Thursday, September 6, 2012

Kids Today: An Open Letter to W&M SEAC

This is something I just posted on Facebook about the students at the College of William & Mary who worked on this coal plant fight.  But it needs to be given more permanence and circulation. So I'm putting it here, too.

I don't presume to speak for our community generally, but I'm going to on this.

We are ALL so impressed and grateful for the help of the William and Marys.

Truly, y'all went above and beyond...

You restored our faith in "young people."
You volunteered to help in ways that were the least glamorous.
You stood in the heat and cold for us to save us the best seats--and then you took the bad seats or stood or waited outside.
You watched our kids.
You let us take over your email listserv as our own.
You carried our messaging--even when it might not have been your first choice.
You went door to door.
You raised money so we could make signs.
You circulated petitions.
You got your college and your community aware and organized. Shoot, you even got a guy on your city council.
You videotaped hearings (which were instrumental in showing the world how we were being treated by the utility).
You spent hours traveling back and forth on the ferry doing this work FOR YEARS. While your peers used the time to study, party, sleep, etc. While many of you wanted to do "real activism" like direct action.
I feel like we didn't say "thank you" enough at the time. Partially because we were so preoccupied with the crisis at hand, but mostly because you did all this work in the quietest, least assuming way imaginable.
My heart bursts to really remember the way you all sacrificed to be our allies...when you could have easily gone about your studies, lives, and activism in much more interesting and glamorous ways.
We came to count on you...for your service, advice, ideas, and inspiration. You will always be in our hearts in Surry. We love seeing you grow up. You are asked about regularly and thru the wonders of fb I can let everyone know how you are. Just how families do.
We love you and will never forget.

Friday, August 17, 2012

"I want my two dollars!"

In reading all these news articles about ODEC potentially scrapping this plant for.ev.errrrr. (trademark Squints Palledorous) something has been rolling in around in my brain as not quite right.

So I finally went through my stuff and checked it out.

Here's what's been bugging me:

In a recent Daily Press article, found HERE, my boyfriend, David Hudgins (who apparently isn't that into me) addressed the issue of proffers:

"Old Dominion's proffers to Dendron, including water system repairs, a new playground and new sidewalks, depend on whether the facility is built, Hudgins said. With the exception of a $50,000 advance that Old Dominion paid the town two years ago, the rest of the proffers are in limbo, he added."

See, that doesn't jive with the proffers that I saw and blogged about HERE:

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.
ODEC gave Dendron an "advance" of $50,000, but they should have given them another $50,000 after this latest zoning approval, which occurred in early March--over 5 months ago.
That shouldn't be "in limbo." No lawsuit this time. Ninety days, over and out.
That should be paid, check cashed, and probably already spent by now.
So, what happened?
Did ODEC "misspeak" in the paper (again ::cough::)?
Did ODEC have a "miscommunication" (again ::cough::)?
Does ODEC think this is a "novel interpretation" of the proffers (again ::cough::)?
Did ODEC, knowing they would get unanimous votes this last round, modify their proffers before reapplying?
Given the enthusiasm Dendron's Mayor exhibited at the last check for $50,000 ("Look at all those ZEROS!!"), one would think she'd be knocking down ODEC's door:
"I want my $50,000!"
So, wassup, ODEC? You gonna pay these people who broke the law for you? Who did exactly what you asked them to do? Who held up their end of the bargain and rezoned 3/4 of their town to heavy industry? Who trusted you time and time again despite all the evidence to the contrary?
Or do they not rate, either?

Monday, August 13, 2012

We're not all laughing...

You know what's a bitch?

"Reply to All."

Yeah, buddy. Who among us hasn't hit that bad boy when we shouldn't have?

There's that email from your pal. A whole bunch of folks cc'd. And pure snark just waiting for you to share with your friend--the original sender. You type up your snazzy ol' comment and go to send it to your buddy and always right at the moment you hit "Send" you realize, "Oh no. 'Reply to ALL'"


Hey, these are the things that make us human, right?

* * * * * * *


Last week my friends over at ODEC sent out an email.

Subject: We're proud to be part of this community!

Content: Eh...who knows...a bunch of crap per usual. BUT, there was one little piece that spurred a few emails from my friends (who, by the way, did NOT hit "Reply to All") pointing out a little piece of irony:

"In coming months, you may notice construction activity around the Cypress Creek site off Route 10 in the Town of Dendron, as our contractors relocate existing utilities and construct an access road."
Heh heh...for folks who are such a "part of this community" I guess they forgot their own address. Their property, and all the property in the Town of Dendron, is off Route 31....not Route 10.


So, you know, a couple days ago I dropped them a note to remind them where they own millions of dollars worth of acreage:


That's Rt. 31 that runs through Dendron. Kind of an unfortunate slip for an email talking about how you're a part of this community.

Anywho, glad to hear you all have dropped this project....for now. Would really like it if you dropped it forever.


Here's the response I got:
From: Howell, Mary
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2012 9:33 AM
To: Betsy

Cc: Sherrod, Bill; Hudgins, David

Subject: Location of Dendron

Hello Mrs. Shepard –

I just wanted to introduce myself – I recently joined the staff of the electric cooperatives’ association and will be assisting with communications about ODEC power supply projects. 

Thank you for correcting my mental lapse about the location of Dendron, since the town is actually located on Route 31, a better description than “off Route 10.”  Your geographic clarification especially hits home since I grew up in Surry Courthouse, although my family moved back to Williamsburg when I was a senior in high school.

Best Wishes,
Mary Howell
Manager of Member and Public Relations
Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives
4201 Dominion Boulevard
Glen Allen, VA 23060

# # #

Bless her heart. She's even from here. But points for being polite and professional.

And THEN.....

A moment later another email.......

From someone on the cc list.............

David Hudgins..............

"Evil Santa" if you have to know................

"Colonel Sanders" if you're nasty...........

A man we know all too well..............

ODEC's Director of Internal and External Affairs.............

Here's his email:

From: Hudgins, David
To: Howell, Mary ; Betsy
Cc: Sherrod, Bill
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2012 9:40 AM
Subject: RE: Location of Dendron

Too nice by far, she doesn’t even rate a thank you…

# # #

Oh, snap!

I don't even rate a thank you.

Day-um, Dave....I thought we was tight.

Guess not.

My reply:

From: Betsy
To: Hudgins, David ; Howell, Mary
Cc: Sherrod, Bill
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2012 9:42 AM
Subject: Re: Location of Dendron

Oh, that darn cc.....



Which just made me laugh and laugh and laugh.....

And do PR people fuck up PR this bad?

And will I hear back?

I mean, I know they hate me and all. But, technically I am the public.

Fifteen minutes later I got this reply (note, Davey got left off the cc this time....):

From: Howell, Mary
To: Betsy
Sent: Monday, August 13, 2012 9:57 AM
Subject: RE: Location of Dendron

We’re all laughing now! 

On another note, growing up in the Town Surry from 1971-1985, I recall the regularly scheduled siren drills for the nuclear power plant. Do they still have those drills and do you hear them out where you live in the county? 

Best Wishes,
Mary Howell

Bwahahahaaaa.....Really? "Look! Something shiny!" LOL.....Holy shit, where do they find these people?

Oh,'re not laughing, don't even fib.

Given the recent headlines, Old Dominion suspends permitting for coal plant, and the fact that y'all spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million to generate less electricity than you could have with a 20 cent potato and some alligator clips, I'd say no one over at ODEC is laughing at all these days.

Oh, bother.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I Believe! I mean, sort of...Well, not really...

When I first heard about the coal plant, I was fairly indifferent. I didn't know much about coal or electricity generation.

What I did know was that coal had cleaned up their act significantly.

How did I know that?

Easy. I watched ad after ad telling me so during the presidential debates and election news.

The ads were the work of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) - some sort of lobby/marketing group for the coal industry.

They were pretty convincing. All mom and apple pie and American ingenuity and welcoming and meeting any challenge.

Here's Steve Miller, their president, talking about the launch of their 2008 campaign--the "I Believe" ads:

CO2 emissions? No problem! he says. "We'll meet that challenge!" Boo-ya!

Here's the actual "I Believe" ad:

Golly! Doesn't that feel good? "We can. We will!"

I kind of believe, too, after watching that.

Even our local coal plant guys told us how the plant proposed here (the Cypress Creek Power Station) would be all clean coal feel-good goodness:

"Cypress Creek will also include space to house carbon capture equipment when this technology becomes readily available."

- David Smith, ODEC, Sussex Surry Dispatch, Jan. 2010

Again...No problem!

So, last week when the EPA announced that they would begin the process of limiting carbon emissions (or CO2 or greenhouse gas), who would have expected these same "We can. We will!" folks to lose their minds?

But lose them, they did!

The ACCCE released a press statement saying this:

"This latest rule will make it impossible to build any new coal-fueled power plants, and could cause the premature closure of many more coal-fueled power plants operating today."


What happened to "meet any challenge?" "American technology?"

What happened to "I Believe?"

Even our local coal guys lost their minds over the ruling.

From an article in a local paper New Regulations Could Doom Proposed Surry Coal Plant:

Billions of tons of CO2 have been stored underground using Carbon Capture and Sequestration, but Hudgins [ODEC rep] said the technology is far from refined and not practical for Dendron. Not only does the equipment cost hundreds of millions of dollars, but local geology isn't suitable for storage.

"We'd have to transport it all the way to the Appalachians," he said. "Or to a place that's 30 miles offshore. The sheer volume of material... how would we ever get it there?"

He's also concerned about liability: "What if something terrible happens some day - say an earthquake - and the stuff releases and kills thousands of people? Who's responsible? The utility that put it down there."

From "No problem," to, "There's no way in God's green earth," in one short proposed ruling?

Good gravy.

My kids were less freaked out than this when they figured out there was no Tooth Fairy.

Which begs the question, did the coal industry really believe? Or did they just say all that in attempt to throw the public off their scent?

Either way, they might provide reliable electricity, but their reliability seems to end there.

Poor dears....I hope the Easter Bunny brings them something extra special this weekend.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

And the WINNER of the Caption Contest is . . .

ODEC attn'y

"Oh my God! I think I touched a local!"
Thanks to everyone who entered and voted! No prize will be given out, because the winner lives in my house. LOL. Congratulations, honey!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Judge the Caption!

OK, y'all seriously brought it for the Caption Contest HERE!

I don't remember the last time I laughed so hard....and it was darn good (and much needed) medicine.

Here are all the entries for your enjoyment....and tough decision.

Let me know which comment (numbered for your ease) is your favorite, and I will announce the winner this Wednesday.


ODEC attn'y

1.  GAH! I'm allergic to democracy!!

2.  Wahhhhh!!! Someone called me a mean name! 

3.  Steve Blaine pauses during the meeting to have a mild and brief Fly Ash Stroke.

4.  Ewwww! Get it off, get it off, get it off!

 5.  I only want to spoil Dendron, not wear it.

6.  Has this ever happened to you? Avoid those embarrassing public hearing accidents with Depends for lawyers.

 7.  Crap, that better not be coal ash again.

 8.  I got called a mean name!! I wish someone would apologize to me!! waaaaaahhhhh.

 9.  The guy behind me must have had beans for dinner!

10. Good, let the hate flow through you.

 11. Oh, Mr. Smithers!

 12. BEGONE, Satan-uh! Begone!

 13. So much smaller than I remember.

14. Give yourself to the dark side. It is the only way you can save your friends.

15. You cursive brat, look what you've done! I'm melting, melting.

16. I'm covered in hog wash, hog wash!

17. To ease my public speaking fears I just picture the town council in their underwear....

18. My pants really ARE on fire.

19. Oh my god! I think I touched a local!

20. Oh God! Not the ants again!

21. Oh God, I really hope this strange feeling is just acid reflux... I can't afford to develop a conscience at this point...

22. Dam! They're telling all our secrets!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

See! Are you dying?

OK, pick your fave, let me know in the comments or email me: You have until tomorrow night....winner will be announced Wednesday!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Caption Contest

OK, people...let's blow off a little steam, shall we?

After two weeks of back-to-back hearings and seeing how broken our democratic process is, I believe we need a little good-natured fun.

So let's have contest!

Below is an incredibly unfortunate shot of one of ODEC's attorneys from last night's public hearing--Steve Blaine. You might recognize him from the Steal This Video post HERE. He's the same lawyer who (wrongly) advised Dendron to vote last time.

Give me your best caption for this shot.

Keep it clean. Leave it in the comment section or email me at I'll post all the entries Monday and y'all can vote on your favorite. There might even be a prize! Woohoo.

ODEC attn'y

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Such a Sham(e)

One of the things that came out of last week's Planning & Zoning hearing (besides the fact that out of 350 attendees, only 7 residents spoke in favor of the coal plant....more on that another day), was that finally there would be an official recommendation that the Town of Dendron commission a 3rd party study.

Citizens have been asking for a 3rd party study for years.

What's a 3rd party study?

Simply put, it's an investigation into a proposal, made by an independent 3rd party. Very common with proposals much, much, much smaller than this. If your community has a Walmart, it's likely your elected officials commissioned a 3rd party study to evaluate the proposal--impacts, drawbacks, benefits, and any loopholes that might have been missed.

Seems reasonable enough, right?


Not here.

Not with the biggest coal plant in the entire state.

ODEC has said for years it's not needed. It would delay the process. The Army Corps of Engineers will do one. Blah, blah, blah...

Kind of scary if people actually look at your project I suppose.

But, yes, last week the Planning & Zoning Commission (a body charged with looking at the zoning details and other minutia of any application, and then making recommendations to the Town Council) discussed that a 3rd party study ought to part of their official recommendation to the Dendron Town Council.

One commissioner, in particular, brought it up multiple times--trying to find the appropriate place in the official recommendation to insert it.

Each time she brought it up, she was instructed by the Commission's legal counsel that this was not quite the appropriate time or place to insert it.

Sure. That's fair. Gotta do things by the book.

Finally, nearing the end of the proceedings, this Commissioner brought it up again, asking if she needed to make an official motion on the matter. A motion is essentially a call for a vote on an issue.

Legal counsel assured her that she did not need to make a motion.

Legal counsel went on to say that the 3rd party study recommendation would be part of the official recommendation.

Perfect! Done and done.


Nope. Not even close.

The official recommendation does not contain one word about a 3rd party study.

How can that be?

In an attempt to understand, yesterday I obtained the entire packet of information that will be given to the Dendron Town Council on Monday when they hold their public hearing on the coal plant and consider the Planning & Zoning Commission's official recommendations.

Part of the packet includes a letter from the Chairman of the Commission to Dendron's mayor.

The Chairman does mention the 3rd party study:

"In addition to the conditions recommended to support Conditional Use Permit Application No. 2011-03, the Commission made recommendations to the Dendron Town Council related to an independent third party study of environmental impacts of the project and delineation of the proposed right-of-way for the rail line.

These recommendations were discussed but were not voted upon and are outlined in the attached verbatim copy of minutes for the February 27th Commission meeting and begin on page three."

Discussed but not voted upon.

Flipping through the "attached verbatim copy" of the minutes (which won't be approved by the Commission until weeks after Dendron's hearing), I find the spot where I recall the Commissioner asking if she needed to make a motion about the 3rd party study.

It reads:

"Inaudible comment."

Immediately after there are the assurances of the legal counsel (referring back to, of course, nothing):

"You do not need to make a motion to that.
Ms. Mack [planning staff] can indicate to the Town Council that
that was a concern of the Planning Commission
once she makes a report to Town Council."

So there you go...

The third party study recommendation is not worth the paper it isn't written on.

The Commissioner should have made a motion to vote.

She was told by legal counsel that she didn't need to because it would be added by staff.

It wasn't added by staff because they never voted on it.

Why didn't they vote on it...?

Right. Round and round we go.

Like I said before, it must be some kind of scary if people actually look at this project. No one's asking that we hand over our first born children. We're simply asking for a neutral party to check it out.

Ignore the citizens. Hold illegal hearings. And, for God's sake, DO NOT LOOK AT WHAT YOU ARE APPROVING.

Such a sham(e).

P.S. If you are going on Monday, please join me in asking why Commissioner Clark's recommendation was not included in the official recommendation. And urge the Dendron Town Council to get a 3rd party matter what!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Video Part 1: Good Corporate Neighbor

While we're on the subject of videos, I figured I'd go ahead an share some older ones that contain direct quotes and some funny artistic license.

If you're unsure about what's made up and what's real, chances are good that the more outlandish and nonsensical it is that those are the real quotes.

Truly, it's a case of, "You can't make this stuff up."

This is Part One of three: Good Corporate Neighbor.


Friday, February 17, 2012

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 if the lead in a tiny paint chip is dangerous to my babies,
1,000 pounds of it every year from a coal plant can't possibly be okay.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Steal This Video

Remember how I told you I recently watched the video footage of the coal plant hearings HERE?

After watching all the contradictions, out-right lies, and actual law-breaking behavior (and experiencing it first hand when I attended these hearings), I knew I had to get that footage out for people to see.

With a LOT of help from a really amazing friend, this is the result. None of this footage is doctored, dubbed, or anything other than what actually transpired.

I think it speaks for itself.

Please watch.

And share.

Friday, February 10, 2012

If It Weren't for You Meddling Kids!

Sometimes Why-I-Fight has to take a back seat to actual fighting.

So I thought I'd share a bit of What I've been doing, since I don't have a Why I'm doing it to post today.

Do you remember me telling you about our neighboring county passing a resolution against the coal plant HERE?

Well, it seems my county officials have their panties in quite a wad over it. They've decided to send a letter to our neighbors in which they will probably scold them for being big ol' meanies, beg them to just take it all back, and maybe end with some form of, "We're rubber, you're glue..."

Anyway, here's my letter to our local paper about it all.


P.S. Sit tight for a really spectacular item I've been working on that should be ready in a few days. Believe me, it will be well worth the wait!

Dear Editor,

Last week the Surry Board of Supervisors voted to send a letter to Isle of Wight County asking them to reconsider their resolution of opposition to the coal plant.

This is simply preposterous. Firstly, IoW sent their resolution to the Town of Dendron not to Surry County.  Surry County does not have a permit application for a power plant--only the Town of Dendron does.*  Surry County accused IoW of meddling in their neighbor's business, yet Surry continues to insert themselves (on our dime) into IoW’s business. Surry and IoW are equal neighbors to Dendron. One neighbor sees a positive impact from Dendron's proposed business, one sees a negative impact. They are both entitled to an opinion on what Dendron does, nothing more. Attempts to silence one another is the epitome of meddling.

Secondly, ODEC has stated that IoW's resolution was premature and they couldn’t know with certainty what they were opposing. Of course, ODEC has no problem asking Dendron--and the rest of us--to support it despite this same uncertainty. In an attempt to answer these unknowns, IoW invited ODEC to participate in an Info Session. ODEC declined. IoW also respectfully asked that Surry County conduct a 3rd party study to gather more information. Surry County not only declined, but expressed "disappointment" in IoW for even asking.

Finally, IoW received countless petition signatures, emails, and in-person comments from their constituents supporting the resolution of opposition.

It’s clear that ODEC and the Surry supervisors are more concerned with squelching opposition and information gathering than they are with respecting the concerns of the communities they will impact. And there will be impact. ODEC stating otherwise is about as reliable as when they told the Dendron Town Council to “go ahead and vote," a move that was recently found plainly illegal.


Betsy Shepard

* For those who aren't local, the Town of Dendron is a small incorporated town within Surry County. The power plant is technically proposed for inside the town, but some of the land spills over into the county. Clear as mud? Yes, I thought so.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


"You just can't beat the person who won't give up."
                                 ― Babe Ruth


Friday, February 3, 2012

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 70 degrees in January is just wrong.

Monday, January 30, 2012

"Psst . . . Your pants are on fire"

pants on fire
The other night I was at a public meeting where ODEC was explaining why they are back again--why they are back trying to get more public hearings for their stupid coal plant that no one wants.

Of course, they're back because they got sued.

And they lost.

Despite, if you remember, being "delighted" about the whole thing HERE

The crux of the that lawsuit was that the advertisement in our local newspaper for the last public hearing did not say that a vote would be taken that night. The advertisement said public comments would be received and nothing more. You can read a local news article HERE.

Adding to the "confusion" {ahem} were statements repeatedly made by the Mayor at the previous month's meeting saying that the public hearing would be "information vote."

So, yeah, they broke the law and they got caught. Pretty cut and dry, right?


To hear the ODEC employee tell it the other night, it was practically nothing.

His description?

"The court found the advertisement
to be insufficient."

Insufficient. Illegal.

Tomato. Tomahto.

Hoo boy....are these guys are the best or what? Ethically insufficient.

Come to think of it, why don't we just call the whole thing off!


Monday, January 23, 2012

Freedom of Speech . . . But Is Anyone Listening?

Norman Rockwell Town HallI spent this weekend doing something I've been putting off for years--I watched video footage of the coal plant hearings from two years ago.


I didn't even watch all of them, and, man....I just feel dirty.

Actually, I feel angry.

The public hearings had very little to do with the public.

At all these hearings the majority of the public spoke against the coal plant...and its various rail lines, water intake pump houses, coal ash landfills, etc. etc. etc.

Local citizens overwhelmingly opposed the project.

As did folks from neighboring areas and those concerned with the global implications.

One hearing had unanimous opposition. Not one person spoke in favor of the project.

Didn't matter.

At every hearing the boards who are supposed to represent the public did not do that.

It was all just a sham. A way to fulfill the letter of the law. And super unfair and just plain crappy.

Now we're getting ready to re-do some of the public hearings (because of the lawsuit win I told you about HERE), and I really hope things are going to go down differently this time around.

At a minimum, I hope they'll hold these hearings in larger venues so that people don't have to stand for 6 hours and wait in line in the cold (so they can get a know, so they don't have to stand for 6 hours).

We still need to attend. Now more than ever.

And we need you to attend, too.

We can send a message to ODEC that we will not go down quietly.

We can send a message to their CEO and Board of Directors that they will meet more and more resistance as time goes on.

We can send a message to our neighbors that there are many of us who do not wish to sell them down the river for money.

And we can send a message that poor rural communities have just plain had enough of being on the front lines fighting coal.

Friday, January 20, 2012

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 the thought of moving my family and our business breaks my heart.

Friday, January 13, 2012

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 I love my little town, and want to see it thrive
with "Mom & Pop" businesses not heavy industry.

Friday, January 6, 2012

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 rising sea levels mean less of Virginia's beautiful beaches.
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