Dominion Virginia Power’s initiative to dump millions of gallons of treated coal ash wastewater continued to receive pushback at the Dominion Riverrock Festival on Saturday as protesters lined the ent
Dominion Virginia Power’s initiative to dump millions of gallons of treated coal ash wastewater continued to receive pushback at the Dominion Riverrock Festival on Saturday as protesters lined the entrance of the festival voicing their concerns.
Riverrock, which is the largest sports and music festival in the country according to the festival’s website, is sponsored by Dominion and celebrated on Brown’s Island every summer and this year featured local artists like Big Mama Shakes and Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass were on the lineup.
Members of the Virginia Sierra Club, however, used the three-day festival as a platform to protest and pass out fliers advocating for public action and to hold the $15 billion energy giant accountable.
“We’re out here to blow the whistle on Dominion’s greenwashing,” said Kate Addleson, Director of the Virginia Sierra Club. “We’re really concerned that they use events like Dominion Riverrock to try to improve their imagew with the public and we really feel that it’s important that people know how much they’re polluting our state.”
And they literally did just that. To garner attention, protesters blew whistles as a symbolic gesture and sang chants at the entrance to the festival at Tredegar Street directed at Dominion officials like President and CEO Thomas Farrell. Many waved signs and banners around that read, “Protect the James” and “No Pipeline.”
Dominion received a permit from the Department of Environmental Quality to discharge 350 million gallons of coal ash – a byproduct of burning coal to produce energy – into the James River in January and began discharging in late April.
In February, eight activists protesting Dominion’s plans were arrested for trespassing on the Capitol steps.
And a month later, environmental activists staged a mock golf tournamant outside of the state Department of Environmental Quality headquarters downtown over Dominion Virginia Power’s paying for DEQ Director David Paylor’s trip to the Masters golf tournament in 2013.
Addleston said with these protest and getting their voices heard, it will give the public a better understanding of the effects Dominion’s plan is going to have on the environment.
“Dominion sponsors events like Riverrock to distract attention from their egregious record of polluting Virginia’s air, water, climate and democracy,” she said in a statement.
Protesters also voiced concerns about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a proposed $5.1 billion, 42-inch-diameter pipeline by Dominion that would be about 600 miles long. The pipeline would stretch from North Carolina to Virginia and pass through 14 counties and cities. Construction on the pipeline is expected to begin in 2017 according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The dumping of coal ash into the James and the proposed pipeline weren’t the only points of disapproval protesters aimed to make clear to Riverrock attendants as they made their way into the festivals entry on S. 5th St.
One protester, John Baker, a VCU assistant professor in chemistry, voiced his concerns with many of Dominion’s practices. He said that while the release of coal ash is an issue, there are other factors which position the company further away from renewable energy.
“They’re power generation so they should go as far as they can into renewable. They have the leases for offshore wind but instead they’re trying to pursue offshore drilling,” Baker said.
Drew Gallagher, an organizer with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said he believes that protests like these could spark more public outcry against Dominion.
“It’s time Dominion cleaned up it’s dirty power, not just its dirty image,” Gallagher said in a press release. “As more and more people learn the truth about Dominion, we’re seeing a movement take off across Virginia to fight the company’s pollution plans.”