Yes, Virginia Will Reduce Climate Change and Grow Clean Energy

Terry McAuliffe has repeatedly confirmed he will take strong climate action as Governor of Virginia. 

Earlier this month, he again highlighted Virginia’s opportunity to strengthen its economy by reducing climate change.

Despite his continued battles with a polluter-friendly legislature (he has already vetoed bills that would have obstructed his action to reduce climate change pollution), McAuliffe is well-poised to move forward on his signature climate action initiative: writing a state plan to put the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan to work. In doing so, the Governor will single-handedly cut harmful pollution and stem the climate change driving sea level rise that is flooding Virginia’s coast, American military assets, and cultural gems like Tangier Island.

Here are the reasons why McAuliffe will be moving forward on the Clean Power Plan, regardless of the obstacles thrown up by big polluters in the legislature:

First, everyday Virginians, those that are ultimately in the driver’s seat of Virginia’s democracy, want climate action. In fact, 83 percent of Virginians want state-crafted plan to curb carbon emissions, and even more want added investments in energy efficiency and renewable power.

Second, Governor McAuliffe, as the representative of those people, has heard them loud and clear: he’s repeatedly affirmed his commitment to seizing the Clean Power Plan as his best opportunity to be a climate champion, while delivering a cleaner, safer, more reliable energy supply for the new Virginia economy.

He said so again recently, when he vetoed Senate Bill 21—which required any state plan to implement the Clean Power Plan receive approval from the General Assembly first. The governor called the state’s nascent effort a “necessary response to climate change and an opportunity to become a leader in clean energy.”

Third, despite polluter obstructionism, the entities charged with delivering electricity are ready to comply with the Clean Power Plan. Dominion Power, Virginia’s largest utility, recently filed a brief in federal court affirming that the Clean Power Plan is not only an achievable goal, but that its market-based approach is far preferable to other means of reducing harmful pollution. Indeed, Virginia has already drastically reduced its climate pollution and is poised to do more. In the coming weeks, both Dominion and Appalachian Power will submit their long-term energy plans, including how they will comply with (and do robust business under) the Clean Power Plan to reduce climate change pollution. If the entities in the business of supplying electricity aren’t playing politics with climate change, then the attempts by others to do so are doomed to fail.

Lastly, in addition to Virginians, Governor McAuliffe, and the electric utilities, the electricity market itself has proclaimed that reducing carbon pollution is here to stay, no matter how hard the polluters and climate deniers try to march us backwards into the past. Healthy, carbon-zero energy—from the wind and sun—is the fastest growing source of electricity in the nation. Governor McAuliffe and the vast majority of Virginians recognize that and are ready to reap those benefits while also halting climate chaos.

But big polluters and their big money are relentless: the latest effort by polluters and their allies in the General Assembly is a last minute amendment slipped into the State Budget to prevent Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality—the entity charged with protecting human health in Virginia—from addressing climate change pollution from its largest source (power plants) under the Clean Power Plan.

Like most actions of those who profit from endangering peoples’ safety and health, this sounds bad, but don’t forget that in this case, the silver lining of this cloud will ultimately prevail: Governor McAuliffe’s climate action is already underway and will continue, so the temporary cloud cast by the budget shenanigans of big polluters in Richmond won’t last.

The sun will shine, and Virginians will breathe easier. 

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