By ALAN SUDERMAN
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is announcing a state plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants, a plan similar to a federal policy President Donald Trump has vowed to roll back.
McAuliffe, a Democrat, signed an executive order Tuesday that begins developing regulations on carbon emissions. He says the federal government has abdicated its job fighting climate change.
Trump has promised to scrap the Clean Power Plan, a centerpiece of former President Barack Obama's efforts to reduce harmful emissions.
McAuliffe's announcement was hailed by environmentalists, who helped the governor get elected in 2013 but have been mixed on his record in office.
The governor, who has not been able to score major wins with the GOP-controlled General Assembly, has increasingly turned to executive action to further his policy goals.
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Office of Governor Terry McAuliffe Press Release:
RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe today signed Executive Directive 11, which instructs the Department of Environmental Quality to begin the process of establishing regulations in Virginia that will reduce carbon emissions from power plants.
“Today, I am proud to take executive action to cut greenhouse gases and make Virginia a leader in the global clean energy economy,” said Governor McAuliffe. “The threat of climate change is real, and we have a shared responsibility to confront it. Once approved, this regulation will reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the Commonwealth’s power plants and give rise to the next generation of energy jobs. As the federal government abdicates its role on this important issue, it is critical for states to fill the void. Beginning today, Virginia will lead the way to cut carbon and lean in on the clean energy future.”
The directive follows Executive Order 57, which required the Secretary of Natural Resources to convene a work group to study and recommend methods to reduce carbon emissions and build Virginia’s clean energy economy. Executive Directive 11 is designed to ensure Virginia’s regulation is “trading-ready” and includes a structure that enforces carbon-reduction mechanisms.
Virginia is already experiencing the effects of climate change in its coastal regions due to rising sea levels. The threat from frequent storm surges and flooding could cost the Commonwealth close to $100 billion dollars for residential property alone. The impacts extend far beyond our coast, as half of Virginia’s counties face increased risk of water shortages by 2050 resulting from climate-related weather shifts.
“As a Virginia-headquartered company, Mars applauds Governor McAuliffe’s new regulatory action to reduce carbon emissions and promote renewable energy and efficiency,” said Kevin Rabinovitch, Mars Global Director of Sustainability. “At Mars, we believe climate change is real, and business and government need to work together to address it. This action by Governor McAuliffe is timely and critical to achieve a clean and efficient energy transition.”
Since the beginning of the McAuliffe Administration, the Commonwealth has seen an increase from just 17 megawatts of solar installed to more than 1,800 megawatts of solar currently in service or under development. Revenues in the rapidly growing clean energy sector have risen from $300 million to $1.5 billion between 2014 and 2016. In the last year alone, solar installations have risen nearly 1,200 percent. The number of Virginians employed by the solar industry rose 65 percent to 3,236 – twice the number of jobs supported by coal.
“There are currently thousands of Virginians employed in the renewable energy sector, with close to 200 solar energy companies alone,” said Danny Van Clief, Chief Commercial Officer of Coronal Energy. “Governor McAuliffe’s action today serves as an important call to re-double our efforts to work with our utility, corporate, and municipal partners to expand the clean, affordable, and reliable electric grid of the 21st century.”
According to analysis by The Solar Foundation, the Commonwealth is now second in the Southeast and ninth in the nation for year-over-year solar growth. And as of 2017, Virginia is first in the Southeast for corporate clean energy procurement.
“Governor McAuliffe’s action today is a significant step forward for lung health,” said Deborah Brown, President and CEO of American Lung Association of the Mid-Atlantic. “Carbon pollution from power plants leads to warmer temperatures, which enhances conditions for ozone and particle pollution, wildfires, and longer allergy seasons. We look forward to working with Governor McAuliffe and his administration to ensure that communities across Virginia are protected.”
“The national security community considers climate change a ‘threat multiplier’ to our facilities and capabilities here in the United States, to our ability to operate overseas, and to the global stability and security of governments, populations, and environments,” said Rear Admiral Ann Phillips, United States Navy (retired). “Actions like those outlined today by Governor McAuliffe are of critical importance in Virginia to stabilize our environment, to guarantee our ability to execute our national security strategy, and to fulfill our responsibility to our citizens and our global partners.”
Click here to read Executive Directive 11.
Statement of Speaker William J. Howell on Carbon Control Regulations
RICHMOND, VA - Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) released the following statement Tuesday following the announcement that the Commonwealth of Virginia will begin to promulgate regulations to limit carbon dioxide emissions:
This is a broad assertion of regulatory authority, Washington-esque in both its nature and scope. The governor is attempting to implement a failed national policy in the Commonwealth that will further hamper economic growth at a time when we desperately need policies to get Virginia moving again.
The governor is ignoring the legislative process by putting forward broadly expansive environmental regulations - a policy he never proposed to the General Assembly. Policy of this scope and magnitude should be debated and voted on by the people’s representatives, not unelected bureaucrats.
The federal government is reviewing and scaling back similar burdensome regulations because of their devastating economic impact. Policies of this nature will hinder economic growth and drive energy prices higher. A review by the independent non-partisan State Corporation Commission estimated that the federal regulations would increase electricity costs in Virginia by $5.5 to $6 billion and force the closure of reliable power plants ahead of schedule, disproportionately impacting seniors and the working poor.
“We are carefully reviewing today’s announcement and will take every action necessary to ensure that the voices of Virginia’s citizens are heard, and that major policy changes are adopted through the legislative process.