VA Senate Should Fix House Fail on Climate Action

The Virginia Senate has a unique opportunity to ensure the Commonwealth has smart tools at its disposal to tackle the costly climate change that is raising sea levels on its coast and driving extreme weather, so that state-level action can move forward, even as the Trump administration goes in reverse.

The Virginia Senate can do just that, by getting it right where the House of Delegates got it wrong: two pro-polluter bills recently passed the House. When those are heard in the Senate, it should act in Virginians’ best interest by killing each bill.

These bills would put up senseless roadblocks to the state’s efforts to tackle the two largest sources of carbon pollution—power plants and transportation—which are key drivers of climate change, and leave Virginia on the sidelines in the transition to clean energy that stands to create jobs, save Virginians money on utility bills, and clean up the air.

Should be a no-brainer, right?

The first bill on polluters’ wish list is HB 2611, designed to obstruct Virginia’s ability to take part in the successful Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). That successful program would enable Virginia to reduce its power plant pollution in a way that would deliver cost savings through energy efficiency. 

That proven approach, in place for a decade under both Republican and Democratic leadership across nine states, has delivered pollution reductions while also lowering total electric bills and increasing economic growth. Virginia has even more incentive to do the same, because we have more at stake with climate change already impacting our shore, and because our increasing electric bills could also use the same cost reductions the RGGI program has delivered.

The Senate should recognize those benefits by getting it right where the House got it wrong on the pro-polluter HB 2611.

Just as important, the Senate should also vote down another polluter-sponsored roadblock to keeping Virginians safe from climate chaos in a cost-effective way: HB 2269.

That polluter giveaway would send Virginia even further backwards, as it would obstruct Virginia’s ability to use commonsense solutions to address its single-largest source of carbon pollution: the transportation sector.  Virginia is currently seeking the smartest ways to tackle this challenge by participating in a new multi-state collaborative to develop a regional clean transportation solutions that  build on an eight-year-old alliance called the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI for short)—which Virginia already is part of.

The new transportation collaboration seeks to identify and implement the smartest approaches to modernizing a cleaner, cheaper, and faster transportation system.  And because roads and pollution cross state borders, just like the electrons of electricity do, TCI is a regional multi-state transportation collaborative, just like the popular, decade-running RGGI collaborative successfully addressed electricity.

There’s just no substitute for commonsense when it comes to tackling the challenges we face. So, while the House of Delegates may want to do big polluters’ bidding by sticking its head in the sand on climate change and cleaner air, the Senate has a chance to right those wrongs.

By ensuring the backwards-sliding HB 2611 and HB 2269 are stopped, Virginia’s Senate can keep Virginia moving forward.

About the Authors

Walton Shepherd

Virginia Policy Director, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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