The scientific consensus is clear: our world is growing warmer and human actions are to blame. For years, scientists have warned that greenhouse gas emissions generated by fossil-fuel-burning power plants would wreak havoc on our climate. Those predictions are coming true – each month we seem to set a new high-temperature record.
We are already seeing impacts in Virginia – flooding from sea level rise routinely inundates our coastal communities, inflicting extensive property damage and threatening public safety, while inland Virginia suffers from extreme temperatures and weather events.
If we don’t act, things will only get worse. We can and must reduce our carbon footprint here in Virginia. This is why Virginia LCV works to advance clean power alternatives and discourage continuing reliance on dirty fossil fuels as part of our energy mix.
A component of the federal Clean Air Act, which already mandates pollution reductions from the energy sector, this plan will require drastic reductions of carbon pollution from power plants while incentivizing new, clean sources of energy like wind and solar as well as greater efficiency.
The final rule came down from EPA in August 2015 and set specific target reductions state-by-state while giving states the flexibility to hit those targets as they see fit. As our state works on its strategy, Virginia LCV has been involved in the process as a stakeholder, advocating for a plan that cuts overall pollution and applies to new sources, and at the General Assembly, where we have successfully defended the plan against legislative attacks.
The Clean Power Plan is our best shot to make long-term gains in the fight against climate change and our organization is committed to making it work here in Virginia.
But with this plan held up in the federal courts, Virginia LCV’s energy has shifted toward working with Governor McAuliffe’s administration to push forward a state-based approach to tackle climate change. In late June 2016, the Governor unveiled Executive Order 57, which tasks the Secretary of Natural Resources to come up with a state plan to cut carbon emissions from power plants using the state’s existing authority.
Over the next several months we will remain engaged in the stakeholder process to ensure that any outcome 1) cuts overall carbon pollution; 2) covers both new and existing power plants; and 3) levels the playing field when it comes to renewables.
Burning fossil fuels to generate electricity has inflicted untold harm on the environment and public health. It’s clear that we need new, cleaner alternatives to power the grid of the future.
While renewable energy sources like wind and solar have grown exponentially across the United States, these industries remain in their infancy in Virginia due to a lack of resolve at the legislature to advance clean energy alternatives. At the General Assembly, we push for strong incentives and policies that promote renewable energy and reject policies that only serve to deepen our reliance on the fossil fuels of the past.
The rest of the country is undergoing a sea change in how they generate and use electricity; it’s time for Virginia to catch up.
The cleanest form of energy, however, is still that which we never use. By using less electricity, we can automatically cut our carbon footprint. This is why energy efficiency measures belong in any sound long-term energy policy for Virginia. We advocate for measures at the General Assembly that incentive greater energy efficiency at both the consumer and generator levels.
Only by opening the doors to clean energy sources and efficiency can we every roll back the damage we’ve already inflicted on our plant.
For years, we’ve awarded millions of dollars of handouts to coal companies and utilities in hopes that we can cut job losses across the coalfield of Southwest Virginia. This hasn’t happened. In fact, the more we spend the more jobs it seems we lose. That’s why the state’s watchdog agency has ruled our coal tax credits as the least-effective subsidies awarded in Virginia.
The funding currently funneled into this trickle-down model could easily be steered into programs that actually advance and diversify the Southwest Virginia economy instead of propping up a dying industry whose best days are clearly behind it.
Things in the coalfields can get better but only when our legislature resolves to stop throwing money at a growing problem and seeks instead to find long-term solutions.
Virginia’s coastline is one our best assets, from the pristine Eastern Shore to Virginia Beach and the Hampton Roads, which attracts millions of tourists each beach season. We are also one of the top seafood producers on the East Coast, generating record harvests of oysters and blue crabs thanks to improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.
Just one well blowout could take this all away in an instant.
Tar-covered beaches will not attract the masses and our seafood industry would take years and years to recover from a spill, if at all. For this reason, Virginia LCV opposes offshore drilling.
Our coastline is safe, for now.
Federal officials recently announced they would not be including any waters off the East Coast for inclusion in a 2017-2022 lease for offshore oil and gas exploration. But this all could change down the road and it’s important to remain vigilant.
If there’s one lesson we’ve learned from the BP oil spill in the gulf, it’s that offshore drilling is not worth the risk to our environment and economy.
Our coast needs to stay closed.