With coal country to the west and coastline to the east, Virginia finds itself in a tight spot in the fight against climate change. One foundation in the state is supporting work to clamp down on carbon emissions in the region.
WestWind Foundation is a relatively small funder based in Charlottesville, Virginia that is fighting the “war on coal” right in its own backyard, running an entirely climate-focused environment program that focuses on the U.S. South. The foundation, which arose from the sale of a family’s express shipping company to FedEx, gave about $1.7 million to environmental issues last year, and since 2006 has been locked onto climate and fossil fuels.
One of its main priorities has been to stop the construction of new coal-fired power plants in the region, empowering states and local governments to take action.
While Virginia isn’t quite as coal-centric as some of its neighbors, particularly in the southwest of the state, the industry has strong footing, making for a tough but important fight. As such, a big part of the funder’s strategy is in organizing the public, working with business, and building coalitions.
WestWind gave about a quarter million in grants specifically to environmental work in Virginia last year, and about $800,000 in environmental grants in the South.
One of its largest grantees was the Southern Environmental Law Center, which works in policy, regulation enforcement, and litigation. Appalachian Voices in North Carolina also received funding for its work on clean water, stopping mountaintop removal mining, and preventing coal ash pollution. And the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy in Tennessee landed six figures for its work in the region.
Note, however, that while the funder does place an emphasis on this region, giving is not limited to the South. In fact, WestWind has been giving to prevent anti-coal work in Alaska, programs in Canada, and efforts to prevent Tar Sands development.