Let your tongue flow like water and spread like rain.

Speeches

09/22/2016 Delivered to the Virginia State Water Control Board during the Chesterfield dewatering permit meeting - Speaker 2

For strength:

Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined. - Patrick Henry, Virginia Ratifying Convention, June 5, 1778

For placement:

Chester, VA was at one time Bermuda Hundred, VA.  Bermuda Hundred was the first incorporated town in the English colony of Virginia, meaning at its founding, it was a self-governing entity recognized by Virginia.

Now speak:

I am speaking for The Virginia River Healers.

The VRH is a citizen environmental organization that is determined to protect and demonstrate our environmental rights as Virginia citizens.  

Dominion Power and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have failed to properly notify Virginia communities of the ill intentions of this permit. This is a systemic issue that has kept the communities, that have been repeatedly subjected to the harm of Dominion Virginia Power’s cal ash landfills, in the dark and without appropriate representation from their governmental bodies. Through the month of September, The VRH spent hours going door to door in the Chester Community that is closest to the Chesterfield power Station and without a doubt the Virginia community that will be most impacted if this dewatering permit is passed. From our questioning it was clear that the community has not been properly addressed about the proposed permit by either Dominion Power or the aforementioned parties. 8 out of 10 community members were not aware Dominion is seeking to dewater coal ash ponds and have plans to permanently leave 13 million tons of coal ash in landfills closely bordering their community.

Furthermore the VA DEQ has kept pertinent 3rd party data regarding coal ash contamination to water sources and soil in the chester community from being considered during this meeting.  This obstruction of information has systematically oppressed individuals of information they need in order to make informed decisions regarding these dewatering permits and act upon the long term security of their community. In this permit, the VA DEQ has not recognized the need for a full assessment of water quality Surrounding the Chesterfield Power Station, this assessment was demanded by 1,186 individuals during the July 7th Public Hearing. This demand was filed so Virginian Citizens could have access to a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impact the Chesterfield Station has made on our private and public property, our water resources, and river ecosystem. We re-delivered the petition to you early today because the revised permit still does not include a comprehensive environmental assessment. To deny us of this assessment has placed the burden of proof on the citizens. In doing so the state has economically pressured Virginia communities to pay for soil and water testing and then disregarded our findings. This is a systemic failure of the state. We need assured testing, we need Dominion Power to pay for this testing, and we need the results taken into consideration when considering the severity of this permit.

This permit is an infringement upon the communities environmental rights as this process has unfairly held the Chester community and Virginia citizens from participating in environmental decision making.

 

I am here as a member of the VRH to call for a suspension of this vote until the community’s environmental rights are properly acknowledged. To make this clear the VRH is delivering this petition signed by 3,845 individuals that all demand the Coal ash at the Chesterfield power station to be dug up and removed from a valued Virginia community and ecosystem.

We demand that The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, The Virginia State Water Control Board, and Virginia State Legislators act accordingly to our rights and require Dominion Virginia Power to close these coal ash landfills appropriately, by digging them up.

This petition calls for an immediate suspension of the dewatering permit until the permit is amended to clearly state that Dominion Virginia Power will be required to remove all coal ash located at the Chesterfield Station and is to be relocated to safely lined and capped landfills away from our water resources and Virginia Communities once dewatering has concluded. We want these changes made quickly. Until the changes are made to this permit the VRH will make it clear that the VA DEQ and the VA State Water Control Board are acting against our environmental rights. If passed without such an addendum the State Water Control Board’s reckless governing will clearly state that the quality and security of Virginians’ lives and Virginians’ water is to be sacrificed at the hand of Dominion.

Suspend the vote. Listen to the voices of Virginia Citizens that have signed these permits. Fully consider the disruption this permit as written would cause to the health and security of the commonwealth. Do not allow a corporation to have ultimate rights at the sacrifice of citizen rights. Do not deny us of our basic rights of environmental security and governance.  Make the changes and make them quickly.

We are organized, we are willing, and we will demonstrate that no one holds the right to destroy our environmental security.

09/22/2016 Delivered to the Virginia State Water Control Board during the Chesterfield dewatering permit meeting - Speaker 1

I’m speaking today on behalf of the Virginia River Healers, a citizen environmental rights organization. As a VRH member, I am delivering this petition, signed by 1,196 people to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.

This petition expresses citizen concern about the potential contamination of drinking water and well water in the vicinity of Dominion Power’s coal ash ponds. Specifically, we demand you place the current dewatering permit on hold until Dominion Power has agreed to fund a third party to conduct a rigorous current assessment, as well as and ongoing testing, of drinking water quality levels in residential and commercial water wells in the area surrounding Chesterfield station’s coal ash ponds and all Dominion power stations slated for coal ash cleanup and lifetime “capping” in the commonwealth. The selection of this third party should be both approved and overseen by publicly accountable officials at the VADEQ.

Recent tests conducted by the Southern Environmental Law Center measured arsenic levels at 292 milligrams per kilogram, which Brad McLane of the SELC described as “nearly four times the highest sediment reading measured in the Elizabeth River near Dominion’s Chesapeake Power Station.” In that same cove near the ash ponds, testing also indicated lead, zinc, nickel, and copper are accumulating in sediment. The discrepancy alone between the SELC tests and those conducted by the VDEQ, which found no contaminants, should give this committee pause to evaluate the efficacy of sampling methodology--from overall protocols and criteria to location and sampling depth.

This demonstrates how the State Water Control Board has kept pertinent 3rd party data regarding coal ash contamination to water sources and soil in the chester community from being considered during these meetings. This obstruction of information has systematically dispossessed citizens from information they need to make informed decisions regarding these dewatering permits and act upon the long term security of their community.

The reliability and legitimacy of testing hinges on its third-party status. As citizens, we place a premium on this objectivity and the quality and rigor of testing methodology.

Following Duke Energy’s 2014 Dan River coal ash spill, the state of North Carolina required Duke Energy to pay for residential water well testing. The testing found that 93 percent of residential groundwater wells within 1,000 feet of similar coal ash ponds were contaminated with dangerous chemicals found in coal ash. Chemists are still unclear about how long and at what levels coal ash leaching persists. Some predict leaching could worsen in 50+ years, ensuring our children and grandchildren would inherit contaminated water. If you grant Dominion Power the ability to move forward with closure, we must receive a thorough assessment of the current well water conditions in the communities adjacent to the coal ash ponds. Virginia residents have the environmental right to know if their water is currently safe to drink.

Lastly, I would like to address a more specific concern regarding Dominion Power’s Chesterfield Power Station. During the public information session on June 22nd, the VADEQ made it clear that Dominion Power has already been dewatering the coal ash ponds at the Chesterfield Power Plant under pre-existing permits. Before moving forward with the permit in question today, I believe Dominion Power and the VADEQ owe the public a full report on the amount, nature, and quality of untreated coal ash wastewater already discharged into Virginia waterways. Dominion Power should publicly release all reports of their monitoring of Outfall 004 (the drainage for the lower ash pond) of the Chesterfield power station for review. You, the State Water Control Board, have acknowledged that Dominion Power has been flushing coal ash water into the James River through Outfall 004, and the public deserves to clearly understand the processes involved here before further dewatering of coal ash is permitted.

We implore you today to fulfill the stated mission of your organization: to protect and enhance the Virginia’s environment, and promote the health and well being of the citizens of the Commonwealth. We both trust and expect you to serve as the stewards you have sworn to be.

07/06/16 Testimony Delivered to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Virginia State Water Control Board during the Chesterfield Dewatering Permit public hearing.

The VRH is as citizen environmental rights militia. As a member of the VRH I would like to deliver this petition to the VA DEQ signed by more than 1,100 individuals. The members of the VA DEQ clearly being called to respond to this petition are:

David Paylor- Director of Virginia Department of Environmental Quality

Jefferson Reynolds- Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Enforcement Director

Kathleen O'Connell- Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Water Enforcement Officer

John Ely- Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Water Adjudication and Policy Manager

Justin Williams- Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Division of Land Protection Director, Solid Waste

Brett Fisher- Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Division of Land Protection, Groundwater and Corrective Action

Leslie Romanchik- Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Division of Land Protection, Hazardous Waste

Sanjay Thirunagari- Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Division of Land Protection, Data Survey

This petition clearly signifies a concern over the quality of well drinking water due to Dominion Power’s coal ash ponds and declares that the current dewatering permit be put on hold until Dominion Power has properly conducted sufficient research on residential and commercial water wells surrounding the area of the Chesterfield station’s coal ash ponds being addressed in this permit.

The petition demands “ that you require Dominion Virginia Power to pay for third party professional water testing of residents’ drinking water and well water in the immediate area of coal ash ponds. This demand is for all of Dominion’s power stations that are slated for coal ash cleanup and lifetime “capping” around the commonwealth.

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Following Duke Energy’s 2014 Dan River coal ash spill, the state of North Carolina required Duke Energy to pay for residential water well testing. The testing found that 93 percent of residential groundwater wells within 1,000 feet of similar coal ash ponds were contaminated with dangerous chemicals found in coal ash.

The timeline of coal ash leaching is still undetermined by inorganic chemists. Some professionals predict leaching toxins could become worse in 50+ years, leaving communities that are left with Dominion’s coal ash waste sites environmentally displaced.

If Dominion Power is going to move forward with closure plans, we demand a thorough assessment of the current condition of well water in the communities that live near coal ash ponds. Virginia residents have the environmental right to know if their water is currently safe to drink. We also demand that Dominion Virginia Power is to be held responsible for continued third party testing and monitoring of well water in the immediate area of “capped” coal ash ponds to ensure our water tables and aquifers stay protected and safe for consumption in the future.”

Furthermore I would like to address a more specific concern regarding Dominion Power’s Chesterfield power Station.

During the public information session on June 22nd, The VA DEQ made it clear that Dominion Power under pre existing permits has already been dewatering the coal ash ponds at the Chesterfield power plant. Before the permit we are discussing this evening moves forward, I think Dominion Power and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality owes the public a full report on the amount of untreated coal ash water they have been discharging into Virginia waterways. In this specific case I would like to see Dominion Power show how they have conducted according to requirements of their past permits through making all monitoring of Outfall 004 (the drainage for the lower ash pond) of the Chesterfield power station public. As acknowledged by the VA DEQ,  Dominion Power has been flushing out coal ash water into the James River through Outfall 004 and this needs to be clearly understood by the public before further dewatering of coal ash is permitted.

07/29/2014 Testimonial Transcript: EPA Hearing on the Clean Power Plan

I am speaking as a resident of Virginia and the director of Virginia River Healers.

The Virginia River Healers are a citizen driven environmental group that conducts independent testing for concerned Virginians dealing with soil, water, and air toxicity issues. The VRH is committed to producing open source data through specific analyses and generating information for environmental defense and citizen arms. At this point the VRH has produced coal ash reports on various Dominion Power coal ash ponds and landfills. These analyses allow citizens to get specific information regarding trace metals and carcinogenic toxins in their air and well water due to the proximity of Dominion Power’s coal plants and coal ash landfills. Through spiritual and communal synchronization the VRH plans to continue to gain access to facilities where State and Federal legality and organization has failed to monitor and expose the information we need in times of geographic precarity.

VRH at the EPA hearing regarding the 

Environmentalism has become a very large and conceptual project. As the current conversation of global warming and carbon emissions gets pushed further into an alienating global conversation these community and regional conferences remain an important way to address the immediate issues of the State’s energy industry and our personal health.

Two words, CLEAN and POWER mark the title of the proposed plan. I would like to talk about the epistemic structure of the term “Clean Power.”

POWER: Power is the ability to influence or control the behavior of people.

Authority of power in our state is perceived as legitimate by the current structure of energy production. The current monopoly of Virginia’s energy industry has created an authoritative power structure that disposes of people subservient to Dominion’s Power. To be dispossessed by such a power structure is to occupy a place of non-being, where a precarious dependence upon energy production norms, such as coal, regulates the way life is lived. 

Dispossession originally referred to the practices of land encroachment, but the escalation of laissez-faire capitalism has expanded the structure of the word into something much broader. Dispossession now speaks to how human bodies, through power structures originating from the inherent ownership of property, become materialized and dematerialized through various histories of slavery, colonization, apartheid, democratic alienation, sectarianist government, and now climate and homeostasis change.

Virginia’s communities are paying the cost of a resource curse, living amongst the toxic air and well water from the airborne dust and leeching metals of Dominion Power’s Coal Ash Landfills. The reinforced political irrationality of coal in this state has formed a post-environment, where human rights are compromised. Environmental dispossession has become both a physical and psychological abuse of our rights. Industries are able to construct our legitimacy through use of land and dispossess those who live near industrial property. This act of dispossession will continue it’s attempt of turning many Virginians into illegitimate subjects and second-class citizens unless the order of power is reversed.

CLEAN: Clean is to be free from dirt. To clean a wound is to make sure it is safe from contamination and disease. A clean soul is a soul that is free from moral corruption and sinister activities of any kind.

Inhale, TAKE A DEEP BREATH _______ and the air that comes through your throat pours down your trachea, fills your bronchi and forces your alveoli to expand. Now do this same activity in the Virginian towns of Bremo, Chesterfied, and Clover, and the air that your diaphragm is now forcing down your bronchioles is filling your alveoli and coating thin layers of blood tissue with chromium, lead, and arsenic from the dust and emissions of the town’s power plants and landfills.

With a congress that is currently in fever over a health care bill that has been shouted as an infringement on religious freedom. It seems fair to ask why the inability for a newborn to breathe without such sin filling their developing blood tissue is not considered an affront to religious freedom. Virginia demands a clean environment free of such sin, industrial perversion and spiritual recklessness. We demand an environment that fosters our religious freedom.

So what would “Clean Power” mean to the current structure of energy policy. To clean power would be to properly enforce regulation in our state, a regulation that balances the playing field for the development of alternative energy sources and decreased consumption. Regulation for the current Virginia communities dealing with toxic air and well water poisoned with metals. Regulation that deals with this curse of power that constructs, and limits our ability to live, and engage in a place with out being subjected to a competitive environmental and economic struggle for survival.

3 things we need added to this plan.

   1. This plan would mark the most progressive regulations on carbon emissions to date. But clean air is not going to come from only regulating carbon emissions at the point of combustion. Many harmful forms of energy byproducts are left out. We would like to see the dust particulates caused from coal ash landfills make that list. As we have seen from experience with the adaptation of new scrubbers in coal plants, this modification continues to produce greater amounts of toxic waste. This waste then fills our valleys, leeches into our water sources and becomes airborne.

   2.  Address transparency: The public needs to know the testing results of the air and water that they are breathing and ingesting. Many current laws allow for power companies to administer their own regulative analyses and do not require that they are made public. Please see that the analyses are privately conducted and the data and results are public domain.

   3.  The plan needs to come sooner. The catastrophic timing of global warming and climate change will continue to compound with days to come. But the issues that are occurring in the towns that lay subordinate to dirty energy are immediate.

What is environmental includes human life and should no longer remain a category that is to be solely protected, conserved, and defended by environmentalists and agencies like the EPA when the public’s engagement in the matter is a pressing issue of inequality, human health, and environmental rights.

We urge you to continue pushing for a plan and power that directs environmental voice, regulation and action towards a local agenda of environmental rights.