Our coal ash campaign at Possum Point really intensified over the last month. Working closely with reporters, we generated substantial media coverage, which put pressure on local officials to take a stand. We had several important deadlines within a short time — potentially the last two public meetings with the Prince William Board of Supervisors (unless we are able to delay the process to explore alternatives to leaving the coal ash in place) and the March 10th deadline to submit public comments to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) that would allow Dominion to bury 4 million tons of toxic coal ash at Possum Point.
It was absolutely critical to educate the public about the issue and to encourage them to engage with decision makers, which we accomplished through a combination of targeted telephone, email and social media outreach, as well as on the ground grassroots advocacy. Through these channels we contacted nearly 7500 people who voted in the last election and self identified as being concerned about the environment. We had a huge turnout on February 16th, with nearly 150 people in attendance, and 485 people responded to our action alert to send emails to the board of supervisors and DEQ. The message from speaker after speaker was clear: Virginians do not want Dominion’s toxic coal ash and they are frustrated with Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s inaction. The majority of the Board of Supervisors now share their concern.
Raising the visibility of this issue resulted in a bi-partisan bill in Virginia that would have required Dominion to assess alternative ways to dispose of coal ash permanently from all of their location across the state including by recycling or moving it to lined landfills or a combination of the two. The bill would also have stopped VDEQ from approving Dominion’s related permits until that assessment had occurred. While the House passed the bill, it was significantly weakened in the Senate and we have our work cut out for us encouraging Governor McAuliffe to put teeth back into the bill: he is one of the largest recipients of campaign cash from Dominion.