Governor rings in new solar array

Demonstrators protest his support of Atlantic Coast Pipeline

From left, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources for the Governors Office Angela Navarro, U.Va. student Suchita Chharia, Governor Terry McAuliffe, U.Va. Executive Vice President and COO Pat Hogan and Sun Tribe Solar co-foiunder Taylor Brown were part of a ribbon cutting ceremony for new 126KW-AC solar panel array installation on the roof Clemens Library Tuesday at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. Sun Tribe Solar partnered with U.Va. on the project. The ceremony was part of U.Va.'s Earth Week celebration. Photo/Sun Tribe Solar

University Sustainability hosted the seventh annual Earth Week Expo featuring student research and interactive projects Tuesday. Gov. Terry McAuliffe joined the symposium for the Solar Ribbon Cutting ceremony commemorating the latest solar array on the roof of Clemons library, and during his remarks was interrupted by protesters.

The Earth Week Expo is a multi-organization event planned by the Committee on Sustainability Events Task Force. This committee involves Student Council Sustainability Committee representatives, the Office for Sustainability, U.Va. Dining, Madison House, Parking and Transportation and University Communications.

“The Earth Week Expo is the keynote Earth Week event,” said Nina Morris, the outreach and engagement program manager in the University Office for Sustainability. “Each year we try and create an event that reflects what’s happening around sustainability both at [the University] and in the wider community,”

The components of the Expo included interactive and educational displays, the solar ribbon cutting ceremony with McAuliffe and a student research symposium to show what University students are contributing to the future of sustainability. The entire event highlighted the University’s Greenhouse Gas Action Plan and the latest on-Grounds solar array.

The first half hour of the event featured several on-Grounds initiatives and organizations focused on sustainability. The latter part of the event featured a reception provided by U.Va. Dining and a student research symposium featuring sustainability and food-related student projects. The University Health System was present and shared several of their initiatives.

“We have made it possible for people at the hospital who have office supplies, [who] have a printer cartridge or half a box of pencils or pens that [they’re] not going to use anymore … [to] bring those in and leave them for other people to collect,” said Reba Camp, chair of the Health System Sustainability Committee. “You can also do your own shopping.”

Several student organizations were present at the event. Laura Cross, third-year College student and member of the Climate Action Society, shared that the society is rallying students to attend the Climate March in Washington, D.C. April 29.

“We have been organizing for this national march ... So that we can keep fighting here in our state on the issues that are impacting Virginia,” Cross said.

The presenters at the ceremony included Pat Hogan, the University’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, Angela Navarro, deputy secretary of natural resources at the Office of the Governor, Taylor Brown, co-founder of Sun Tribe Solar, Suchita Chharia, fourth-year College student and a student representative from the University’s Committee on Sustainability and McAuliffe.

All presenters reaffirmed a commitment to sustainability in the Commonwealth and at the University. Navarro spoke to the governor’s initiatives to ensure job growth in Virginia.

McAuliffe approached the podium to share his commitment to sustainability in the Commonwealth when a group of several student protesters from the University of Mary Washington Environmental Action Collective, an anti-fossil fuel activist group, interrupted his speech and called for him to address the Atlantic Coast Pipeline. The Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a federal project that will frack oil from West Virginia, was the subject of controversy throughout the governor’s visit. The construction of the pipeline is set to begin late 2017.

“The governor has zero say in the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, so if you want to protest, do what you’re supposed to do — go talk to FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission], which has 100 percent of the purging capacity,” McAuliffe said in response to the interruption.

Noah Goodwin, third-year student at the University of Mary Washington and a officer in the school’s Environmental Action Collective, commented on the group’s stance on McAuliffe’s position on the pipeline.

"Governor McAuliffe's lack of action on the pipeline and the influence Dominion Energy exerts on our governmental bodies is inexcusable,” Goodwin said. “We, as young Virginians, deserve to have a government looking out for us and our futures, and for all Virginians. We are grateful for the activists and organizers who have stood up to this unjust pipeline.”

Several other activist groups have approached the governor regarding the pipeline. McAuliffe is a proponent of the pipeline, as it will create manufacturing jobs and be a cheap source of energy for Virginia residents.

“There is some irony there that he is pushing for a pipeline while at the same time fighting for climate change,” Cross said.

McAuliffe said he has no control over the construction of the pipeline as it is a federal project and state Clean Water permits are by statute in the Virginia legislature. Still, protesters want the governor to use his authority to discourage the issuance of the state permits.

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