The stakes, timing, and location are as crystal clear as Shenandoah mountain air.
Where and when? This afternoon, in Senate Room A on the first floor of the Pocahontas Building in Richmond.
Who? The Virginia Senate’s 5-member Energy Subcommittee: Senators Spruill, Lucas, Marsden, Norment, and Newman.
Those five recently re-elected leaders will take up two landmark climate bills, in the first day of particular climate importance for this new legislature. The two bills in question will best deliver on the “3 E’s” standard any serious climate action must meet: Efficiency-first, Emissions-zero, and Equity-centric.
Senator John Bell’s SB 354 is a two-fer, tackling in one package both Efficiency and Equity. SB 354 will catapult Virginia from laggard to a Top 5-in-America leadership position on energy efficiency by the end of this decade. Sen. Bell’s bill does so by rightsizing Virginia’s bloated, polluting energy supply by unleashing Virginia’s untapped efficiency reserves to help power a cleaner, smoother economy. Indeed, a recent analysis found an ambitious efficiency standard in Virginia like Bell's would lower electric bills by up to 27% by the end of the decade.
By decisively going “Efficiency-First” under SB 354, Virginia will also tackle the state’s inequitable energy burden many low-income Virginians labor under: the state’s electric bills are the 7th-highest in the nation (and rising fast). Sen. Bell’s “Efficiency-First” bill is not just a good move for the economy and the climate: it’s the right thing to do.
That’s why a hard-to-explain vote against SB 354 would represent yet another session of voting against economic fairness and cleaner air, all to deliver outsized profits for the state’s largest and most profitable climate polluter.
Thankfully, the case for a yes vote is far more compelling: it will be a vote for cleaner air, a safer climate, and greater energy-equity for our low-income neighbors.
But the Virginia Senate is just getting started.
Senator McClellan’s visionary, emissions-zero Clean Economy Act (SB 851) will put Virginia into a Top-3 tier of states, as it is the only bill in the legislature that will eliminate smokestack carbon pollution by 2050.
In addition to that smokestack pollution limit, the bill will also unleash Virginia’s clean energy potential with a 100% carbon-free energy Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), to prioritize homegrown Virginia resources like offshore wind and solar, as well as carbon-lowering battery storage.
Combining a carbon-zero limit on polluting power plants with a bold RPS makes the Clean Economy Act the single strongest piece of climate action the Senate Energy subcommittee will pass in this pivotal year.
That’s why Virginia’s state senators can be proud to vote for the Clean Economy Act, affirming in one bill that our new legislature is no longer beholden to the state’s largest polluter, and is ready to assume leadership the rest of the nation can look to as we enter a bold new decade of state-led climate action.
That new era of leadership begins this afternoon in the Pocahontas Building’s Senate Room A.
Come and witness history!