After studying in Iceland and working in Indonesia, coming back home to Prince William County was nothing short of a culture shock.
I left the county after graduating from Patriot High School in 2015 and headed to Virginia Tech where, soon after graduation, I went abroad to complete climate change and clean energy research. These opportunities allowed me to see firsthand the stark contrast between the response of the U.S. to the climate crisis and that of other countries.
Once I returned home, I realized how much work needs to be done here in PWC. I believe the climate resolution put forward by Supervisor Boddye and the directive by Board Chair Wheeler at last month’s Board of Supervisors meeting are a great place to start.
One of the key goals in Supervisor Boddye’s resolution is to transition 100% of Prince William County’s electricity to renewable energy sources by 2035. This will have many benefits for our community outside of reducing emissions and bettering air quality. Bringing renewable energy into our county will also save the county money, create local jobs, advance local resilience to the climate crisis, and expand renewable energy access to low-income residents.
Cost savings have already been seen in other Northern Virginia counties, such as Arlington county, whose energy program focused on energy efficiency upgrades and community solar among others, has saved government, residents and businesses more than $4 million annually in avoided utility costs. It also represents a step forward in adapting to the national economic shift toward the renewable energy industry.
Another important mention in Supervisor Boddye’s resolution includes the need to incorporate equity and environmental justice principles into the county’s Comprehensive Plan. This addition forges a commitment to low-income PWC residents, including those of color, who disproportionately experience the dangerous effects of climate change. Residents living in mobile home parks, for example, have been especially exposed to flooding as a result of tropical storms, leaving many residents displaced after their trailer homes have been destroyed.
Also last month, Chair Wheeler directed her staff to come up with an initial framework to create a climate action plan within 6-12 months. While this directive is promising, I strongly encourage the staff to look for ways to expedite this timeline by collaborating with neighboring counties who have already developed and enacted sustainability and energy plans. These counties have much to share with PWC and they’re well on their way to achieving their sustainability goals and the resulting economic benefit.
As a leader with The Greater Prince William Climate Action Network, I voice my concern in solidarity with Mothers Out Front PWC, Youth Climate Action PWC, and Active PW. I write to ask the County Board to unanimously approve Supervisor Boddye’s resolution at the November 17 board meeting and come together to set focused sustainability goals for our county.
I also encourage PWC residents to speak up at the Nov. 17 Board meeting in support of the climate resolution proposed by Supervisor Boddye, to ensure future generations of PWC grow up in a county we are proud to call home. Sign up here to comment at the meeting, by 5 p.m. on Nov. 16: https://survey.alchemer.com/s3/6025218/Nov-17-2020-BOCS
Meredith Holland is a research assistant with su-re.co and a 2019 graduate of the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment.