by Barry Vesser and Laurie-Ann Barbour
On a wet December evening about 100 environmental activists assembled by Sonoma County Conservation Council & Sierra Club Sonoma Group to honor the environmentalist of the year – Woody Hastings, the Energy Program Manager at The Climate Center. Woody was honored for his work on the initiative to start Sonoma Clean Power and also for his recent work on an initiative to stop the development of new gas stations in Sonoma County.
Woody joined The Climate Center in 2010 to help get the establishment of Sonoma Clean Power over the finish line. It was a heavy lift, and Woody drew on his past experience as a community organizer, staff member to an elected official, and clean energy professional, while never seeking the limelight for his efforts. Woody gave hundreds of presentations on Community Choice Energy and attended dozens of public meetings all over the county. He worked tirelessly educating elected officials, civic organizations, and the general public about the benefits of Community Choice. His personable and deeply knowledgable approach won many new supporters to the initiative for Sonoma Clean Power. Woody has great intuition about when to lead and when to follow.
In May of 2014, Sonoma Clean Power went live. Their electricity is 47% less greenhouse gas-intensive and less expensive than PG&E’s, saving customers some $80 million. They have also created meaningful programs in our community like Drive EV and the Advance Energy Rebuild project, which continue to help local residents while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Early on, Woody saw the potential for local renewable resources to reduce emissions and provide real local benefits to the community. He participated in a pioneering effort in 2011 funded by the California Energy Commission to identify the local clean energy resources in Sonoma County that would be the most effective to develop. Woody has also stayed engaged attending most of Sonoma Clean Power’s board meetings for the last 5 years.
More recently, Woody has spent personal time working with others to prevent new gas stations from being built in Sonoma County. There was a station proposed on County land near Cotati at the intersection of Hwy 116 and Stony Point Rd. Locals had started organizing, knocking on doors, and sending letters when Woody got involved. Soon, because of Woody, there was a Google Group, petitions, and regular emails keeping a wider circle of people informed about what to do. When the developer held a public meeting, Woody and other activists spread the word and filled the room. Shortly after that meeting, the developer withdrew their application. As Woody said, “Sometimes we win!”. And then he organized a celebration party.
Woody is continuing this effort, now trying stop a proposed gas station at the intersection of Llano Rd. and Hwy 12. Once again, Woody is busy circulating petitions and sending out emails keeping others informed and activated.
Woody and his wife, June, are movers and shakers in the environmental activist community in Sonoma County, and they walk the talk. They have invested in energy efficiency upgrades and installed solar at their house in Sebastopol, and they drive a plug-in hybrid. They own one car and Woody usually takes public transportation into the office in Santa Rosa. In the last year Woody has sworn off flying, so when he needs to take a long trip he takes the train.
When Woody accepted the award, he talked about the work that still needed to be done and encouraged people to fight the new gas station being proposed. Woody’s advice for aspiring activists is, “Don’t let the highs get too high, so that when the lows come, they won’t be too low” and to always keep a sense of humor.
Woody is someone who has led the battle to address climate change on many levels in Sonoma County and has gone on to make significant contributions to the Community Choice Energy movement across California for the Climate Center. We are proud of our colleague and his dedication to help local communities and the planet.