Thursday, April 30, 2009

No Dominion Money.

Dominion: Global Warming Starts HereIf you're a regular reader of The Green Miles, you know my feelings on Dominion Virginia Power. Since 1996, Dominion has contributed more than $5 million to Virginia political candidates and committees.

Our reliance on increasingly expensive, dirty coal power is a failure to our community and a violation of Arlington values – economically, environmentally, and from a public health perspective. As an activist who’s spent years lobbying and organizing for clean energy and climate action here in Virginia, I’ve seen firsthand how Dominion’s huge financial power works to keep our energy policies locked into the status quo at a time when we desperately need a new direction.

That's why I've signed a pledge (PDF) not to accept contributions or gifts from Dominion or its employees:
April 29, 2009

As Virginia confronts the threat of climate change and our dependence on dirty, polluting energy sources, we need leaders who will think big and fight the special interests that block progress towards a clean energy future.

Dominion Virginian Power was the top business donor to Virginia politicians in 2008, contributing nearly twice as much as the runner-up, the tobacco company Altria. Their influence has gone unchallenged for years, allowing them to serve as the dominant force in policy decisions – consistently weighting the scales against clean energy and a cleaner Virginia. The stakes are too high to let that continue.

Therefore I, Miles Grant, Democratic candidate for House of Delegates in Virginia’s 47th district, pledge that I will not accept contributions or gifts from Dominion Resources, its subsidiaries or its employees, either as a candidate or as an elected official. If I ever mistakenly accept such a contribution, I pledge to give it to a clean energy or environmental nonprofit as soon as the error is discovered. I take this pledge not as a statement about Dominion's right to exist or its employees, but as a promise to consider only the public interest as we move Virginia's energy policies forward.

Miles Grant
Democrat for Delegate
Virginia’s 47th District in Arlington
I know we can’t move Virginia’s energy policies into the 21st century without working to engage Dominion as a partner. I’m always happy to sit down and talk to Dominion. But I’m not interested in its financial backing.

Learn more about my campaign at

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Arlington Co. Board Votes to Preserve Gulf Branch Nature Center

Michael Laris reports in today's Washington Post:
The Arlington County Board passed a budget last night that increases the real estate tax rate 2.7 cents and restores some unpopular proposed cuts.

Board members increased the general fund operating budget by $5.4 million over the one for this fiscal year to $946.8 million, officials said. The rate increase will bump the average homeowner's property tax bill from $4,501 to $4,551, based on a new rate of 87.5 cents for every $100 of assessed value, county officials said.

Board members reversed a plan to demolish the Gulf Branch Nature Center and partially or completely restored library hours for three branches. But recreation centers' hours and other services were scaled back, and officials cut 95 positions countywide. All of those employees have found other county jobs or taken voluntary severance packages, officials said.
Congratulations to the thousands of Arlingtonians who rallied to save Gulf Branch!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Rep. Boucher Working to Weaken Clean Energy Legislation

From The New Republic on Rep. Henry Waxman's American Clean Energy and Security Act:
In particular, watch the coal-state Democrats, led by Virginia's Rick Boucher, who are pressuring Waxman to weaken the short-term emissions targets, so that coal-heavy utilities will have more time to develop carbon-capture technology and be able to compete with renewable power. It's not that they're necessarily worried the targets for emission cuts by 2020 are unrealistic on some macro level. Rather, they're worried that the coal industry will play only a tiny role in a low-carbon future if it's not given ample time to adjust. The flipside, of course, is that most climate scientists don't think we have time to dally around.
As a ratepayer, I don't think we have time to dally around, either. Dominion Virginia Power raised our rates 18 percent in September, 1.5 percent in January and now wants to raise them another 7 percent, all in large part due to higher coal prices and the huge cost of building new coal-fired power plants.

Who's Rep. Boucher really looking out for -- coal states? Or corporate coal polluters?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Scene from the Sidewalk: Sign & Sustainability

On Saturday, I dropped off a yard sign at a supporter's home on George Mason Drive (his dog, Paco, came out to supervise). Andrew has solar panels that provide most of his home's electricity, even watching his electric meter spin backwards on sunny summer days. He's planning to add a few more to try to get off of Dominion's coal-fired power as much as possible. And of course, don't forget the Honda Civic Hybrid in the driveway.

If you'd like a Miles Grant for Delegate yard sign, email us!

Paco & His Yard Sign

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gore Lays the Smackdown on Ignorant Republican

For my day job with the National Wildlife Federation, I live-blogged Friday's House Energy & Commerce Committee hearings on the Waxman-Markey clean energy bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009.

This was the quintessential moment of the hearings -- a Republican ignorantly spouting off about something he or she didn't know about, then getting smacked down by Al Gore:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Must-Read: "Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate"

Andrew Revkin's jaw-dropping article in today's New York Times:
For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming.

“The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.

But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.

“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.
I always figured Big Oil and Big Tobacco shared a similar smokescreen. But this article is stunning confirmation.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Miles Grant for Delegate in 90 Seconds

Via Lowell at Blue Virginia, here's my opening statement from last night's candidate forum in race for the Democratic nomination for House of Delegates here in Arlington's 47th district:

Friday, April 17, 2009

From Washington, VA to Washington, DC: Tracking Local Food

Check out this CNN story tracking food from an organic farm in Washington, VA to a farmers market in Washington, DC! To find a farmers market near you, visit's interactive farmers market map.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Shad Planking Sign Wars: What a Waste

This is not a criticism of Terry McAuliffe or his campaign. This is a criticism of the Virginia political establishment that gives credit to the "winner" of the sign wars at the Shad Planking.

Why should a candidate get any favorable attention for lining the road to a single event with a reported 25,000 signs -- roughly 10 per attendee? It's not a show of force, it's a tone-deaf display of wastefulness and excess:

Can't we let candidates impress us with other things? Like, say, their positions on issues?

I'm certainly not claiming total innocence on this one -- my
campaign for House of Delegates has ordered yard signs of its own. Our goal was to order just 500 yard signs (most shops have a 1,000-sign minimum and we have no use for that many) that were printed on recycled material (and were ultimately recyclable) and printed in a union shop. But we weren't able to find a shop that could meet all of our needs , so we had to settle for the smaller order printed in a union shop.

If you live in the 47th district and want Miles Grant for Delegate yard sign, email me! More MG09 schwag can be found at our CafePress store.

Tonight in Ballston: NRECA Energy Forum

The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) is hosting an "Energy Town Hall Meeting" in Ballston tonight. The press release is pretty clear about the meeting's intentions -- "power" = coal, and we should be burning as much of it as possible for as long as possible:
Recent reports warn that Virginia and Maryland (among other states) are running out of power and may face rolling blackouts as early as 2011. At the same time Congress and the new Administration have vowed to address climate change, which could make it harder to build new power plants. Can technology help get us out of this jam? How? Which technologies should we be funding?
The "recent reports" is actually one report, and it was produced in an attempt to justify Dominion Virginia Power's new $1.4 billion transmission line. And President Obama's climate & energy plans would only make it more expensive to build new fossil fuel-based power plants. NRECA knows President Obama wants to make solar and wind power plentiful and affordable -- a major threat to its coal interests, so they're trying to focus on "technology" -- translation, "clean" coal.

Here are the details on the event:
When: April 16, 2009, 5:00 p.m. – Energy Efficiency Expo, 7:00 p.m. – Energy Town Hall Meeting

Kojo Nnamdi, WAMU, Moderator
Glenn English, CEO, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
Manik Roy, VP for Federal Affairs, Pew Center for Climate Change
Brian Castelli, Executive VP for Programs & Development, Alliance to Save Energy
Jay Fisette, Vice-Chairman, Arlington County Board

Where: NRECA Building, 4301 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia

The public is invited to an Arlington Energy Town Hall Meeting to discuss how the nation ensures we have the power we need in the future. WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi will moderate a panel discussion and public Q&A.
In case you were wondering, the "Alliance to Save Energy" is a virtual who's who of big polluters, from ExxonMobil to Dow Chemicals.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NWF Action Fund Event at Ben's Next Door

Just got home from a fundraiser for the National Wildlife Federation Action Fund. It took place at Ben's Next Door, the new upscale companion to DC icon Ben's Chili Bowl.

I've had some fun capturing events primarily through pictures of food, so I thought I'd snap this one -- the urban flavor of Ben's Chili Bowl half smokes with some outdoors necessities, a cap and Bud Light:

NWF Action Fund Event

Scene from the Sidewalk: Star Magnolia in Lyon Park

Continuing the Scene from the Sidewalk series, here's a beautiful star magnolia I passed in Lyon Park while canvassing for my campaign. I only wish I could post the smell -- the blossoms made the whole block smell like fresh flowers.

Star Magnolia

Monday, April 13, 2009

Scene from the Sidewalk: Sunset Over Westover

With a hat tip to Andrew Sullivan's The View from Your Window, I'll be posting some photos from around Arlington as I canvass neighborhoods during my campaign for House of Delegates. We'll call it Scene from the Sidewalk. (Get it? Scene/seen? It's the best I could do on short notice.)

Here's the view from Kensington & 11th, with Westover Baptist Church in the background:

Sunset Over Westover

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Agribusiness Attacks Obama Organic Garden

Busy day here at Miles Grant for Delegate Campaign HQ -- just taught The Green Mom to play Wii Tennis, now we're hoping the rain ends in time for this afternoon's canvass.

But I had to take a minute to pass along this article (via TPM):
Michelle Obama planted an organic garden to promote fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet, but some chemical companies are worried it may plant a seed of doubt in consumers’ minds about conventionally grown crops. [...]

MACA, which represents agribusinesses like Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences and DuPont Crop Protection, is rather less thrilled about the fact that no chemicals will be used to grow the crops. The group is worried that the decision may give consumers the wrong impression about conventionally grown food.

“We live in a very different world than that of our grandparents. Americans are juggling jobs with the needs of children and aging parents,” the letter states. “The time needed to tend a garden is not there for the majority of our citizens, certainly not a garden of sufficient productivity to supply much of a family’s year-round food needs.”
Talk about setting up a straw-man argument. Who says a garden is supposed to be your family's only source of food? Don't have time to garden? Who says you have to -- shop at a farmers market or buy organic at the grocery store.

Once victory gardens were a sign of patriotism. Now agribusiness wants you to think they're a sign of weakness. Really makes you wonder whose best interests they're looking out for.

Friday, April 10, 2009

WalkArlington Video: The Barcroft Neighborhood

UPDATE 4/13: OK, well, it WAS a cool video, but now YouTube says it has been "removed by user."

Here's a great video looking at the history of the Barcroft neighborhood. Especially interesting are the details about Four Mile Run and the Barcroft Community Center, once a one-room schoolhouse:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Just in Time for BBQ Weather ...

Here's an organic option I'd never noticed before ... Annie's Organic BBQ Sauce:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Monday, April 6, 2009

Sun Gazette Calls Out County on Gulf Branch

Want to make anyone involved in Arlington County government visibly uncomfortable? Bring up the proposal to close Gulf Branch Nature Center. Both County Board members and county employees get very defensive at the mere mention of Gulf Branch.

Today, the Sun Gazette calls shenanigans:
THUMBS DOWN: To those county officials who have yet to offer a cogent explanation for why Gulf Branch Nature Center is about to be closed.

Clearly, it’s not about money. The less than $150,000 budgeted for the facility is peanuts in a spending package that tiptoes up to $1 billion. There are plenty of ways to find that money, and much more, in the crevices of the county manager’s proposed spending plan.

If it’s not about money, what is the reason? The argument that there’s a nature center nearby doesn’t wash with us; that facility, Potomac Overlook Regional Park, is a fine place, but is operated by the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, which has no specific duty to Arlingtonians. Comparing Gulf Branch and Potomac Overlook is like comparing apples and oranges.

Barring a better explanation, we don’t know why County Board members would move forward with the proposal to close the nature center at this point.
I have no inside knowledge of discussions on Gulf Branch, so this is complete speculation. But it was surprising that county first proposed not just temporarily closing or cutting back at Gulf Branch but demolishing it. That leap made it hard not to get the impression, as the Sun Gazette and many others have, that some in county government may not be so sad to see Gulf Branch go.

If that's the case, the county should've just said "Gulf Branch doesn't fit our long-term plans, period." That would've involved taking a small public relations hit, but now the county is setting itself up for a much bigger hit from the nearly 3,000 people who are rallying to save Gulf Branch.

Roanoke Times Rips "McDonnell's Single-Minded Focus on Coal, Oil and Other Fossil Fuels"

Via Lowell's Blue Virginia, the Roanoke Times editorial board blasts presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee Bob McDonnell's "1950s" energy plan:
McDonnell needs to realize that if Virginia wants to become the energy capital of America, the commonwealth must look to the future of renewable energy. The state simply doesn't have huge reserves of fossil fuels.

Take coal, for example. The National Mining Association estimates that Virginia has about 770 million tons of recoverable coal. Compare that to the 17.6 billion tons in West Virginia, or the 75 billion tons in Wyoming.

Oil is perhaps worse. In an online chart of proven reserves published by the U.S. Department of Energy, Virginia doesn't even merit an entry. Even if the most optimistic estimates of offshore reserves prove accurate, Virginia would be a minor player.
Check out the coal and oil reserve maps at ShowUSA. Even states like Iowa and Alabama have better shot at being the "coal capital" than Virginia. And forget about oil -- Virginia vanishes from the top 25 altogether.

Now look at the renewable energy map. The first thing you notice is that renewable resources are much more equitably spread among the states than fossil fuel deposits. The next thing is that while Virginia ranks 18th on the list, it's not a distant 18th -- and as a tech leader, Virginia is in much better position to take full advantage of the resources we have than other states ahead of us on the list. And if we do take advantage of Virginia's clean energy resources, we can create jobs, lower consumers' energy bills and preserve our planet.

Every Democratic candidate -- Creigh Deeds, Terry McAuliffe, and Brian Moran -- understands this. Bob McDonnell doesn't get it. We need to make sure voters know that in November.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Breaking News: Murky Coffee to Close

I bring good news and bad news. Bad news first:
Dear valued customer,

It's with great sadness that I announce that in a few weeks, murky coffee will be relocating from here in Clarendon to a new location in Washington DC.

The property here at 3211 Wilson Boulevard was sold last year, and market rent is simply more than we can afford.
Sad, but not unexpected. As first reported last year, Murky was not so good at paying its taxes.

Now the good news:
In the coming months, I hope that you'll join us in welcoming a new coffee shop here, brought by the talented folks at the renown Liberty Tavern just up the street. They'll be bringing their years of experience, a full renovation of the building, and top-quality service. We are proud to call them our friends, and plan to support them in setting up their coffee program. That said, we ask that you'll join us in welcoming and supporting them.
Liberty has quickly emerged as one of Clarendon's hottest nightspots (in no small part because it's smoke-free). I'd been worried about this location turning into a Starbucks when Murky closed, but there's strong reason to hope Liberty's owners can keep the Common Grounds/Murky Coffee tradition alive!

What Recession? Dominion Wants Raises, Guaranteed Profits

"The sustainability of our economic development successes are dependent on having a reliable energy source," -- Delacey Skinner, Gov. Tim Kaine's communications director, talking about coal-fired power, March 31, 2008
I think of that quote every time I hear about how our continued dependence on coal-fired power is hurting consumers and businesses and leaving Virginians in the dark.

The only thing dependable these days about coal-fired power is that it keeps getting more expensive. And the only thing reliable is Dominion's guaranteed profits:
RICHMOND, March 31 -- Dominion Virginia Power is seeking to raise electricity rates 6.9 percent during the next 14 months to pay for equipment, salaries, plant construction and conservation projects. [...]

Dominion said incremental increases proposed for Sept. 1 and Jan. 1 will pay for operating costs, power plants in Buckingham and Wise counties and conservation programs. The increase also includes a 13.5 percent profit for the company and its investors.
Dominion: Global Warming Starts HereAt a time when Virginia businesses are laying off workers, Dominion is asking them to divert more money away from their payrolls and towards Dominion's payroll and profit.

The proposed 7 percent hike would be on top of the 18 percent rate increase we just got hit with in September. Oddly, the Washington Post article doesn't mention the 1.5 percent fee Dominion quietly added in January to cover the cost of the new $2 billion coal-fired power plant in Wise County. Compounding the rate hikes, it would be more than a 28 percent total increase.

But surely our elected officials will take a stand for consumers ... right?
Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), who does not have a formal role in reviewing the request, said Dominion officials informed him they would be seeking an increase.

"The SCC is a strong body with a great staff, and I think they will do due diligence on this," he said. "It's difficult because the cost of energy is going up."
Wow. Dominion wants to raise customers' energy bills more than 28 percent in the worst economy since the Great Depression, and all Gov. Kaine can muster is a shrugging "well, what're ya gonna do"?

Our continuing dependence on dirty coal is taking money out of consumers' pockets, costing Virginia jobs, stripping our natural resources, polluting our air, and warming our planet. Remember that the next time anyone tries to tell you we can't switch to clean energy.