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State and local asthma coalitions endorse new EPA standards for carbon emissions

October 22, 2014

smoke-stack Medical providers have made the link between carbon emissions and human health. Both the Virginia Asthma Coalition (VAC) and the Greater Roanoke Valley Asthma and Air Quality Coalition have sent comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supporting proposed new limits on carbon emissions. Coal-fired power plants would be impacted by the new rules. In addition to carbon dioxide linked to climate change, the plants emit precursors to both ozone and soot (particle pollution), and both have major impacts on human health.

Here is the text of comments from the two coalitons:

Docket ID No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2013-0602
Comments by the Virginia Asthma Coalition to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Virginia Asthma Coalition supports health-based limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants. Reducing carbon emissions will reduce the impact of climate change on people with asthma. Also, the actions each state will take to reduce carbon emissions will have the additional benefit of reducing emissions of other life-threatening air pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury.

Climate change is a serious threat to human health, and particularly to the health of people with asthma. The changing climate will alter the distribution of pollutants, enhance conditions for the formation of ozone, and increase emissions from fires, dust and vegetation, such as pollen. All of these changes can trigger asthma attacks.

Ozone can irritate and inflame the respiratory system and lead to asthma attacks and hospitalizations for people with asthma, as well as shortness of breath, chest pain, inflammation of the lung lining, wheezing, coughing, and even premature death for the public at large. Because ozone forms when other pollutants react in the presence of sunlight, it most often reaches dangerous levels on hot days. Current estimates predict warmer temperatures caused by climate change will lead to significantly higher ozone levels than would otherwise be the case by 2050.

Particle pollution, often called soot, comes from smokestacks, tailpipes, and fires. It can exacerbate asthma, particularly in children, and is linked to heart attacks, strokes, and even cancer in the public at large. Climate change is predicted to lead to increased drought conditions and increased wildfires.

Many people with asthma also suffer from allergies, and those allergies often trigger asthma attacks. Excess carbon in the atmosphere can contribute to plant growth that results in more allergens, and warmer weather caused by climate change can shift plants’ growing seasons. Both of these factors are predicted to lead to longer, stronger pollen seasons, causing particular problems for people with both allergies and asthma.

These are just a few of the many and far-reaching impacts that climate change will continue to have on the health of people with asthma, including 700,000 Virginians. The Virginia Asthma Coalition strongly supports reductions of carbon pollution from existing power plants. We also applaud the reductions in other pollutants that are projected to occur alongside reductions in carbon.

We also support the flexible approach EPA has outlined for states to reduce carbon pollution from power plants within their borders. However, we request that EPA revise its plan to exclude biomass combustion as an acceptable alternative energy source. Increasing our nation’s generation of electricity from biomass would be a step backward for public health because of the increase we would see in emissions of particulates and smog-forming pollutants.

Finally, we ask that EPA finalize these lifesaving protections into law without delay.

Pipeline developers brief Roanoke County Board of Supervisors and committee of Regional Chamber of Commerce

October 21, 2014

 Below are notes from briefings last Tuesday and Wednesday regarding a proposed natural gas pipeline through Roanoke County. EQT and NextEra are partnering to build a 300-mile natural gas pipeline from Marcellus Shale fields in West Virginia across the Alleghenies and the Blue Ridge to the North Carolina line. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the decisive body in this process. The company has a website devoted to the project

Here are the notes:

Roanoke County Board of Supervisors

October 14, 2014

Briefing on proposed Mountain Valley Pipeline

 Roanoke County map EQTProject is joint venture of EQT and NextEra Energy

Corporate website for pipeline project:

  • Joseph Dawley – Corporate Director, Government Affairs (EQT)
  • Chris Sherman – Director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs (NextEra)
  • Maurice Royster – a Tennessee-based lobbyist for EQT (and Vice President, Virginia Oil and Gas Association)

Dawley’s presentation:

Landowners in Roanoke County currently “are being contacted”

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) is the only approval needed

The pipeline provides cheap gas to new markets in the Southeast

Can replace coal for electricity generation

Resource for manufacturing

Gas comes from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio – currently a “proliferation” in supply

Local benefits for Roanoke County:

  • Construction
  • Access to natural gas

Mountain Valley Pipeline

  • About 300 miles long
  • Will use 36” to 42” pipe
  • Will have 3-4 compressor stations
  • Have secured 20-year commitments from customers
  • Total construction cost $3.0 to $3.5 billion

Roanoke County portion – refers to vague map on their website

Have sent out letters to landowners [a little vague about this]

Will make preliminary filing with FERC by the end of this month (October 2014)

Will conduct Environmental Impact studies 2014-2016

Construction to be completed 2018

Community engagement

  • FERC scoping public meetings Spring 2015
  • Comment periods 2014-2016
  • DEQ will be involved in permitting

Questions from Roanoke County Board of Supervisors

Questions from Supervisor Charlotte Moore [all are paraphrased from my notes]

  1. Where can we find detailed maps of the project? He refers her to the vague map on their website.
  2. How long does corrosion protection on pipes last? What about danger of explosions?

He does not know answers. Would have to bring in experts.

  1. How deep would the pipeline be? What equipment would be used? Would there be blasting? Pipeline would be 3 to 4 feet deep. He can provide no details on blasting.
  2. Will there be a public hearing on the Environmental Impact Statement? Yes

Questions from Supervisor Butch Church

  1. I was getting calls from constituents who got letters from your company before the Board of Supervisors received notification of this project. Project is “moving very fast.” Apologizes for not notifying Board of Supervisors.
  2. We look for transparency in this process, but your resources are very vague. Why? The map on the website has the details.
  3. Where does the pipeline cross the Blue Ridge Parkway? Crossings of the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway are the “two main spots of concern” for the project. Says he has maps but won’t tell exactly where it will cross the Blue Ridge Parkway. Want to co-locate on an existing right-of-way.
  4. The map shows the project running right next to our key water supply lake at Spring Hollow Reservoir. Have you notified the Western Virginia Water Authority? No, have not notified Western Virginia Water Authority.

Questions from Supervisor Al Bedrosian

  1. I appreciate that you are a for-profit company, but what about the rights of the private property owner? What happens if they say no? They look at adjacent property instead.
  2. What if it comes to use of eminent domain to take land from an unwilling owner? [The speaker gave an evasive answer, and the Supervisor stopped asking questions.]
  3. How many family tracts are affected in Roanoke County? 55 tracts.


Questions from Supervisor Joe McNamara

  1. This project was originally routed through Floyd County, where it met great opposition. Why did you change the route and why would Roanoke County not repeat with similar opposition? The project was moved from Floyd County for “substantive reasons,” not because of community opposition. Crossing [of the Blue Ridge Parkway] “was not ideal.”
  2. Have all affected landowners been contacted? He does not know. The route keeps changing.


Questions from Supervisor Jason Peters

  1. Will this natural gas be consumed by domestic users or by foreign users? It goes to the Pittsylvania County line. Can’t say where it will end up. “Gas molecules flow all over the place.”
  2. Is the permitting all from the federal government? Does Roanoke County grant any permits? The permitting is all federal.

Citizen comments [apologies if I spelled your name wrong – all items are paraphrased from my notes]

  1. POLLY BRANCH. Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachians are vital. Worried. Is this a done deal with feds? Calamities along pipelines. Fracking is dangerous. Should seek alternatives instead.
  2. ANN LUZBY DENHAM. Could be one of the largest pipelines in the country, meaning more blasting and bigger explosion if it fails. Threatens water supply due to pipeline leaks and herbicides used to keep down vegetation along route. Concerns about Spring Hollow Reservoir, property values, insurance, etc. Notes lawsuit against EQT in Southwest Virginia. [see on lawsuits against EQT in Virginia and elsewhere.]
  3. ANN ROGERS. Concerns about impact on water supply. Geologic formation – Blue Ridge Plateau – has water in fissures – our ground water. Blasting will disturb fissures, affecting private wells and springs. Will devalue local real estate. Ask planning department to talk with Floyd County and Virginia Tech source about Blue Ridge Plateau.
  4. ELDON KARR. Took EQT’s pdf map and overlaid with Google Earth. It showed the line going right through his property. But he did not receive a letter – his neighbors did. Project lacks transparency with vague, inaccurate map on website. Concerned about runoff into Roanoke River and Spring Hollow Reservoir. Also Bottom Creek – a Tier 3 stream per DEQ. Pipeline would have “dramatic impact.” Ask EQT to quickly present detailed maps of route, knowing it may be modified.
  5. BRIAN WISHKOFF. Afraid pipelines are oversold, especially regarding positive economic impact. Wants to use railroads instead. Pipeline is a monopoly, and we are stuck with it even when the technology changes.
  6. KIRK BOWERS. Pipeline Chair, Virginia Chapter, Sierra Club. Shows power point on pipelines. 42” pipeline is huge, largest in Virginia and going over mountains. Encourages more fracking. Has numerous water crossings. Property values will go down. It crosses the Appalachian Trail, and he has an email from the National Park supervisor of the AT saying that crossing of the AT by a pipeline requires an act of Congress.
  7. JIM WOLZ. County should take a positive role. Hopes it does not come through. Has 40+ springs on his own Bent Mountain property, headwaters for Bottom Creek Gorge. His land is protected by conservation easement.
  8. KEVIN ORCA. Lists EQT criminal charges in Pennsylvania. [see story here]
  9. MARA ROBBINS. Floyd County leader. They did their research and worked with their Board of Supervisors. She offers to share research with Roanoke County and provide briefing.
  10. VIRGINIA WISE. Bent Mountain resident. We must defend our properties. There is no local benefit – no local distribution lines. Many hazards, including threats to water. Floyd County Board of Supervisors worked with citizens – hope Roanoke County will also.
  11. BRIAN _____. EQT is a shell corporation that will go out of business if there is a problem and leave us holding the bag. [EQT is related to a number of other companies]

EQT did not choose to respond to the comments, simply stating that “This is the beginning of a very long process.”

Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce

October 15, 2014

Briefing for Public Policy Forum

Sherman says

  • Pipeline will bring “huge economic benefits to the region” due to Marcellus shale.
  • All sectors are moving towards natural gas, and project demand is over-subscribed.
  • “Some sources” estimate there is a 100-year supply of natural gas
  • Will use 36″ to 42” pipe
  • $3 to $3.5 billion will be expended on the pipeline
  • Permitting will be “overseen” by feds as “public necessity and convenience”
  • Subject to NEPA review
  • They will prefile with FERC “in a few days”
  • Actual application takes about a year
  • Expect permit in fall 2016, construction 2017, flow 2018 [website says fourth quarter 2018]
  • Denying access [by landowners] is “not constructive”

Biggest issues are, he says

  • Environmental protection, including surface restoration
  • Pipeline safety

Most of the spending will be for construction

Questions from real estate lawyer whose client got a letter. Will Virginia actually use the line? Will it lower local natural gas prices? It could happen.

Would we have preference for access to the pipeline? Not now. Would be up to Roanoke Gas to make a connection to the line.

Other points discussed:

Cool Cities’-sponsored “Growing a Greener World” to air in October and November

September 16, 2014

Joe Lamp'l(ROANOKE, Va.)— Blue Ridge PBS will broadcast national television series, Growing a Greener World’s episode showcasing Roanoke, in Virginia’s Blue Ridge, on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 28 at 1:30 p.m. and Monday, Nov. 24 at 12 noon. The show features the Roanoke City Market area, local restaurants and the green roof at Center in the Square. In addition, interviews with Jon Bryant, Natural Foods Co-op, and Mark Powell, Association of Community Gardens, will highlight Roanoke’s community gardens and the programs’ success. Local sponsors of this episode are Blue Ridge PBS, Center in the Square, City of Roanoke, Cool Cities Coalition, Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau and Sheraton Roanoke.


Growing a Greener World is an award-winning TV show appearing on national Public Television featuring organic gardening, green living and farm-to-table cooking. Each episode focuses on making a positive impact on the planet through gardening and shares DIY information that we can all use at home. Currently in its fifth season, Growing a Greener World covers everything from edible gardening, urban homesteading and hobby farming to seasonal cooking, canning and preserving the harvest.

James Baum, president and CEO of Blue Ridge PBS says, “We’re happy that our good friend, Joe Lamp’l, brought Growing a Greener World to Roanoke and Virginia’s Blue Ridge to highlight the wonderful horticultural happenings in this area.”

NOTE: Growing a Green World is broadcast in 96% of the top 50 market areas in the US. Blue Ridge PBS is pleased to have sponsored the show’s original television season.

Blue Ridge PBS is the winner of multiple regional Emmy Awards for documentaries and community service. Founded in 1967, Blue Ridge PBS is the sole public multimedia enterprise serving portions of five states. As the region’s storyteller, Blue Ridge PBS offers outstanding informational, educational and cultural programming, along with an award-winning local production team devoted to regional issues and interests.

Solarize Roanoke brings affordable clean energy to the region

August 11, 2014

Solarize Roanoke 2014If you own a home and live in zip codes 24011, 24012, 24013, 24014, 24015, 24016, 24017, 24018 and 24019 – this could be the time to invest in solar. Sponsored by the City of Roanoke, the 3-month effort enables people to get into solar for about $7,500 up front, a far cry from costs of the past.

Check it out here:

ICLEI once again on Roanoke County agenda

January 27, 2014
Agenda 21 hydra

On Tuesday, January 28, 2014 the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors will once again (for the third time in two years) examine the $1,200 expenditure for membership in ICLEI, Local Governments for  Sustainability, a membership that enables the use of software to measure, track and plan the reduction of municipal and community greenhouse gas emissions. In addition the membership allows the county to easily network with hundreds of other communities in the U.S. and elsewhere that are members of ICLEI.

The tea party and other groups with ties to the fossil fuel industry have targeted ICLEI membership in the past few years, spinning tales of vast United Nations conspiracies such as this bizarre statement on the John Birch Society’s website: “ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability. Agenda 21 seeks for the government to curtail your freedom to travel as you please, own a gas-powered car, live in suburbs or rural areas, and raise a family. Furthermore, it would eliminate your private property rights through eminent domain. Agenda 21 can be stopped at the local level by organizing and informing others to encourage local government officials to end their community’s membership in ICLEI and to repeal any of the Agenda 21-related ‘sustainable development’ laws and ordinances they have enacted.”

In reality, Agenda 21 was part of the Rio de Janeiro Summit in the 1992, where 178 nations, including the United States, voted in favor of an entirely voluntary program for sustainable development in the 21st century.

You can send a letter to the entire Roanoke County Board of Supervisors using this email address

Below is the letter sent on behalf of the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition:

January 26, 2014

Dear Roanoke County Supervisors,

I am writing on behalf of the 273 affiliates (businesses, individuals, and organizations representing over 25,000 citizens) of the Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition, most of whom live, work or do business in Roanoke County. See a complete listing here:

We are dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through energy conservation, energy efficiency and the use of clean, renewable energy.

I urge you to support the fine work of RC CLEAR and to continue the county’s inexpensive membership in ICLEI, a membership that allows the county to easily measure its own efforts and to benchmark those efforts against other localities in Virginia and across the country.

Using less energy means burning less coal, diesel and gasoline, producing cleaner air and cleaner water for the Roanoke region.

It is disappointing to see that, for the third time in 2 years, the County is revisiting a very small expenditure of funds for a software vendor, especially when that same vendor is in wide use in Virginia, including the nearby localities of Harrisonburg, Abingdon, Blacksburg and the City of Roanoke.

In the scientific community, human-caused climate change is not a “belief” that requires a leap of faith. It is a demonstrable fact accepted by over 97 percent of climate scientists. Just as state and local health departments rely on the germ theory of disease to deal with influenza and other transmittable diseases, climate scientists rely on their studies to understand the causes and likely effects of rising greenhouse gas emissions on the earth’s atmosphere.

Will the questioning of “beliefs” held by county staff and community volunteers extend beyond established science into other areas such as political preferences and religion? This seems like dangerous territory indeed.

RC CLEAR’s work focuses on ENERGY CONSERVATION and ENERGY EFFICIENCY, both in local government and for local citizens and organizations. This can be seen very clearly on the award-winning Save a Ton website, which provides tools for citizens to measure their energy savings and dollar rewards for conservation and efficiency. Save a Ton is collaboration among four local governments (Roanoke County, City of Salem, City of Roanoke, Town of Blacksburg) and local businesses and organizations.

A recent Virginia Tech survey showed that Roanoke Valley residents have two overwhelmingly important priorities for the region: economic development/jobs (92%) AND clean water/clean air (85%). They want both, as do many businesses that visit the region with plans for potential creation of new jobs.

Air pollution and water pollution present serious threats for our region:

  • Current threats to human health (especially asthma and heart disease)
  • Potential threats to economic development (such as the decision by Sierra Nevada not to locate here)
  • Ongoing threats to the joy of living in such a beautiful area (poor air quality days, warnings not to consume fish caught in local rivers, streams and lakes).

It is so encouraging when local citizens use their precious time to help the county and their fellow citizens. And it is equally disappointing to see ideological extremists make harsh and undeserved attacks on the members of RC CLEAR, a volunteer committee appointed by unanimous vote of the county supervisors.

Members of RC CLEAR have given hundreds of hours to help the county and its citizens, and the only thanks they can hope for is the feeling of a job well done and appreciated. Extremist critics offer no constructive advice, simply a chorus of negative opinions and bizarre conspiracy theories manufactured by sources like the witch-hunting John Birch Society, a remnant of the 1950s McCarthy era.

It seems likely that success in attacking RC CLEAR and ICLEI would only besmirch the region’s reputation as a desirable place to live and work while emboldening these “patriots” to attack something else.

Who is writing such extremist messages to encourage the waste of energy, and who can possibly benefit? Certainly not local homeowners and businesses.


Dr. Diana Christopulos, President

Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition

907 Greenbrier Court, Salem, VA 24153


Political, Environmental, Business leaders will urge action on Climate Change at Grandin Village event

August 24, 2013

What: Climate Action Rally in the Roanoke Valley

When: Wednesday, August 28, noon

Where: Amphitheater at Virginia Heights Baptist Church (next to Roanoke Natural Foods Coop at Grandin & Memorial, Roanoke)

Who: This event is sponsored by Environment Virginia, with additional sponsorship by Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition and Organizing for Action. See flyer below for confirmed speakers as of this date

Why: We need action now on climate change, both to reduce carbon pollution that is causing the earth’s temperature to rise and to mitigate the effects of climate change that we are already experiencing

Click the link below to access a flyer that can be printed or distributed by email

Aug2013 climate rally

Cool Cities Affiliate Honors Sen. John Edwards with “Legislator of the Year” Award

July 4, 2013



Pictured (L to R): Mark McClain, Dan Crawford, Sen. John Edwards, Diana Christopulos
Rupert Cutler, Freeda Cathcart

Cool Cities president Diana Christopulos and director Mark McClain were on hand when local Sierra Club Chair Dan Crawford presented the award (made from recycled glass). They were also joined by legendary environmental advocate and former Roanoke City Councilman Rupert Cutler, and political and environmental activist Freeda Cathcart, a Sierra Club-endorsed candidate for Virginia’s House of Delegates. Meeting with Sen. Edwards in his Roanoke office, the group enjoyed a genial visit with this veteran legislator, who has been a steadfast supporter of good environmental policy. The Sierra Club distributed the following announcement to media statewide:

July 3, 2013 (Richmond, VA):

Richmond, VA — For the first time, the Virginia Chapter Sierra Club voted to recognize members of the General Assembly with awards lauding their work in the Legislature. The Chapter’s Legislative Committee voted unanimously to honor Senator John Edwards with the Legislator of the Year Award to recognize his outstanding public service.

On receiving his award on July 3, Senator Edwards offered the following quote, “I am honored to receive this award from the Sierra Club, an organization I admire. Like the Sierra Club, I am interested in developing clean energy, improving the environment, protecting our outdoors and preserving our natural heritage.”

The Senator from Roanoke is receiving the Legislator of the Year Award in recognition of his outstanding record of public service and commitment to his constituents and welfare of our Commonwealth. In addition to the leadership he has provided over the years on the Commerce and Labor Committee, in 2013 Senator Edwards patroned a bill that allows customers of Dominion Virginia Power to install solar projects as large as 1 megawatt using a power purchase agreement (PPA) financed by private companies. The law’s significance cannot be understated, as the PPA model has been the driver for most solar projects around the country in recent years, making solar energy available with low risk and minimal upfront cost.

“Senator John Edwards has been an unfailing friend to the environment and to the citizens of Southwest Virginia. His intelligence, combined with curiosity and courage, make him a real champion for the entire state,” said Dr. Diana Christopulos, a dedicated Sierra Club member.