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Activists Protest Gov. McAuliffe's Environmental Policies, Perceived Coziness With Dominion

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Environmental activists Monday protested Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s positions on fracked-gas pipelines and coal-ash ponds and what they called his coziness with Dominion Virginia Power.

In violation of Capitol Square Bell Tower protest-permit rules, protesters marched past the nearby executive mansion. They chanted “Terry! Yes you can! Terry! Yes you can!” to encourage McAuliffe to give more scrutiny to the state’s energy companies in the interest of protecting water and the environment.

McAuliffe was not home.

The activists want McAuliffe to require Dominion to move toxic waste from coal-ash ponds to specialized landfills in order to protect water. Current plans allow Dominion to cap the waste near rivers, including at a site in Chesapeake where Dominion has come under criticism for a plan to store more than 3 million tons of coal ash along the Elizabeth River. The ash is the byproduct of years of coal-fired power production at Dominion’s Chesapeake Energy Center.

Dominion officials counter that the federal Environmental Protection Agency has approved the capping method, and say the costs of transporting toxic waste would reach billions.

The activists, which include the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, said the protest is a three-day picket that will continue today and Wednesday, when protesters might attempt to be symbolically arrested in front of the governor’s mansion.

On Monday, two Division of Capitol Police investigators in plain clothes – wearing backpacks, sneakers and shades – used handheld video cameras to record protesters as they marched across the Capitol grounds. Col. Steve Pike, chief of the division, said the officers recorded because the activists violated a protest permit when they crossed the Capitol grounds.

Police did not cite or arrest anyone Monday.

Protesters also said McAuliffe hasn’t done much to combat sea level rise in coastal areas.

“Does anybody know how many state dollars the governor has dedicated to coastal adaptation and flood protection?” Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, asked at a news conference. “Zero!”

”He’s gone out and asked the federal government to give a little money but he’s put none of his own money. That’s how much, apparently, the governor does not care about people on fixed incomes who now have to pay flood insurance in areas of Hampton Roads where they did not have to pay that before.”

McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said the governor has met with numerous environmental groups to discuss their concerns.

“The Governor and his staff continue to engage with groups and individuals on both sides of this issue,” Coy said in an email.

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