Even with growing evidence of climate change, there is a paucity of bills in this session of the General Assembly addressing environmental and climate change. Of more concern is the fact that of the bills that could be classified as environment-related, most would roll back current laws, programs and regulations in place to protect the environment. Virginia hasn’t earned its top spot as a business-friendly state because of its tough environmental regulations, but its already minimal laws and programs are under attack from those who oppose government action to keep our clean environment and stop climate change.
Evidence of environmental policy change emerged earlier this year when new Governor Glenn Youngkin announced his opposition to Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an 11-state effort to cap and reduce emissions. of CO2 from mains electricity. CO2 is the main culprit for the warming of the earth which leads to climate change and the bizarre changes in weather and air quality. Most surprising of this policy change is the fact that RGGI is a cooperative, market-based approach supported by many industry players to cap and reduce CO2 emissions in the northeast region of the country without the need for regulations. governmental.
Another concerning piece of evidence of a shift in policy came with the new governor appointing a former Trump administration official known for his opposition to environmental protection regulations as secretary of natural and historic resources. A review of the nominee’s credentials raised such concern among lawmakers that the Senate declined to confirm the nomination, only the second such refusal in the decades-long history of the Virginia cabinet system.
More recently, two bills made their way through the General Assembly that would strip Citizens’ Councils of their power and responsibility to protect air and water quality. The impetus for the bills came from businesses and industries that felt it was too time-consuming and complex to obtain the air or water permits needed to locate their industries in Virginia. More recently, there has been a lot of controversy and lawsuits over pipelines that proposed to go through Virginia. These affected industries blamed the complexity of the regulatory process on the need for scientific evidence and public participation that raised questions about their plans at the State Water Control Board and the State Air Board. Bills making their way through the legislature and no doubt having to be signed by the governor would strip the councils of their power.
I took a strong stand against the changes to the Air and Water Commissions. My speech against the House of Delegates floor bills can be heard at youtu.be/UaAytHE-o_s, and an article I wrote with Del. Kathy Tran and an expert on the subject is available in The Washington Post at www. washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/02/23/efforts-silence-virginias-citizens-boards-commissions-are-wrong/.
Current policies being implemented in Virginia can cause immeasurable harm to the Commonwealth’s already fragile environment.
Ken Plum is a member of the Virginia House of Delegates.