Friday, December 30, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *

Because this would probably be safer for my kids to play in
than the neurtoxins and carcinogens left behind from a coal plant
--none of which I could see to avoid.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fight On

Last week ODEC announced that they will reapply to the Town of Dendron for the necessary local permits to move forward with the coal plant. You can read a local news article about it HERE.

Needless to say, I am disappointed.

I'm not entirely convinced that the project isn't dead. According to the article above,

"The date of the new public hearing — and a subsequent town council vote — for the proposed power station will not be set until 2012."
That's fairly vague: 2012. Plenty of room to quietly fade away into the sunset.

Not counting on it, but a girl can dream.

In the meantime?

Bring. It.

We are ready to fight. We've kicked these clowns over and over again, and we're ready to do it some more. We're rested. We're reinvigorated by this lawsuit win. We've heard their lawyer's canned responses so often, we could repeat them from memory.

There are simply too many questions and too many holes in their story to slide by without a whole lot of red flags for any critical thinker not to notice.

More and more people know about this project and are against it.

More and more communities and groups have passed resolutions against it.

More and more government agencies are realizing the science on coal is in....and it's not safe.

So, we'll rally our ever-growing troops and fight them every step of the way.

This time of year my kids and I love to watch the holiday classic, Home Alone.

I can't help but be inspired by some of the lines in the movie:

"This is my house, I have to defend it!"

I feel the same way. This is my house, my community, our local-based business, our air and water, our planet. I have to defend it!

But my all time favorite quote--that couldn't be more applicable at this time--is this gem:

"You guys give up yet? Or are you thirsty for more?"

Because let me tell you, we've got plenty more where that came from. We're fighting for our lives, our homes, and all that we cherish. And like a local hero I know said to ODEC last year at the public hearings:

"We won't stop until you do."

So here we go--it's fight time.

And as the kids say, it is on. Like Donkey Kong.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *

Because it's the season for miracles.

Wishing you all wonderful holidays from my family to yours! xoxo

Friday, December 16, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *

Because fog is beautiful; smog is not.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *

Because our waterways are beautiful . . . and already full of mercury.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Counting Down

This time of year brings about a lot of "day counting" in my home, as I'm sure it does in many other homes. In anticipation of Christmas, every day my kids check their advent calendars and count off squares on the wall calendar. Their enthusiasm is contagious and it's sweet to see how intensely they wish they could speed up time to just get there already!

I will be feeling that angst along side them this year. Acutely.

Apparently, in two weeks ODEC will decide whether or not to reapply to the Town of Dendron for the coal plant (read about the history of that HERE) or whether or not to scrap the entire project altogether.

Scrap the entire project altogether.

Done. Gone. Finito.

The day I have dreamed about for how many years now?

And we have to wait two weeks to find out?!


Only fourteen more days.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *

Because there are certain inalienable rights to country living:
Clean air, delicious well water, and your neighbor's farm fresh eggs.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *

Because this is the only one we've got.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Giving thanks and thanks and thanks . . .

My word, y'all . . . when it rains it pours!

Did you notice I missed Why I Fight Friday?

I was busy. Very busy.

With what, you ask? Well, let me just tell you.

First of all, remember my Which Side Are You On? post listing the groups for and against the coal plant HERE?

Well, I'm afraid I'm going to have to go back and edit that post. On Thursday night our neighboring county, Isle of Wight, adopted a resolution of opposition to the coal plant!

Of course, my elected officials and ODEC went to their meeting to try to influence them, but to no avail. Isle of Wight realized that this coal plant is dangerous and threat to their economy. You can read a terrific blog post (and even watch video footage of the meeting--which got a little....heated!) HERE.

Please, please, please join me in thanking Isle of Wight supervisors for their vote HERE. No matter where you are from, these folks did the right thing for all of us, and that is getting harder and harder to come by in this world, don't you think? Give them some love, wouldja?

Now, the other thing that had me running around was a wonderful Christmas delivery I had the fortune of making. Remember my appeal to donate to our county's Project Joy campaign in my Christmas on the Front Lines post HERE?

Well....let me tell you: Y'all did good! Y'all did better than good! Together we raised $525!

And the letters? Man alive....was I feeling the love!


See what I mean? Thanking me? For asking you for money??


Notes from friends of friends:


Notes from those who have become some of my dearest friends:


And so many more. Truly, I will cherish each and every one of you who were a part of this!

Not only did you make a difference in the lives of some needy children and make me feel amazingly blessed, but as I handed the check over to the Project Joy coordinator--a lovely woman, who wholeheartedly supports the coal plant--I was able to convey how much people care about this place. I was able to explain that even if we disagree about this issue, we are still a community. We are still neighbors. We are still a family. Maybe a tad dysfunctional, but

Since this coal plant proposal went off like a bomb in our community, we have seen a lot of conflict and strife. My hope is this is one small step in mending those fences and uniting.

Thank you for making that happen!

OK, if all this wasn't enough celebrating and gratitude for one week, let me just heap on some more good news!

Remember my previous "Psst . . . Your pants are on fire" post about the coal plant lawsuit HERE? Well, guess what? The judge's ruling is in.

And we won!

Not only did the judge deny ODEC and the Town of Dendron's motion to have the case dismissed, but he ruled that the original public hearing (where the coal plant was approved by the town) was null and void!

Two years later, there is some vindication. Vindication for the plaintiffs and the blueberry farmer lawyer. Vindication for all of us who said it was done incorrectly. And vindication for a couple of very special and brave women who sat on that town council and implored the others to not vote because it was wrong and potentially illegal.

I am so grateful for people who stand up for, and do, what's right. Not based on whether or not they will get caught. Not based on whether or not they will be punished. Not based on receiving accolades or reward.

But simply because doing the right thing is important.


For that I am so grateful. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Which Side Are You On?

Those against the coal plant:


  • The Town of Surry
Conservation organizations
  • The Wise Energy Coalition
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • National Parks Conservation Association
  • Hampton Roads Bird Club
  • Williamsburg Climate Action Network
  • Cape Henry Audobon Society (Norfolk)
  • VA Native Plant Society (State and Williamsburg chapter)
  • Lynnhaven River Now
  • Blackwater Nottoway Riverkeeper Program
Citizen's groups/political groups
  • Coalition to Keep Surry Clean
  • Garden Club of Virginia: A coalition of 47 clubs with 3,300 members.  
  • Isle of Wight Citizen's Association
  • Carrolton Civic League (In Isle of Wight)
  • James City County Citizen's Coalition
  • Yorktown Democrats
Health Organizations
  • CINCH (Consortium for Infant and Child Health -at EVMS in Norfolk)
  • American Lung Association
  • Virginia Asthma Coalition
  • Physicians for Social Responsibility
Those officially concerned
  • The City of Williamsburg
  • The City of Virginia Beach (on the verge of official opposition)
  • Representative Bobby Scott
  • Isle of Wight -showed concern in a resolution asking Surry to consider an independent study

Those for the coal plant:

  • The Town of Dendron
  • Surry County Board of Supervisors
  • ODEC

 Which side are you on?

The side with all the scientists, medical experts, and conservation groups?

Or the side who stands to make a whole lot of money (or thinks they will, anyway)?

I know which side I pick.

Which side are you on?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
Because we don't honor those who fight for justice by committing more injustice.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"Psst . . . Your pants are on fire"

pants on fire
A couple of weeks ago I was reading an article in our local paper about adopting a new county-wide water system.

One of the big reasons given for approving the coal plant in the Town of Dendron was that they needed enormous upgrades to their town's water system.

The utility proposing the plant, ODEC, promised a large sum of money to the town in the form of proffers to go toward the water system.

Since the lawsuit contesting the town's approval of the plant, which I told you about in a previous "Psst . . . Your pants are on fire" HERE, ODEC has witheld some of those proffers, only giving the town $50,000.

Here's the summary of the situation that appeared in the article I was reading:

    "Old Dominion Electric Cooperative gave the town $50,000 last year
 for some emergency repairs,
but the remaining $715,000 in proffers for the aging water system
 and other town infrastructure remains tied up
due to litigation over the proposed Cypress Creek power plant, said Mayor Yvonne Pierce."
  - Smithfield Times, Oct. 26, 2011

Yeesh! $715,000? That's a lot of money. All tied up by a lawsuit, huh?

Hmmm...not so fast.

In looking over the proffers I think Mayor Pierce--and the Smithfiled Times--are mistaken.

The proffers I'm looking at (dated Jan. 21, 2010) seem to say that $100,000 is to be given within 90 days of zoning approval (pending, of course, challenge), and the remaining $500,000 for water to be given upon obtaining a "building permit for construction of any buildings associated with the power plant" or upon the "Town obtaining a sufficient grant to make all necessary repairs to the Town water system"--whichever occurs first.

So $100,000 within 90 days of approval....unless there's a lawsuit.

Which there was, but ODEC still gave $50,000...or half.

Then the "remaining $500,000" when a building permit is obtained or when the town gets a grant. I'm not sure if the Town has obtained the necessary grants, but I know we are a long way away (if ever) from building permits being issued.

That's $600,000 total. Not $715,000 like the article says.

Proffers for sidewalks and recreation improvements make up the $115,000 difference. And even there the proffer agreement states that they shall be given "prior to obtaining a land disturbance permit for construction of a power plant."

Again...a looooong way off from construction. ODEC doesn't even have an application in with the State Department of Environmental Quality, let alone approval!

$50,000 vs $715,000.

That's a big difference.

Blaming this lawsuit on holding up anything but $50,000 is some funky math.

Of course, it's not nearly as dramatic or divisive to blame some citizens for holding up $50,000 as it is to blame them for $715,000.

And it's definitely not as dramatic or divisive to blame some cititizens as it is to accept responsibility that you may have broken the law with your public hearing and misled the citizens by lying to them.

But that seems to be the way ODEC operates: divide and conquer....and fudge the facts.

Wonder if they get group rates on new pants?

Monday, November 7, 2011

From the Mouths of Babes

A few years ago, my son wrote a "book" about the coal plant:

"The coal plant is stupid."

"The coal plant kills dogs."

"The coal plant kills people."

I don't know about dogs, but coal plants do kill tens of thousands of people every single year. At least according to the scientists, medical people, and the EPA.
That does sound like a pretty crazy way to get electricity.

I mean, if someone told you had to sacrifice your child on an alter to run your TV what would you say?

If someone told you had to sacrifice your child on an alter to run your neighbor's TV what would you say?

That's pretty much what's being asked of the people in my community.

I might be partial, but I think my boy is right, the coal plant is definitely "stoopit."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
Because trick-or-treating at the neighborhood coal plant doesn't sound like my idea of small town America.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011


"Only by showing extraordinary courage would these mothers prevail."
                 ― "African Cats"

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Christmas on the Front Lines

Did you know that coal plants are usually sited in certain kinds of communities? Want to take any guesses as to what those communities generally look like?

This, maybe?


LOL....yeah, right.

Could you see a big industrial site and smokestacks coming up next to the tennis courts at the clubhouse?

Here's a more likely looking neighborhood:


And according to the NAACP, race--over class--is the number one indicator for the placement of toxic facilities in this country. In their recent report, "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Over People," they said coal plants do significant and disproportionate amount of harm to low-income communities and communities of color.

That's pretty much my community: "low-income" and "of color."

Thus, making it a perfect target for a project like this.

One of my strongest motivators in fighting this plant is that injustice. I fight for my children, but the reality is that my children will not be here should this plant be built. We will leave. It will mean sacrifice and closing down a thriving business, but we do have the resources and we would be able to make it work.

There are so many who do not share the same privilege.

There are hundreds of children here who are just as beautiful, just as special, and just as deserving of every wonderful opportunity life has to offer as mine. Many of them come from families who do not have the resources to leave if the plant is built. Those children are a huge motivator for me--and many others--to fight this coal plant.

Proponents of the plant often criticize the opposition and this motivation. They say it's easy for us to oppose it since we are privileged. We aren't the ones who desperately need jobs. Some of us don't live in this community. And there is an implication that we only profess to care about these children, but really it's about our own vested interests.

Sadly, there's some truth to those criticisms.

There is a lot of privilege to fighting this coal plant. There are a lot of vested interests (from those who live next door to those who share this planet). And there certainly is a lot of privilege to sitting in my warm, snug den blogging about this fight on my laptop.

But, I will tell you what, I care about every child in this community. I would go to bat for any one of them. I would put myself in harm's way to spare any one of them.

I'm guessing you would too.

And now we have a fantastic opportunity to put our money where our mouth is.

This is an opportunity to help a few children in a front-line community by directly helping them--apart from a coal plant fight.

This is an opportunity to give some really wonderful children the kind of Christmas you may have had, your children may have, and the kind they matter what their parents' resources.

Please, please, please join me in making a contribution to Surry County's Department of Social Services Project Joy!

This is a lovely program that provides "food, clothing, and gifts to children from the age of birth to 14 years of age, who are living at or below the State's poverty level."

Our local anti-coal plant group, the Coalition to Keep Surry Clean, will be fundraising to make a joint contribution, and are calling on generous folks like you to give generously.

Let's all be more than just just selfish, privileged critics, let's directly help some really great kids to have a magical Holiday Season!

Contact me at to find out how you can help!

I'll keep bugging you until you you might as well just do it now. :  )

EDIT: Visit the FB event page for details and info HERE

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
Ocracoke 2011-007

Because drowning Chesapeake Bay blue crabs in more nitrogen means less drowning them in butter and Old Bay.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.
But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."
   ― Aboriginal activist group, Queensland, 1970s

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
Late summer 2011-12

Because these kids shouldn't have to breathe 12,000 pounds of soot on game day, to provide electricity to houses in other communities.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Psst . . . Your pants are on fire"

pants on fire
Today is a court hearing regarding the coal plant.

Back in 2010 a few local citizens--aided by a local lawyer/blueberry farmer--brought suit against ODEC and the Town of Dendron.

The suit alleges that the public hearings that were held to approve the project were not advertised in accordance with Virginia law.

The suit has dragged on and on, with ODEC and Dendron filing motion after to motion to dismiss, add defendants, and more.

The last court hearing was way back in the spring. At that hearing, ODEC and Dendron alleged that the case was frivolous and that the local citizens were placing a financial hardship on them. They asked that the court order these locals (and the blueberry farmer lawyer) to reimburse them to cover their legal fees.

It's worth noting that the local citizens who have brought this suit are seeking one thing:

A new--properly advertised--public hearing.

That's it.

So, claiming financial hardship? Geez-o-pete. Just hold a new public hearing and be done with it already.

Anyway, at that last hearing the judge saw through this nonsense and denied ODEC and Dendron's request for reimbursement, ruled that the case was not frivolous, and declared that it was time to go to trial.

ODEC's official response?

"We are delighted that,
after a year of delay caused by the plaintiffs failing to file a proper suit,
refusing to add necessary parties,
and ignoring prior orders of the Court,
this matter will finally proceed to a conclusion on the merits."

And, yet, here they are...not going to trial "on the merits."

Here they are attempting another motion to dismiss the case. Another attempt to delay. Another roadblock to proceeding "to a conclusion on the merits."

Kinda makes you wonder why they don't want to go to trial. Or hold another public hearing.

In any event, doesn't seem like they were actually so "delighted," does it?

Well, here's to having this motion to dismiss denied, and being able to really move forward with a trial date.

I know I would be delighted by that.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I {heart} Surry!

You ever just have one of those perfect weekends? Where you realize how amazingly blessed you are to live where you live?  This past weekend was one of those for us.

Truly, sometimes I really feel like we live in Mayberry.

It started off by crossing the river to meet a woman in "town" for a playdate. She and her family have just moved here from California and are looking for a place to buy. She mentioned that she had seen a house online in Surry and wondered if I knew it. I didn't, but I did see that my friend, Anna, was the realtor and I was able to call and set them up to view the property.

I also let these folks know that they would be right next to a wonderful pick-your-own farm and that they might want to make an afternoon of taking the ferry over, seeing the house, and then stopping by the farm for the corn maze, homemade pumpkin ice cream, and some pumpkin picking.

It makes me so proud to share the people and resources of our community!

Saturday, we spent hours watching our children's baseball teams play their hearts out, visited another local farm to get all-natural meats, and attended the loveliest campaign BBQ one could imagine.

Norman Rockwell baseball

One of the gentleman running for local office here is a blueberry farmer (he's also a lawyer who is suing ODEC. Ha! How's that for small town?).

Anyway, Saturday night he hosted us at his farm with a delicious dinner, fellowship, live bluegrass music, and some terrific campaign speeches. I also met a neighbor of his who invited us to insisted that we stop by his farm and help ourselves to as many organic raspberries as we could carry.

Seriously, Mayberry can't hold a candle to this place!

One of the blessings that has come of out this coal plant fight is the realization of many residents that our lack of participation in the local political process has allowed us to be in the position where our elected officials disregard us and we are not holding them accountable for their choices. So some folks have stepped up and are ready to jump right out of that frying pan and into the fire. God Bless, 'em!

Norman Rockwell Town Hall 

And with campaign slogans like:

"Why the heck not?"


"I {heart} Surry"

I gotta say, I couldn't agree more.

I love this place.

I want to see these farmers succeed. I want to see the kind of small town community, politics, and commerce that once made this country great thrive again.  I want to see Mom & Pop stores on revitalized Main Streets.

Normal Rockwell Town

And I really, really want to stay here until my kids are grown--coaching their kids on the same fields, buying delicious local produce from folks they've known their whole lives, and thanking their lucky stars that all those years ago a stinking coal plant got shot down in favor of something so. much. better.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
Boot wall

Because mucking around in wetlands should involve rubber boots and mud--not hazmat suits and toxic coal ash.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


"The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself."
                 ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Last Mountain Speech

Last week Appalachian Voices hosted a screening of The Last Mountain at the Naro Theater in Norfolk, Virginia. The movie is an incredible documentary about mountain top removal coal mining and coal generation. I was honored to say a few words after the film--tying our coal plant struggle to the larger issues of coal extraction, generation, and waste.

Below is a copy of my speech and the trailer for the The Last Mountain. I highly recommend the movie! You can find out if it is coming to a theater near you by visiting their website at

Good Evening!

Powerful movie, right?

I don't know about you all, but I want no part of what we just saw. I don't want to stand by while it continues, I don't want to perpetuate it, and I definitely don't want to cause it.

What some of us might not know is that our community is directly linked to the one in the film.

If you have heard of the coal plant proposed for Hampton Roads in Surry County, then you know we are directly linked to those communities.

If we allow the Surry Coal Plant to be built--if we stand by and do nothing--we are participating in destroying Appalachian mountains, Appalachian communities, and Appalachian people.

This would be the largest coal plant in the state of Virginia, and one of the biggest in the nation.

By allowing this coal plant to be built, we are also participating in destroying Hampton Roads communities and Hampton Roads people; with more Code Red Air days, more asthma attacks, more babies and children developing asthma, and more mercury in our water.

Norfolk, of course, is downwind of Surry County. You could be downwind from 12,000 pounds of soot a day. Twelve thousand pounds of the kind of soot that doctors from the American Heart Association say causes heart attacks and strokes, and to which they say,

"there are no safe levels of exposure."

You all could be downwind of 1,000 pounds of lead every year--for 50 to 60 years.

Forty five pounds of mercury every year--for 50 to 60 years.

Norfolk's drinking water comes from the Blackwater River.

What you may not know is that the coal ash landfills are proposed for the floodplains directly next to the Blackwater River.

This means that your community's drinking water is as at risk as the Appalachian community we just saw in the film.

You must understand that the coal ash is more potent than ever.

When they talk about "clean coal" and "state of the art" and "scrubbers on smokestakes" they are talking about pulling all those toxins and carcinogens out of the air and condensing them in the coal ash.

The exact same contaminants that Appalachia is contending with will be the exact same contaminants that we will be contending with.

So while we watched that movie and felt horror and pity and shock for those people and the conditions that they are living with, know that if we allow this coal plant to be built there is a very high liklihood that we will be the stars of the next movie. And there will be a nation of people sitting in theaters like this one watching us.

Those audiences will be feeling horror and pity and shock for our contaminated water and our contaminated air.

We are linked to the folks in Appalachia, for sure.

And we should care about them as fellow human beings.

And we should help them because it is the right thing to do.

But the bigger issue, to my mind, is how to not become them!

Please find out how you can join Appalachian Voices to fight mountain top removal coal mining and halt any further plans for the construction of the coal plant here in Surry in Hampton Roads!

Thank you!

[If you are so inclined to join Appalachian Voices--an amazing organization--you can do so HERE.]

Friday, October 7, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
Eli Hair cut + misc. kid-4

Because every child should be able to go barefoot in the country--without worrying about toxins in the soil.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gone Fishing . . .

Errr...more like "Gone Mothering," but you get the idea, right?

After a busy week and weekend full of speaking and traveling, it is time to spend this rainy autumn day snuggling with my babies in front of the fire, making some chicken soup, having a "messy party," playing cards, and whatever else they want to do.

See you on the flip side!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
Photo by Kim Sperry

Because this is Surry County, not heavy industry.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"Psst . . . Your pants are on fire"

I thought we could do a fun new feature detailing some of the outrageous, outlandish, and just plain out-there statements we've heard in this coal plant fight.

Introducing:  "Psst . . . your pants are on fire!"

Let's start with one of the earliest and most egregious, shall we?

A quote that appeared in one of our local newspapers--in an article that would later be photocopied and passed out to citizens and town council members by ODEC.

"The only thing

 that comes out of the top of the coal plant

is water vapor." 

- Jeb Hockman, ODEC
Smithfield Times May 13, 2009

Heh heh . . . water vapor.

Kind of makes you wonder about the pages and pages of "hazardous" and "toxic" emissions ODEC estimated would "come out of the top of the coal plant" in their application to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), doesn't it?

And why the Smithfield Times would say that experts at the VA DEQ and Department of Health agreed with Mr. Hockman's statement. (I spoke directly to the folks at the DEQ and Dept. of Health and they categorically denied agreeing with such nonsense.)


Because this is the "Psst . . . Your pants are on fire" kick-off, let's make it sort of a two-fer (and, because, as my father always said, "One lie always begets another."). Here are some of the out-there follow up statements to that doozy:

Later, Hockman told the Smithfield Times that he “misspoke.”

The Smithfield Times said they took his statement “out of context.”

While an attorney for ODEC explained the gaff to the Surry Board of Supervisors as the reporter “misquoting Mr. Hockman.”

Misspoke, out of context, misquoted.

Wow! That's a lot of pants on fire right there.

But don't worry, there's still plenty more where that came from. Until next time! xoxo

Monday, September 26, 2011

Greenpeace Summit promised, I have spent a good week revelling in the the trip to Chicago for Greenpeace's Quit Coal Summit, and am ready (as ready as I'll ever be) to share the delicious details here.

First of all, my camera bit the dust over the weekend, so I am short on photos of the fun. Sorry.

The back story on this trip is that Greenpeace was given some funding to develop a new campaign fighting coal in impacted communities. The stipulation was that the work be directly with community members and community groups--not a "top down" effort, but a real grassroots effort. Yay!

In that spirit, Greenpeace set out to let the communities in question guide the direction of their campaign. Double yay!

After reading the speech I gave at the March on Blair Mountain, I got an email from a delightful Greenpeace staffer who wondered if I might be willing to provide some feedback for their effort. We spent a couple hours on the phone discussing the fight, my community, myself, and so on, and they asked if I would attend the Summit in Chicago to further develop their campaign. They had me at "all expenses paid."

One of the (many) cool things about the event was that it was held at a religious retreat and center. Hence, it was beautifully quiet and sparse. Loved that!

There were so many interesting and wonderful people in attendance: a filmmaker from New Jersey who had fought toxic pollution in his community, women from West Virginia and Kentucky fighting mountain top removal coal mining, several Navajo people from out West fighting coal plants and working for renewables on their reservation, a veteran activist from California fighting incinerators, some wonderful young people from Texas fighting coal, a real live Sea Shepherd, and several others who are involved in this fight in their own right--not to mention the many Greenpeace staff members who attended. A diverse and wonderful group of people, for sure!

Our intrepid leaders, Hannah and Ivy, took us through many hours of interviews, discussions, and brainstorming, which morphed into some very specific plans-of-action that Greenpeace might take on.

There were so many insightful and creative ideas, it was truly mind blowing--from peer-to-peer workshops to video campaigns to coordinated days of action--the ideas were as dynamic as the people in attendance. I can't wait to hear which projects Greenpeace takes on. I will let you know when I do.

In the meantime, you can check out their new Quit Coal website

And watch a video of the history of the organization:

Thanks, Greenpeace! For a great weekend, forty years of kicking butt and taking names, and infusing a whole lotta hope for those of us on the front lines fighting coal!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *

Because when I was little I read The Lorax.  And believed it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


 "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
                                                   ― Margaret Mead

Monday, September 19, 2011

Let's Make a Deal

First of all, I am back from the Greenpeace Quit Coal Summit in Chicago and it was AWESOME! I will need a few days to process all of that awesome, but when I do I will definitely share it here.

In the meantime, I thought I might do a post on where we are geographically. After trying to describe to folks over the weekend where in Virginia the plant is proposed, and where in the community the plant is proposed, I thought it might be a good idea to give a little perspective on both. (I think some folks thought we were in Appalachia. We're not.)

Usually what I tell folks is,

"We are just across the James River from Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg,"


"We are half-way between Richmond, VA and Virginia Beach,"

but, what usually gives them context is,

"We are the county where the Michael Vick dogfighting ring was operating." Everyone's heard of that.

Yup....that's us.

Here's what it looks like on a map of Virginia--we're the county in red:


Here's a close-up of the Hampton Roads area. The yellow circle is the proposed plant. The red lines are the waterways with existing mercury advisories (i.e. don't eat more than 1 fish a month from these waters, etc. As you can see, we've already got a lot of mercury in our water.):


This my friend Helen:

Helen fence

This is her ancestral home (on the main street in the town--pop. 300):

Helen house

This is what her home will look like should the plant be built, literally, in her backyard (hers is the house on the left. Her in-laws live in the house on the right):


The land where that plant might be built is currently farmland. Now it is zoned for "business." How's that for an understatement? Is a coffee shop the same as a factory? Is "business" the same as "heavy industry?"

Would you want that in YOUR backyard? To send electricity to other communities, counties, states?

If you were Helen, what would you do?

And how many other "Helens" are there out there? People who are directly and negatively impacted by electricity generation.

When you flip on your switch are you doing this to someone?

Do you know? Do you care?

What if you wake up one day and find out that you are the next Helen?

Will people care?

We'll care--me, Helen, and a whole bunch of others.

Call us. We'll have your back.

In the meantime we just ask that you have ours now.


Friday, September 16, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
Late summer 2011-10

Because even recreationally, clean water matters.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Day in the Life

As a bit of a homebody and introvert, looking at my calendar these days is giving me heart palpitations.

Never in a million years, when I started this fight, did I think I would be doing the kind of work that I am now. Anyone who knows me knows that I hate public speaking.

Hate. It.

Makes me nervous, anxious, name it.

But, for whatever reason, God gave me a loud voice, an opinionated mind, and this coal plant fight. So, I try to remember that it's not about me--it's about the fight. It's about using the gifts that God gave me to fulfill His will (and, yes, I firmly believe it is His will to protect each other and His creation).

Meeting some of the most incredible people you could imagine is another reason why I do public speaking. It never ceases to amaze me how kind folks can be, and I've gotten to share a podium with some truly amazing and inspiring activists. It's all pretty humbling, really.

So here's what's coming up that will pull me from my usual comfy spot on the sofa--clad in pjs, laptop next to me, kids building some fantastic new Lego creation on the floor:

Sep. 17 - Chicago, IL - Greenpeace Quit Coal Summit

This is sort of a "focus group" for coal activists to help guide Greenpeace's new Quit Coal campaign. I'm super excited for this! Not only because I've always loved Greenpeace (their baby seal campaign was my childhood clarion call), but because I will get to meet other folks who are in the same boat we are. I can't wait to hear their ideas and inspiration!


Sep. 28 - Norfolk, VA - The Last Mountain at The Naro Theater

I've been dying to see this movie (about mountain top removal coal mining). My dear friend has been touring with this movie (and Bobby Kennedy!) for the past few months. I'll be speaking about how our local fight ties into the larger issue of coal extraction. Bobby Kennedy will not be there. Sad panda.


Oct. 1 - Blacksburg, VA - Virginia Power Shift

This is a student-run event (and movement) working on clean energy solutions. I will be participating on a panel specifically about our coal plant. ODEC (the utility proposing the plant) has been invited, too. It will be interesting to see if they attend.


November (TBD) - Fairfax, VA - George Mason University

I'm super excited for this, not only because I may be speaking with the phenomenal Larry Gibson, but because GMU is my alma mater (and where I had to take public speaking for my degree requirements! Who knew that class would come in so handy?).


Whew...I'm tired and nervous just looking at all that! Did I mention I'm a homebody?

I have a couple of other exciting guest blog invitations in the works (some involving actual $$!), and I will keep you posted on those.

Until then, you can find me right here: Couch, laptop, coffee, and kidlets. Just to keep it fresh I'll round it out with some dishes, laundry, baseball, grocery shopping, and home renovations.

Just another day in the life!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *
                                                                                                                                  Photo by Alice Bryant

Because the Chesapeake Bay is a National Treasure.

And paying to restore it while simultaneously dumping in it makes no sense.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What's Your Alternative? Part One

{Excerpt from a speech I gave at the March on Blair Mountain}


Lately I think about that big Firestone Tire recall that happened about 10 years ago: the tires were shredding off SUVs and people were getting injured and dying. Turned out the Firestone workers were on strike and non-union workers were the ones on the lines creating these malfunctioning tires.

Could you imagine if Firestone Tires turned to the American people and said, “Look. We need to keep tires affordable. What’s your alternative?”

Instead, we all understood that injury and death were not an acceptable outcome.

Not an acceptable side effect.

We understood that this company was going to be the one to eat the costs—no matter what they were.

And furthermore, we all understood that the company was going to have to figure out how to create a product that did not result in injury and death.

The coal companies and the electric companies need to be held to these same standards!

We need to stand together and demand that these companies go back to the drawing board to figure out an alternative.

And if they are unable to create jobs and create a product in a safe and affordable way, then maybe they are in over their heads.

Maybe they need to stop giving millions of dollars to politicians and start spending that money on hiring some people with the ability to think outside their one-trick-pony box

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sympathy for the Devil

This week there have been a spate of coal plant closing announcements in Virginia.

The Potomac River Generating Station in Alexandria and two here in Hampton Roads.

You'd think I'd be celebrating.

And I am.

Sort of.

That is a lot of toxic pollution that will no longer be an issue for millions of families. That is a lot of toxic coal ash that will never be generated. It's also a lot of mountains that may be spared destruction.

For that I am very grateful.

But I'm also concerned that these coal facilities may be converted into natural gas facilities.

This is an emerging trend: Replacing controversial and heavy polluting coal plants with less controversial and less polluting natural gas plants.

In fact, we're hearing a lot more talk and speculation about "our" coal plant being scrapped for a natural gas plant.

And while that would surely be the lesser of two evils, it's still definitely an evil.

It's still heavy industry--something our rural agricultural community has strongly opposed.

But more importantly, for me, is the issue of natural gas extraction. The method of fracking for natural gas is devastating communities. People's wells are being contaminated by the process, and people are getting very sick.

Just as I want no part of blowing up mountains for coal, I want no part of poisoning other communities for natural gas.

Josh Fox's documentary Gasland shows some of the devastation:

This resolve to not destroy others so that some may benefit was cemented for me very recently.

In the wake of Hurricane Irene we have had a large number of brave and hardworking electrical workers in the area attempting to restore power to our homes.

While washing dishes the other evening I heard a loud explosion, and I ran out to see if my neighbors were OK.

Thankfully they were.

It seemed the noise came from the electrical workers around the corner.

When I mentioned to my neighbor that I hoped none of the workers had been injured, he said something that was surely meant to be a joke, but struck me nonetheless,

"I don't really care, so long as my power comes back on."

I'm sure his statement was akin to, "I'd cut off my arm for a hot shower right about now." Nothing to take literally. I hope.

But it symbolizes one of the main problems with our current electricity set-up: We often don't care. Mostly because we don't have to.

We don't know who is getting injured.

Probably the majority of Americans don't know that someone is getting injured.

Someone is.

Some of us more directly than others. Some of us sooner than others. Some of us more disproportionately than others.

And all kidding aside, I do care.

I care about the electrical worker. I care about the people who live near the plant. I care about the people who live near the extraction sites.

I am not comfortable living a life that is based on injuring others for my gain.

I am not comfortable accepting the lesser of two evils when it means the greater portion is simply redistributed.

It's one thing to make a pact with the devil for one's own soul.

It's a whole 'nother thing to make a pact with the devil for another person's.

I don't wish to do either.

In the immortal words of Sid the Sloth,

"No thanks. I choose life."

Not just for me and mine.

For you and yours, too.

Whoever you are.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

* * * * * * *
Pow wow & Luray-42

Because blowing up mountains for coal is unconscionable.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

100 Year Storms Need Not Apply

Here in Virginia we've just experienced Hurricane Irene.

Below you can see some of the damage.

Wind blown debris:


Tree limbs down:


Gas station awning twisted from the wind:


And flooding:


This was not a hundred year storm, just a regular ol' Category One hurricane.

Why does that matter?

Because, according to Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC), the coal ash landfills (some of which are located in floodplains) are rated for one hundred year storms.

Pshew! Good to know.

I was worried that material, which is the consistency of baby powder, piled seven stories tall over hundreds of acres, would take off in hurricane force winds.

Or less.

I mean, these people say it regularly blows out of ponds over their community:

But rest easy, naysayers!

And know that we've got the expert's final word on the matter:

"There will be zero fly ash emissions."

- David Smith, Director of Environmental, Health and Safety Services, ODEC

Testifying before the Surry Co. Planning & Zoning Commission

Nov. 23, 2010

Given the damage we've just seen, that sounds perfectly reasonable, right?

Given that ODEC told the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) there would be "fugitive emissions" and "wind erosion" of fly ash, that sounds in keeping, right?

Given that Mr. Smith could not explain to the Commission how ODEC would seal a 7 story tall mound of ash in a synthetic liner, that sounds like an educated assertion, right?

Nothing to worry about, right?

Yeah. Right.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Why I Fight

Why-I-Fight Fridays -- A glimpse into what's keeping me fighting this fight.

What keeps you fighting? Leave a comment or a link to your blog.

Solidarity, baby!

 * * * * * * *

Because every child should be able to swing on a tire swing

in the fresh air and sunshine

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

(Not So) Disguised Blessings

While the coal plant proposal has brought its fair share of strife, trauma, and general badness there have been some positives.

Not the least of which have been meeting and developing friendships with some of the most amazing people.

The other night we were lucky enough to have a few of them over for dinner.

A few who have become much more like family than just acquaintances or friends.

A few who have:

Spent hours playing with our children,

shared countless meals with our family,

educated us on activism and a host of other issues,

and been some of the most supportive and helpful allies my community and I have seen.

I mean, really, had it not been for the coal plant would I have ever met someone like Becks Kolins? An amazing young person who just spent two weeks 80 ft. up in tree on a mountain top removal coal mining site?

Nope. Probably not.

So as I sat in my dining room--with one little boy asleep on my lap and the other one asking Becks about the first-hand experiences of living in a tree to fight for a cause you believe in--I had to think, "This coal plant's been a real blessing."

Monday, August 22, 2011

For Sale or Best Offer

Does this look like a "For Sale Sign" to you?

It might if you were 5 years old

I might if you were 5 years old and your home was 1800 feet from a proposed coal plant site.

And your parents made the heart-wrenching decision to sell the only home you've ever known. All so you would never have to live 1800 feet from the largest coal-fired power plant your state.

Would you cry and beg your mama to not to put that sign in the yard at your new home?

Because you don't want to move again.

And leave behind your friends.

And your swing set.

And the house that has your height marked off in pencil on your closet door.

When you are five and live on the front lines of coal, a simple yard sign can mean absolutely everything.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Breaking Ground

Welcome to the official groundbreaking of my new blog!

:: insert fancy ribbon cutting ceremony here, complete with awesome giant scissors ::

My hope is to create a space to explore and share my life as an (accidental) environmental activist and a mom of two amazing people.

Three years ago a proposal for a coal-fired power hit in my small community.

Not just any coal-fired power plant--it would be the largest coal-fired power plant in the entire State of Virginia.

Needless to say, the past few years have been an experience:

Lots of tears,

lots of unity,

lots of learning,

lots of uncertainty,

and one big


Through it all my children have been my biggest cheerleaders and driving forces.

I will not raise my children in the shadows of coal stacks.

And I have come to believe that no one's children should be raised there either.

I hope you will join me on the journey to make that happen!

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