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ADVERTORIAL | Pepco’s Commitment to Our Customers and the Climate

Bold action needed to reduce the emissions, build resilience

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Climate change poses a threat to all our communities. From coastal towns and riverfront communities, to urban centers and suburban neighborhoods, the frequency and severity of storms, heat waves, droughts and wildfires is increasing. Among the other extremes of the year 2020, it was also one of the two hottest years on record, tying with 2016. The need to take bold action to both reduce the emissions that drive climate change and build resilience for an unpredictable future is critical and Pepco is committed to doing its part. 

As the local electricity provider for the District of Columbia, we are connected to our customers and communities by more than just wires and recognize the role we can and must play in helping to drive actions with positive climate impact. And, while Pepco does not own power plants, we know there are actions we can take to reduce the greenhouse gas footprint of our own operations, including our buildings, fleet and grid, and help our customers and communities do the same. 

Pepco supports the District’s goal to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 and recently launched a Climate Change Commitment aligned with this effort. Pepco’s Climate Change Commitment includes more than 20 actions to help combat the climate crisis and drive its own greenhouse gas emissions down by 70 percent over the next five years. 

“Climate change is real, and we are seeing its many effects today,” notes Melissa Lavinson, senior vice president of Governmental and External Affairs for Pepco Holdings. “We need to take action now to ensure a clean and healthy environment for our families, our communities and future generations. And, for Pepco, it all starts with building a smarter, stronger and cleaner energy system and providing climate solutions that benefit all Washingtonians.”

The company is also exploring solutions as an energy delivery company that provides products and services to customers to enable them to take action to reduce their greenhouse gas footprint; and as a community partner that can enable programs and initiatives to help reduce energy use, build resilience and advance clean energy technologies, like local solar, electrified transportation and battery storage. 

Pepco is making land and roof space available for community solar projects to benefit limited-income customers and help the District meet its local solar goals. And, Pepco itself will switch to 100 percent clean and renewable electricity for electricity consumed in its own buildings and convert to energy-efficient lighting across its District properties by the end of 2025. 

To encourage all District residents to use energy more efficiently and drive down emissions in the built environment, Pepco collaborated with the District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment, the DC Sustainable Energy Utility, the District Government and more than 20 environmental, business and community groups to launch #ReduceEnergyUseDC to inspire residents to save energy, save money and help flight climate change. 

Pepco will also take action to create systemic changes to energy consumption and cultivate long-lasting consumer behaviors through a suite of energy efficiency programs that will be proposed to and considered by the DC Public Service Commission in 2021.

At the same time, Pepco is building out the infrastructure necessary to support greater electrification of taxis, rideshare vehicles, buses, and other vehicles in the District. Pepco, itself, will electrify half of its own passenger and medium-duty fleet by 2030.  The company also offers EV charging rates to its District customers and will support an innovative pilot to electrify food trucks. 

“Local energy delivery companies like Pepco are in the position to tackle climate change on a number of fronts, but we can’t do it alone,” says Lavinson. “Developing a unified approach to solve climate problems equitably, effectively and expeditiously is among the biggest challenges we face. By being a good partner and building a smarter, stronger and cleaner electric grid, we know we can be an important part of the change, and create good paying jobs for District residents, while expanding business opportunities for local businesses in the process.” 

As 2021 progresses, Pepco will be making similar commitments for its Maryland operations, customers, and communities. It will be building from existing initiatives such as EVSmart, which enables electrified transportation, its award winning EmpowerMD energy efficiency programs, which helps customers save energy and money, its pending Smart Streetlights proposal and its Sustainable Community Grants program. 

For more information on Pepco’s Climate Change Commitment and to track how the company is progressing toward it’s climate goals, visit: pepco.com/Climate.

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Virginia

Loudoun County removes LGBTQ book from school libraries

Superintendent overrules committee that called for retaining ‘Gender Queer: A Memoir’

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A Loudoun County, Va., School Board committee on Jan. 13 voted to uphold a decision by Loudoun County Public Schools Superintendent Scott A. Ziegler to remove from the school system’s high school libraries a controversial LGBTQ-themed book called “Gender Queer: A Memoir.”

The book is an illustrated autobiography by non-binary author Maia Kobabe that contains descriptions and comic book style drawings of sexual acts that e uses to tell the story of eir journey and struggle in discovering eir gender identity.

Although the book has received an American Library Association award for its relevance to young adults, critics in school systems throughout the country have said its sexually explicit content is not suitable for school libraries.  

The action by the School Board committee came after Ziegler asked a separate school system committee to review the book to determine if its content was appropriate for school libraries. Loudoun Public Schools spokesperson Wayde Byard told the Washington Post the committee, in a split vote, recommended that the book be retained in high school libraries.

According to Byard, Ziegler overruled the committee’s recommendation and ordered that the book be removed from the libraries. Byard said that decision was then appealed to a School Board appeals committee, which voted 3-0 to uphold Ziegler’s decision.

The decision by Ziegler to remove the book from school libraries took place about two months after Fairfax County, Va., Public Schools officials decided to return “Gender Queer” and another LGBTQ-themed book called “Lawn Boy” to their high school libraries after temporarily pulling the two books in response to complaints by some parents and conservative activists.

Two committees appointed by Fairfax school officials to review the two books that consisted of educators, school officials, parents, and students concluded that, while the books contained sexually explicit content, it did not cross the line as pornography or depictions of pedophilia as some opponents claimed.

“The decision reaffirms Fairfax County Public Schools’ ongoing commitment to provide diverse reading materials that reflect our student population, allowing every child an opportunity to see themselves reflected in literary characters,” a statement released by Fairfax school officials explaining their decision to retain the two books in their libraries said.

“Both reviews concluded that the books were valuable in their potential to reach marginalized youth who may struggle to find relatable literary characters that reflect their personal journey,” the statement says.

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Va. bill would restrict transgender students access to school bathrooms

State Del. John Avioli (R-Stanton) introduced House Bill 1126

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would restrict the ability of transgender students and school board employees to use bathrooms and other facilities in public schools that are consistent with their gender identity.

House Bill 1126, which state Del. John Avoli (R-Stanton) introduced, would require “each school board to adopt policies to require each student and school board employee to have access to restrooms, locker rooms and other changing facilities in public school buildings that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; lodging accommodations during school-sponsored trips that are shared only by members of the same biological sex; and a single-user restroom, locker room, or other changing facility in a public school building, upon request, if the school can reasonably accommodate such a request.”

Avoli introduced HB 1126 on Jan. 12 on the same day the Virginia General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office on Jan. 15.

State Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County) last month introduced Senate Bill 20, which would eliminate the requirement that school districts must implement the Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines. State Del. Danica Roem (D-Manassas), who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in any state legislature in the U.S., told the Washington Blade last week that she expects SB 20 “would be dead on arrival” in committee.

Equality Virginia, a statewide LGBTQ rights group, on its website notes HB 1126 is among the bills that it opposes.

Democrats still have a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, and they have signaled they will oppose any effort to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia. Outgoing Equality Virginia Executive Director Vee Lamneck last week said their organization “will work with the Senate’s pro-equality majority to act as a crucial back stop against harmful legislation and efforts to roll back our hard-earned wins passed during the last two years.”

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Equality Virginia announces new executive director

Narissa Rahaman will succeed Vee Lamneck

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Narissa Rahaman (Photo courtesy of Equality Virginia)

Equality Virginia on Saturday announced Narissa Rahaman will be the organization’s new executive director.

Rahaman, who was previously the Human Rights Campaign’s Associate Regional Campaign Director, will succeed outgoing Executive Director Vee Lamneck on Feb. 2. Rahaman was born in Barbados and raised in Florida.

“Narissa also has 10+ years of experience in long-term strategic planning, multi-state organizing efforts, coalition management, and staff development, which make her an exceptional individual for the role of executive director,” said Equality Virginia in its announcement. “We are confident that under her leadership, the organization’s success and impact will continue to flourish as will our commitment to racial justice.”

Equality Virginia announced Rahaman will succeed Lamneck on the same day that Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office amid concerns he will seek to curtail LGBTQ rights in Virginia.

Equality Virginia’s annual lobby day will take place virtually on Jan. 25. The organization’s annual Commonwealth Dinner is scheduled to take place in Richmond on March 26.

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