriage between student activism and community organizing is the first step we can take towards systemic change.
There is no alternative but to take action. Let’s stand in solidarity with Virginia on this one.
Shout out to the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition for the incredible work they’re doing!