Richmond, VA - Today, the Virginia Senate agreed to finalize the passage of the Clean Economy Act (SB 851) after the House approved the bill last night. While supporters claimed the legislation was climate-minded, in reality it contained only half-measures, not enough to meaningfully tackle the climate crisis.
In response, Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director for Food & Water Action, issued the following statement:
“State legislators failed Virginia’s water, air, climate, and communities today when they passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which does not properly address climate change. Governor Northam, Delegate Rip Sullivan, and Senator Jennifer McClellan, the leaders on this bill, fell short of passing a bill that meets the needs of Virginians and failed to engage the grassroots momentum built behind a Green New Deal. Instead, they designed an industry-friendly energy package, riddled with giveaways to the oil, gas, and energy utilities, which only put to paper the targets the state’s utilities had already committed to reaching.
“These legislators spent an enormous amount of time and energy this session making an inadequate bill seem cosmetically pleasing. Proponents have argued the bill requires 100% clean energy by 2050 and puts a moratorium on fossil fuels. However, this bill does no such thing. What the legislators hid from the public is that the bill gives huge carve-outs to dirty fuels like nuclear energy or landfill gas. The moratorium does not even apply to non-investor owned utilities, a category which includes 11 fairly large fossil-fuel power plants.
“Even at the end, when a majority of legislators passed Del. Sam Rasoul’s amendments to lower costs for new offshore wind projects, leadership pushed hard to undo those changes. Throughout the process, major changes were disclosed at the last minute, a problematic pattern which allowed legislators to keep the bill’s stipulations secret from the public and negotiate behind the scenes with deep-pocketed utilities like Dominion Energy.
“The bill is a taxpayer drain, forcing utilities’ customers to pay for new RPS programs, and also to foot the penalties when utility companies fail to meet the RPS goals set forth by the VCEA. The transition to clean and renewable energy must be paid for by the polluting industries -- and not burden Virginia’s taxpayers. By failing to bolster that transition, this bill is lackluster and inequitable.”