Three DivestUMW students detained during Richmond sit-in
By EMILY HOLLINGSWORTH
Three members of DivestUMW received summons for trespassing last Monday, March 7 at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in Richmond after participating in a sit-in with other students from Virginia universities. There were 17 students in total who received the summons.
The students, Sarah Kinzer, sophomore English major, Rabib Hasan, senior political science major and Katie Armstrong, junior and geography major, were issued the summons with 14 other Virginia students from different universities, including the University of Virginia, the College of William & Mary, Virginia Tech and Virginia Commonwealth University.
The students held the sit-in in the department’s lobby, located on 629 East Main St. in Richmond. Once the summons were given, police removed the students from the property. None of the students were held in jail, according to Kinzer.
All of the students who received the charges will go to court on May 11 for trial. DivestUMW and other Virginia university students, in conjunction with members of Virginia Student Environmental Coalition, began the rally by sending three demands to David Paylor, the department’s director.
The demands were that the department repeal permits issued to Dominion Virginia Power to dump coal ash wastewater from the company’s Bremo Power Station and Possum Point power plant, that the department re-issue the current permits only after an investigation of untreated wastewater dumped into Quantico Creek in 2015 is conducted, and that the permits for coal ash wastewater release are rewritten to comply with the Clean Water Act for the best available technology standards.
The demands also asked that a mechanism for an independent third party monitoring of the permits is implemented.
Paylor was first appointed as director of the Department of Environmental Quality in 2006 by Governor Tim Kaine. He was later appointed by Governor Bob McDonnell in 2010 and Governor Terry McAuliffe in 2014.
Paylor is president of the Environmental Research Institute of the States and has been a field biologist, an aquatic ecologist, water resources manager, a director of petroleum programs and director of operations, according to the department’s website.
The 2015 incident in Quantico created concern as environmentalists worried that the wastewater would make its way into the Potomac and Quantico waterways, according to a report from The Washington Post. The department reportedly said that the plan was safe and that the two waterways would be protected.
A similar incident with coal ash from Duke Energy Carolinas in 2014, where a spill sent 39,000 tons of coal ash and approximately 25 million gallons of coal ash pond water into the Dan River and reached the Kerr Reservoir, led the company to pay $2.5 million to Virginia, according to the same report.
According to Kinzer, the recent development with Dominion Virginia Power is one reason DivestUMW wants to work to create fossil fuel divestment from UMW.
“This is why DivestUMW’s fight is so crucial,” Kinzer said. “Fossil fuel companies like Dominion have a commanding grasp over our governmental systems. We as an institution need to cut our ties with this industry that abuses our government in order to privilege its own profits over the safety of Virginians.”