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Broad VA Coalition Pushing Climate Action

Coastal flooding is one of the issues moving a coalition of 50 separate Virginia groups to press for climate action. (NOAA)
Coastal flooding is one of the issues moving a coalition of 50 separate Virginia groups to press for climate action. (NOAA)
February 3, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. - A broad coalition is pushing Gov. Terry McAuliffe to speed the state's transition away from fossil fuels and interestingly, it's not just environmentalists.

A coalition of 50 groups wrote to the governor asking how his office will implement an Environmental Protection Agency plan to help slow climate change. The signers include civic, health, faith, and environmental groups.

Tram Nguyen is co-executive director of the New Virginia Majority, which often advocates for immigrants and people of color. She says the group became involved because its members are among the first in the state to be hurt by climate change.

"If you look at Hampton Roads and the effects of sea-level rise, oftentimes it's the communities of color, low-income communities in low-lying areas, that don't have the resources to deal with sea-level rise," she says.

A poll done for the Sierra Club last fall found that Virginia voters favor the EPA's Clean Power Plan by two to one. And the Rev. Faith Harris, vice-chair of Virginia Interfaith Power and Light, says there are theological arguments to support it.

She says the Bible is clear that people should care about what happens to their fellow human beings, even those in other parts of the world, and take care of the world itself.

"I worship and respect God also, through the way I care for that which God created and that which God cares about," says Harris.

Nguyen says environmental issues can't be seen separate from everything else. And for many of her group's members, she says the boundaries don't really exist.

"They are able to see the intersection between some of the pollution and the asthma that their children are experiencing, and then their lack of health care to address the asthma," says Nguyen.

Critics of the EPA's Clean Power Plan warn it will slow economic growth and jobs. Nguyen disagrees, and says not taking action to curb climate change is putting profits ahead of people.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA