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Carlos Brown share’s his perspective on Dominion Energy’s evolution around environmental justice.
Carlos Brown headshot

As we celebrate Earth Day this year, I can’t help feeling proud of Dominion Energy’s environmental accomplishments. This is important to me not just because of my role at Dominion Energy, but on a very personal level.

I grew up in Hampton Roads, Virginia, where many of my family have worked the shipyards since even before the American Revolution. The shipyards have always provided a way for people who often did not have high levels of formal education to make a good living, climb the economic ladder, and give their children even greater opportunities. The shipyards — like so many industries — created great opportunity for working-class families but also imposed on our environment prior to modern environmental regulation.

Our challenge today is how to continue to create economic growth and opportunities for hard-working people to realize the American Dream without giving an inch on safety, health, or the environment. And to do so through a process that is sensitive, collaborative, and concerned with everyone’s interests. Our country is an imperfect union and it has not always done that. But those of us here today can.

"No one should have to compromise their health, safety, clean air, or clean water just to make a living or to see economic growth."

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One area where we at Dominion Energy are putting our beliefs into action is “environmental justice,” or EJ for short. EJ seeks to use purposeful, sincere, inclusive collaboration to ensure that communities have a meaningful voice in our development process regardless of race, color, national origin, or income.

Our focus on EJ has been driven by the harsh realization that there were opportunities for us to improve. Of course, Dominion Energy has always been scrupulous about due diligence. We have always conducted EJ reviews when they were required for a permit. But we did not always think about EJ as expansively as we could have. As a result, after-action reviews revealed some gaps in how we worked with local interests.

pollinator flower under power lines

So we launched a deliberate effort to become more educated, informed, and aware. We reached out to experts in the EJ field. We listened to concerned communities. We developed a formal EJ policy. And because we know actions speak louder, we set about ingraining environmental justice in our everyday work to make it a part of everyone’s job.

Since then we have held several training sessions, trained more than 500 employees, and developed rigorous internal processes to ensure accountability and follow-through.

What do these changes look like in practice?

person walking at a solar site

Not long ago, as we were planning an electric transmission project in Fairfax, Virginia, our EJ scanning process uncovered some large ethnic-minority populations. So we translated our materials into Spanish and Vietnamese, and we identified culturally relevant community groups to connect with and gathering places to share information. A few years ago, we might have missed those segments of the community. Digging deeper makes a difference.

And let me stress that environmental justice is not simply about avoiding harm. It also is about creating positive outcomes and finding win-win opportunities. Our company delivers a vital service to society. Our customers need the energy we provide to live their lives. Building and maintaining the infrastructure to serve them is critical.

So the real question is not whether to provide critical services, but how to do it in a way that is even more environmentally sustainable, socially just, and economically inclusive. That means creating good jobs for communities that would benefit from economic development. As we lead the transition to a clean and sustainable energy future, we have to make sure nobody is left behind. One way we are doing that is through our support of programs like the one at Tidewater Community College, which trains workers for renewable-energy projects.

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