Richmond, VA - Food & Water Action is deeply critical of Virginia’s proposed Clean Economy Act (CEA), details of which were announced today in lieu of full bill language, as an unambitious and lackluster plan that sticks closely to the weak renewables policies Governor Northam has been touting alongside fossil fuel utilities.
According to the most recent fact sheet, the Clean Economy Act sets a measly goal of moving Virginia to 30 percent clean and renewable energy by 2030, close to what Dominion and other energy utilities have already committed to doing. Experts warn us that transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 is the only way to stave off the worst impacts of the climate catastrophe, and the goal put forth in the CEA in no way facilitates that kind of rapid transition.
Worse still, the bill does not place a moratorium on new fossil fuel projects, allowing Governor Northam and federal agencies to continue issuing permits for fracked gas infrastructure in the state. A legitimate climate plan would ensure new fracked gas plants and pipelines -- like the Transco Southeastern Trail Expansion, Mountain Valley Pipeline Southgate extension, Chickahominy gas plant, C4GT gas plant, and two more proposed Dominion gas plants -- never get built. The CEA does nothing to make Governor Northam and his agencies stand up to corporate interests by rejecting these problematic permits.
The Clean Economy Act also appears to be an environmental justice disaster, pushing a reliance on the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is supposed to cut carbon output but, as a recent Food & Water Watch report demonstrates, increases toxic emissions to frontline communities. Counter to the CEA’s alleged goal of promoting equity and jumpstarting the renewables economy, RGGI promotes the development of more fracked gas infrastructure, which is already wreaking havoc across the state of Virginia with a tangle of unwanted and unnecessary pipelines.
“The few details we have about the Clean Economy Act are disappointing, and it doesn’t measure up to the aggressive environmental policy-making Virginia desperately needs to face the climate crisis,” says Jolene Mafnas, Food & Water Watch Virginia organizer. “This plan amounts to a weak substitute for a comprehensive Green New Deal, which is what Virginia deserves. It leaves environmental justice communities in the dust, what with its commitment to RGGI, refusal to issue a moratorium on pending and new fossil fuel projects, and its implied openness to nuclear as a ‘carbon-free’ solution, which produces toxic waste we have no way of disposing of safely. Virginia needs and deserves better if we have any hope of fostering an equitable transition to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2035. Every year we put off this transition is another year we lose, and the CEA only pushes us further behind. We have a hard deadline to meet, and winning slowly is still losing.”