Two crucial developments bode well for Virginia’s efforts to thwart global warming.
Last night, the Commonwealth wrapped up its 90-day public comment period on a recently proposed climate rule. Environment Virginia delivered hundreds of public comments from its members and supporters, urging the Department of Environmental Quality to adopt the strongest possible plan to cut carbon pollution.
“From dozens of smog-ridden days exacerbated by warmer temperatures to costly destruction from sea level rise, Virginians feel the impacts of climate change deeply,” said Lindsey Mendelson, Environment Virginia’s Global Warming Advocate. “Virginia has an obligation to cut carbon pollution, clean our air, and protect its citizens.”
Despite that obligation, in March, state legislators passed a bill to block Gov. Ralph Northam from tackling global warming. But as the final public comments poured into the DEQ yesterday, Northam vetoed that bill.
“As a former local elected official in Loudoun County, Virginia, I was deeply disappointed by the General Assembly’s attempt to stop common sense climate action,” said Andrea McGimsey, Environment America’s Global Warming Director. “Governor Northam rightfully vetoed this misguided bill.”
In contrast, earlier this year, a bipartisan group of state legislators showed strong leadership on climate, proposing a bill that would link Virginia directly with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). This bipartisan partnership of nine states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have helped cut carbon pollution in half since 2005. The program also helped consumers save more than $773 million on their energy bills. Through RGGI, Virginia would guarantee that polluters pay for their harmful emissions and invest those funds into projects to further drive down pollution.
Virginia State Sen. Lynwood Lewis, the chief patron of the RGGI bill, said that the millions of dollars of funds from the program “would go towards addressing coastal resiliency and sea level rise, energy efficiency and renewable energy programs, economic development and revitalization in the Southwest region and agricultural best management practices.”
“The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is a proven program with impressive results, and it is led by a bipartisan group of governors — five Republicans and four Democrats,” said McGimsey. “We call on the General Assembly to adopt that bipartisan spirit and join the nation’s best regional climate program.”