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Dany Fleming

Dany Fleming

Yes, I support adding "environmentally sustainable" to Section 8-1-8 of the Code of the City of Harrisonburg governing our municipally-owned utility, Harrisonburg Electric Commission (HEC).
In many ways, Harrisonburg and HEC have long been leaders and innovators in providing reliable and well-run services for Harrisonburg residents. It's something that has come to define Harrisonburg throughout Virginia. Now, Harrisonburg has another opportunity to continue being a leader and innovator in creating a sustainable and healthy community into the future - and that begins with actions we take now.

Harrisonburg's Environmental Action Plan (EAP) is a good start to the city's commitment to sustainability. The EAP is the result of hard work, dedication and sound research from many local experts, and was unanimously approved by City Council. However, to be fully committed as a city, the EAP vision and plan also needs to be explicitly directed to HEC within our city code. As described in the 50x25 Steering Committee's letter "Harrisonburg Must Become Sustainable" letter and outlined in the Community Perspective article in The Citizen "Harrisonburg Can't Move Forward on Sustainability without HEC," (https://hburgcitizen.com/2022/05/28/community-perspective-harrisonburg-cant-move-forward-on-sustainability-without-hec/), specifically and intentionally moving towards "environmentally sustainable" solutions is a matter of good economics for residents, sound business operations, and a critical step for a healthy community and environment.

75 years ago, Harrisonburg established HEC with much opposition from Dominion Energy (named VEPCO, at the time). Dominion used aggressive scare-tactics in the local media to try to convince residents that creating a municipally-owned utility would result in electrical outages in the city and would become an economic catastrophe for the city budget and taxpayers. Dominion suggested that HEC would not be able to operate in an "orderly, economic, and businesslike" manner, as is written in our city code. Fortunately, city residents saw through that tactic and voted to create HEC, a utility owned by the city. Since then, HEC has met and exceeded that initial directive and provided continuous and reliable electricity.

75 years ago, city leaders also could not foresee the environmental concerns and available solutions that confront today's HEC. Today, we know that we can and must take into account our impact on the environment. We also know that issues of sustainability and energy often have far greater impacts on our most vulnerable populations and communities of color - both as a health and financial concern. Just like its initial directive, I know that HEC will be able to meet today's needs and exceed our goal of being "environmentally sustainable" and " orderly, economic, and businesslike."