On Friday, April 8, 2016, students from across the Commonwealth of Virginia held a meaningful discussion with state regulators, officials, and peers on how our state will help meet the US climate commitment of 30% cuts in global warming emissions by 2030. 

The VA Power Dialog was motivated by the historic international climate agreement reached in December 2015 in Paris and by the Clean Power Plan, a set of rules established in August 2015 by the US EPA designed to decrease carbon emissions from electric power plants. Though the Supreme Court granted a stay, effectively halting implementation of the Clean Power Plan until legal challenges can be resolved in court, the state of Virginia plans to meet its clean power commitment.

One day after the Supreme Court decision, Governor McAuliffe stated, “we will stay on course and continue to develop the elements for a Virginia plan to reduce carbon emissions and stimulate our clean energy economy” (Szkotak, 2016). The VA DEQ is currently in the process of developing a State Implementation Plan for Virginia.

We are proud of the hundreds of students and citizens who came out to Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Richmond to discuss a topic that will determine not only their future, but also the future of our planet.

Special thanks to our student panelists and the members of the organizing team, which had representatives from 12 Virginia colleges and universities.

Overview of the Day

The day’s activities began in the morning at VCU. Opportunities to learn and connect, including a networking breakfast, Clean Power Plan overview, and morning dialogue with elected students, marked the day. Speakers included Dawone Robinson with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Michael Dowd with DEQ, Will Cleveland with the Southern Environmental Law Center, and Katharine Bond with Dominion Power.

In the afternoon, the “anchor event”  of the Power Dialog included an introduction from University of Richmond President Crutcher, a keynote from DEQ Director David K. Paylor on the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, and a discussion on opportunities and challenges presented by the Clean Power Plan with Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources Angela Navarro. Student representatives from colleges and universities throughout Virginia engaged invited state officials in a series of questions. Following the student-led panel discussion, the floor was opened to attendees.

The discussion concluded with “Conversations on Clean Energy and the Virginia Environment,” a social event in which organizations, campus initiatives, and students were encouraged to showcase their work. Light snacks were served while student groups, classes, and local agencies displayed posters and chatted with attendees. 

The VA Power Dialog was one of a number of statewide dialogs coordinated by the Bard Center for Environmental Policy to give “students a voice in critical decisions that will determine their future, and the future of the earth.”


Szkotak, S. (2016, February 10).Despite US setback, Virginia moving forward on ‘Clean Power.’ The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com.