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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Virginia Capitol Police arrest coal ash protestors at state capital

Michigan and Texas aren't the only states with water issues. About 200 protestors marched down the streets of Richmond, Virginia and demonstrated on the steps of State Capitol Saturday afternoon to protest Dominion Power's plans to dump millions of coal ash into the James River.

Eight people were arrested after demands by Virginia Capital police for the group to disperse after the group's 3:00 p.m. permit expired. Several protestors, ignoring those demands, linked arms together and remained on the capitol steps.  They were arrested one-by-one and charged with trespassing.

Virginia Capitol Police make arrests during demonstration to repeal
coal ass disbursement in Richmond, Virginia's James River.  Photo/CD Brown.
"I'm terrified to get arrested", said Meagan Neal one of the first protestors to get arrested.  "I don't want to be arrested but I also don't want coal ash in the James River and people have to stand up for that", Neal said.

Those arrested were given a summons to appear before a judge where they will have the opportunity to plead guilty, or not, to trespassing charges.

Repeal and rewrite

Protestors said they want the DEQ to repeal and rewrite permits that would allow Dominion to dispurse coal ash into the James River.

Federal regulations are requiring utility companies to close ponds were coal ash has been stored. Dominion currently has 11 such ponds and will need to rid those ponds, making the James River a likely dumping ground.

Dominion released the following statement on their website: "Dominion is committed to keeping the waterways in our communities clean. Closing the ash ponds will keep our rivers safe by preventing coal ash pond failures from occurring."   (Read more here).

Saturday's protestors demanded to speak to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who protestors say agrees with Dominion's plans.

"He promised to be a green governor then agreed to the ACP pipeline which is totally not for the environment", said Tatiane McCormick, of No ACP.

McAuliffe was not at the State Capitol and is Washington to attend the National Governor's Association Dinner.

Organizers have created an online petition that supporters can sign by texting "COALASH" to 384-70.

Photos from Saturday's coal ash demonstration.  Photos/CD Brown.
"This is something that if we don't address, they're going to continue to poison our children and influence our legislature", said Bob Brown, a graduate student who participated in the march.   "This is no longer an environmentalist issue, this is a bipartisan issue.  People are really understanding that this goes beyond idealogy or political party", he said.

The protest is reminscent of the relevation of the Flint Michigan water crisis. A protestor at Saturday's demonstration carried a sign that read, 'Are we the next Flint Michigan?'

"If we can't have clean water, we have nothing", said Andrew Tyler, a Cherokee and Pamunkey Indian.  "Water is necessary for the sustenance of life", he said.

See also
2012 White House response to coal ash
Helpful: 20 point list of priorities to Flint water crisis 

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