Jennifer Lewis: Say yes to solar

Jennifer LewisAs someone who has been fighting against the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline for five years, I was excited to hear about the proposed solar project in Augusta County.  Climate change is real.  It is the number one threat to humanity.  We need to take drastic measures to address climate change and get rid of toxic non-renewable fossil fuels, like fracked natural gas, and move towards a cleaner future with renewable sources like solar power.

One thing that disappoints me is the opposition to the proposed solar project.  It is on private property and I am an advocate and strong supporter of private property rights.  I’m baffled as to why landowners are being told by elected officials that they can’t control what happens on their land and are determining how landowners make an income.  Obviously, zoning laws are important but this abuse of power is overreaching and unnecessary.

We have a private, for-profit company proposing a gas pipeline, that landowners can’t say no to because Dominion will sue them.  Dominion has spent millions of dollars over the years paying off some of our elected officials to be able to abuse eminent domain.  Solar panels don’t explode or leak.  When a pipeline explodes or leaks, it pollutes the surrounding water, land and air, causes damages, injury and death.  Dominion has said the gas will only last 10 to 15 years, whereas the solar projects are contracted for 35 years.  Shouldn’t we as a community want to invest in long term, forward-thinking projects instead of outdated, short-lived expensive projects that violate private property rights and threaten our water and environment?

I am proud that my Dad is proposed to get 20 acres of solar panels on his farmland in upstate New York.  He will see a steady income for the next 30 years and if and when he wants to return the land to farming, he easily can.  If we don’t take great steps to protect our farmland, it could be re-zoned and sold off for development and once that land is turned into townhouses or a strip mall, you can’t turn back into farmland.  I want to give farmers as many options to make money on their land without having to develop it – that’s why I enthusiastically support solar (and hemp but that’s a different letter!).

Jennifer Lewis is the Democratic Party nominee for the 20th House of Delegates seat in the 2019 general election.

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