From the Virginia Sierra Club (I'd just add that Dominion isn't just "trying to buy the VA General Assembly," it already has!):
The greed of Dominion Virginia Power knows no bounds. Will the General Assembly give Dominion what it wants in an election year with Dominion dangling up to a million dollars in campaign contributions to Republicans and Democrats alike?
Right now Dominion has a bill in the legislature (SB1349 - Senator Frank Wagner) to prohibit review of its overcharges by the State Corporation Commission and to allow the company to keep those overcharges that in the past have been refunded to customers.
Shamelessly, Dominion is using the EPA's climate action, the Clean Power Plan, as their excuse for this power grab. Dominion is telling legislators that the costs of the EPA's climate plan will be very high, but that Dominion is willing to absorb those costs if the legislators will just freeze their rates and block the State corporation Commission from reviewing them. The problem is that Dominion is on track to score $280 million in excess profits for this past year alone.
1. 78% of U.S. adults believe global warming is very (44%) or somewhat (34%) serious. Just 10% say it's "not serious at all."
2. 83% of U.S. adults say that if nothing is done to reduce global warming, it will be a "very serious" problem (57%) or "somewhat serious" problem (26%). Just 9% say it won't be a serious problem at all.
3. Only 30% of U.S. adults give the incorrect response that dealing with global warming would hurt the U.S. economy. 42% give the CORRECT response, which is that dealing with global warming will actually HELP the economy, while 24% say it will have no effect (also the wrong answer).
Now, check out the responses to various statements on the issue. First, U.S. adults by a more than 5:1 margin say they would be MORE LIKELY to vote for a candidate who says that global warming has been taking place, has been caused by human combustion of fossil fuels, and that it's time to switch to renewable energy right away. Second, U.S. adults overwhelmingly say they'd be LESS LIKELY to vote for a candidate who claims "global warming is a hoax" or a "fraud," and that we should stick with fossil fuels and basically "drill baby drill!" Finally, the pathetic copout statement that "I'm not a scientist" blah blah blah, or the wild lie that taking any action would hurt our economy/kill American jobs, results in 27% more likely to vote for such a candidate, 44% LESS likely to vote for such a candidate.
This is a huge mistake and an enormous missed opportunity for Virginia. As always, thanks a lot Republicans!
Eight state and national environmental groups expressed their disappointment with the vote late this afternoon by the Virginia Senate Agriculture Committee to reject Senator Donald McEachin's Virginia Coastal Protection Act. Here's their statement:
"By rejecting the Virginia Coastal Protection Act (VCPA), the Committee failed to move our economy forward and begin the necessary work to work with Virginia's coastal communities to prepare for rising sea levels linked to climate change.
Senator McEachin, and those who voted for his bill, know that governing is about solutions, which is why Senator McEachin had developed this cost effective plan for addressing coastal flooding, lowering electric bills and meeting the goals of the Clean Power Plan. But the majority rejected this bi-partisan approach.
The House is still considering a companion version of the bill, which is being carried by Delegate Villanueva. Both versions would allow Virginia to compete with our mid-Atlantic neighbors who have created 290,000 renewable and energy efficiency jobs.
In the future, these Senators will again have to decide if they will continue to be deniers who rely on the oldest and dirtiest sources of power or if they want to look forward to the jobs created by investments in wind, solar and energy efficiency.
Virginia is already 80% of the way toward meeting its Clean Power Plan goal with steps the utilities were planning on taking anyway. The VCPA would have easily and efficiently helped us get the rest of the way there. It is a shame that they didn't do the right thing."
-Chesapeake Climate Action Network
-Virginia Conservation Network
-Virginia Sierra Club
-Southern Environmental Law Center
-Virginia League of Conservation Voters
-NextGen Climate America
Check out Del. David Toscano's excellent speech yesterday on Virginia's utterly wasteful coal tax credits (aka, taxpayer-funded corporate welfare on a massive scale) and the brain-dead rhetoric about a supposed "war on coal." Next time you hear Republicans and fossil fuel industry flacks blabbering on about the "free market," "Obama's war on coal," and other nonsense, just tell them to watch this speech.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the House:
I listened carefully yesterday as the gentleman from Salem detailed the shuttering of the corporate offices of Norfolk Southern in Roanoke. This is an important issue to him and everyone in his community. Any jobs lost in a community have a great impact. Let me be perfectly clear. No one can be pleased with this decision. But let us not make more of this than it is. This is not a decision about coal and does not involve the so called "war on coal." It is more about economics and the private decision of a private corporation.
Just two days ago, CNBC reported that Norfolk Southern was bullish about the United States economy. According to this report, Norfolk Southern believes their profits will be boosted in 2015 because the U.S. economy is improving. As its CEO said, "we feel good about the state of the economy." There was nothing about coal in this announcement. And the letter from Norfolk Southern announcing their corporate restructuring said it was designed to "foster department synergies" and "streamline management." There was nothing in this letter about coal.
It is interesting, then, that as soon as the announcement of the Norfolk Southern decision hit, Congressional Republicans Morgan Griffith and Robert Goodlatte immediately began referring to this as a by-product of the so called "war on coal." The talking heads were out with a vengeance. But is there really a war on coal?
Jeff Schapiro's article today in the Richmond Times Dispatch very clearly outlines the cozy relationships Dominion has with elected officials across Virginia. Those fighting the pipeline have known about Dominion's "contributions" to General Assembly members and other elected officials for many, many months. The opposition has attempted to make those facts known through posts here on Blue Virginia, and in other coverage of the fight to stop the proposed destruction and desecration of both public and private property by the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline project.
The determination of landowners and advocates is actually bolstered because of Domimion's money, lobbyists, and well-connected executives. All of that adds proof to the claims of injustices being heaped on landowners and communities. Dominion's attempts to thwart the grassroots only strengthens the resolve of the opposition, as illlustrated by Friends of Nelson President Joanna Salidis' statement last week: "Bring it on Dominion. The more you force your way, the more we will fight the injustice."
The grit and determination of the people in the continued fight for property rights, and to prevent the damage the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline would have on cultural, historical and environmental resources will not be diminshed by Dominion's money and power. On Monday, February 2, Free Nelson and Friends of Nelson will return to Richmond for a "Stop the Surveys" lobby day being co-sponsored by both groups and the Virginia Sierra Club. Senate Bill 1338, introduced by Sens. Hanger and Deeds, is to be brought before the Senate's Labor and Commerce Committee Monday afternoon. SB 1338 would repeal the statute which now purportedly allows the ACP's contractors to legally trespass on private property.
The groups are well aware Dominion's lobbyists are currently in Richmond pushing to kill Senate Bill 1338 in Committee. Landowners and activists, however, will show up to lobby Committee members on Monday morning, asking them to stand on the side of the people by voting Monday afternoon to allow Senate Bill 1338 to reach the floor of the Senate. Like-minded supporters are encouraged to join the groups in Richmond to participate in the Lobby Day!
The following statement from Del. Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) blasts the decision by Norfolk Southern to close its Roanoke office building, with the jobs of several hundred people who work there being moved to Atlanta or Norfolk. And no, this has nothing to do with any so-called "war on coal," as broken records Rep. Morgan Griffith (R) and Rep. Bob BADlatte (R) hysterically claim (oh, and take one guess: yep, everything's Obama's fault!). Instead, what's happening is that China has decided to switch much more to clean energy, in large part because coal has had devastating environmental consequences for that country's citizens. In addition, the reality of climate change is leading many countries to move away from coal and towards renewables and natural gas, both of which are cost-competitve (or better) with coal. In this country, coal has lost out largely to cheap, "fracked" natural gas the past few years, and increasingly to inexpensive wind and solar power as well. So, it's basically market forces at work, although clearly if we incorporated the massive, negative "externalities" associated with coal into its price, it would have been dead long ago. Now THAT would be a real - and completely justified - "war on coal!"
RASOUL CRITICAL OF NORFOLK SOUTHERN RELOCATION DECISION
ROANOKE, VA - Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke City) criticized today's announcement that Norfolk Southern will close its building in Roanoke and relocate, resulting in a loss a 400 jobs to the Roanoke region.
"I was shocked and deeply disappointed to hear about Norfolk Southern's plans," said Rasoul. "Aside from uprooting hundreds of families and dealing a severe economic blow to the Roanoke Valley, the decision shows a blatant and insulting disregard for Roanoke's role in helping to build the railroad in our region. Roanoke has long been a crossroads for the railroad. The railroad is central to our history to the point that it is the primary image on our city seal."
The event today was sponsored and organized by the Virginia Conservation Network, with almost 200 people turning out in support of combatting climate change and protecting Virginia's coasts from rising seas. By the way, Del. Villanueva is a Republican, demonstrating that the Virginia GOP doesn't HAVE to be the reflexively anti-environmental, anti-science party.
Coastal Citizens Call on Virginia Legislators to Act on Rising Seas by Passing Bipartisan Flooding Solutions Bill
The 'Virginia Coastal Protection Act' would raise up to $200 million annually through a proven regional system for cutting carbon pollution
RICHMOND-Scores of coastal Virginia residents converged on Richmond today to join the largest environmental lobby day of the year, and bring this message to state lawmakers: Pass the Virginia Coastal Protection Act. This bipartisan legislation would generate urgently needed funds to help Tidewater citizens and localities adapt to rising sea levels, while also reducing emissions of the heat-trapping pollution driving climate change impacts across the commonwealth.
"The water is here now, and it's only getting higher," said Bob Baxter, a resident of Norfolk's historic Riverview neighborhood and volunteer with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) who came to Richmond today. "Twice in two years, I've had to help my neighbor clean out a flooded home. The water even brought waste from the nearby zoo into her home. If the water rises seven more feet, as scientists say could happen in coming decades, then my house will be in danger as well. Something has to be done."
The Virginia Coastal Protection Act (SB 1428/HB 2205), introduced by Republican Delegate Ron Villanueva of Virginia Beach and Democratic Senator Donald McEachin of Richmond, is supported by the city of Norfolk through its lead representative in Richmond and by all of Virginia's major environmental groups. The bill is the priority focus of today's 2015 Conservation Lobby Day, sponsored by the Virginia Conservation Network (VCN). Over 60 residents trekked to Richmond from the Hampton Roads region, joining over 100 more citizens from across Virginia.
Over at the Center for American Progress (CAP), they do a lot of great work, including on energy and the environment. For instance, this morning they came out with their "2015 Climate Guide To Governors," which ranks the 50 governors into three categories:
Green governors not only accept climate change science but are proactively implementing policies to fight climate change and prepare their states for the impacts of extreme weather. Orange governors either accept climate science or have not openly denied it but also either have mixed climate and energy records or have not yet taken serious action to help their state prepare for its impacts. If a governor has made no public statement on climate science, has not taken action, or has openly objected to federal safeguards that help blunt the impacts of climate change, they are placed in the red category. Governors who deny the reality of mainstream climate science are added to the red "Climate Deniers" category, further marked by striped lines.
Obviously, I was most curious about how Virginia's governor, Terry McAuliffe, stacked up. The answer, according to CAP (which, by the way, has close ties to McAuliffe's good friends the Clintons)? Kinda "meh," frankly. Most glaringly, McAuliffe isn't considered to be "green," but "orange," ranking behind the governors of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington State when it comes to promoting climate action and clean energy.
Why does McAuliffe rank below all those governors on energy and the environment? CAP lists three major problems:
In response to the economic struggles the coal industry has deal with in the Commonwealth, McAuliffe said carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology was the answer, calling jobs in CCS-equipped coal plants the "jobs of the future." He is the only Democrat to join a coalition of governors supporting efforts to open the outer continental shelf to oil and gas exploration, and has had to defend his support for a propose natural gas pipeline.
Now, clearly, Gov. McAuliffe is not a kooky climate science denier or anything awful like that. Nor is he in any way hostile to clean energy, from what I have seen. The problem is that there's simply no way to reconcile support for things like offshore drilling and continued reliance on coal with taking effective measures to head of man-made global warming disaster. And, frankly, even if there were no such thing as global warming, it should be utterly unacceptable to blow up mountains and destroy entire ecosystems (while making the people who live there both sicker and poorer) for coal. Just as it should be utterly unacceptable to risk devastating oil spills off Virginia's beautiful, and economically crucial, coast (and Cheseapeake Bay).
Finally, of course, the fact is that clean energy is rapidly becoming a better deal, purely on economic/cost grounds (e.g., see Three Graphics from Lazard Study Show How Competitive Clean Energy's Gotten, than fossil fuels, not even taking into account the massive, taxpayer-funded corporate welfare the fossil fuel companies receive, nor the failure to "price in" the enormous environmental and health-related "externalities" that fossil fuels entail. We know that energy efficiency is by far the cheapest form of energy - "negawatts," the energy you never have to produce. We also know that onshore wind is cheaper than coal and natural gas (in terms of its "Unsubsidized Levelized Cost of Energy") right now, with the cost of both solar and wind falling fast. In sum, given the economics alone, it makes essentially no sense whatsoever to invest any further in 19th and 20th century fossil fuel technologies. When you factor in the environmental and health "externalities" of fossil fuels, it makes even less than "no sense."
Unless, of course, you are a fossil fuel company or fossil-fuel-heavy utility that wants to hold on to their profitable entrenched, "incumbent" status as long as possible. But just because they want to milk a few more years of profit out of despoiling the environment doesn't mean we have to enable their greed-above-all, screw-the-planet behavior. And there's certainly no reason why Virginia's governor shouldn't send them that message, loud and clear -- while moving up the rankings from "orange" to "green" in the process.
Who on earth would oppose an amendment (see below) that simply reiterates the science of climate change -- namely, that it's real and caused mostly by humans -- while urging that we move towards non-carbon-based energy? As you can see from the roll call vote on the Bernie Sanders amendment to the Keystone XL bill, every single Democrat but three - Heidi Heitkamp, Claire McCaskill and....Virginia's own crazy "radical centrist," Mark Warner - voted against "tabling" (aka, "killing") this amendment. Yeah, I know, WTF Mark Warner?!? I mean, heck, even Sen. Joe "Coal" Manchin voted the right way on this one.
What's totally f'ed up about this vote is that fossil fuels make up only a tiny percentage of Virginia's economy, so there's not even that lame excuse. In addition, Hampton Roads is one of the most vulnerable areas in the entire country to the impacts of climate change. Plus, Virginia stands to benefit enormously from the business opportunities surrounding the multi-trillion-dollar clean energy market in coming days -- unless, of course, we foolishly, idiotically choose not to take advantage of that profit opportunity.
Finally, what really boggles my mind is that when "Green Miles" Grant, Josh Tulkin (at the time with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network) and I met with Mark Warner in January 2008, we all felt that he totally "got it" with regards to climate change and clean energy. So what happened since then? I mean, in the real world, the urgency of dealing with climate change has actually GROWN significantly since then, while the cost of clean energy has plummeted. If anything, in other words, Warner should have become far MORE enthused about clean energy as a business opportunity, and also far MORE concerned about global warming. The question is, why hasn't he?
SA 24. Mr. SANDERS (for himself, Mr. BENNET, Mr. CARDIN, and Mr. MENENDEZ) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by him to the bill S. 1, to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline; which was ordered to lie on the table; as follows:
After section 2, insert the following:
SEC. __X. SENSE OF CONGRESS REGARDING CLIMATE CHANGE.
The other day, I ran into yet another article - on the superb website Greentech Media - regarding the rapid rise of clean energy in America. The numbers this article ("America Installed 22 Times More Solar in 2014 Than in 2008") presents are truly eye popping.
In 2008, the U.S. installed 263 megawatts (AC) of solar PV and CSP. In 2014, based on GTM Research's conservative estimates, the U.S. installed at least 5.7 gigawatts (AC). The PV figures were discounted into AC from DC in order to make an accurate comparison and include concentrating solar.
More than 80,000 new jobs have been created in the industry since then. Today, one company, SolarCity, is booking almost as much solar capacity in one quarter as the entire industry put on-line in all of 2008.
So, yeah, solar power installation in this country is growing by leaps and bounds as the cost of solar plummets. And no, the fastest-growing states are not just in the desert southwest, but also in places like Colorado, Delaware, Massachussetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Vermont, Maryland, Connecticut, Oregon and Pennsylvania. Notice a state missing here? That's right, Virginia, also known as the "Old Dominion, with the emphasis on the word "Dominion" - as in Dominion Virginia Power, a largely fossil-fuel (and nuclear) utility which essentially owns the Virginia General Assembly, as well as the powerful State Corporation Commission, which ostensibly is supposed to regulate Dominion.
So, what have the results been in Virginia, with Dominion and its fossil-fuel-funded friends in the state legislature blocking and tackling for dirty, carbon-based fuels, while doing their utmost to stymie the explosion of clean energy (wind, solar, energy efficiency, etc.) we're seeing in the rest of the country and world?
In 2013, Virginia installed 6 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking it 27th nationally...The 9 MW of solar energy currently installed in Virginia ranks the state 30th in the country in installed solar capacity. There is enough solar energy installed in the state to power 1,000 homes.
Wow, 1,000 homes out of millions. Yes, that number really is as pitiful as it looks. The frustrating thing is that the situation is pitiful not because Virginia is lacking in sunshine, wind, or potential for energy efficiency gains, but simply because of bad policies.
On the upside, policy is something we can change, at least in theory. Of course, the "powers that be" could decide not to change policy, but that won't help their pals at Dominion Power in the long run. For more on that, see David Roberts' superb article, Rooftop solar is just the beginning; utilities must innovate or go extinct. So, Dominion (and Virginia more broadly) has a stark choice: 1) continue to fight inevitable change, saddle Virginians with dirty energy for years to come, yet eventually see the entire business model collapse anyway (what Roberts calls the "death spiral"); or 2) adapt to a changing world, one in which even oil-rich Middle Eastern countries are moving heavily into solar power for purely economic reasons -- because its price is low and heading lower. It seems like an easy call to make, but as we saw just this morning, with the defeat of a Virginia renewable energy tax credit bill (by Del. Rip Sullivan) in a House of Delegates committee, there are a lot of politicians who still don't "get it."
My last post covered clean energy bills introduced into the 2015 legislative session, which began last week and ends at the end of February. Time to hustle on to the oil, gas, and coal bills.
Coal subsidies Coal companies claim to be victims of a "war on coal," but for nearly two decades they've been conducting a war on Virginia taxpayers. Virginia's tax code offers so many preferences that a 2012 study concluded the coal industry costs Virginia more than it gives back. Among other preferences, two different subsidies in the Code have allowed coal companies to siphon off tens of millions of dollars annually from the General Fund since 1996.
The subsidies come with nominal sunset dates, currently January 1, 2017. Over nearly twenty years, no matter how fat or lean the state's financial condition, the legislature has repeatedly passed extensions, and they are being asked to do so again this year. HB 1879 (Kilgore) and SB 741 (Carrico) would extend the giveaway out to 2022.
(According to VPAP.org, Delegate Kilgore, chairman of the Commerce and Labor Committee, gets a check for $10,000 every year from coal giant Alpha Natural Resources. Alpha also gives ten grand a year to Senator Carrico, who just happens to sit on Senate Finance, which will hear the bill. I mention these facts only in passing. It would be cynical to suggest a connection.)
Supporters of the subsidies seem to believe coal companies need the inducement to blow up our mountains and dump waste into stream valleys. And they maintain this is a good thing for the people of Southwest Virginia, who can enjoy gainful employment by participating in the destruction of their communities.
The coal companies certainly do benefit from this arrangement, but coal jobs have declined to less than 5,000 total in Virginia today, and it's clear to everyone that Southwest Virginia needs to diversify its economy or face a future of poverty and high unemployment. The coal subsidies suck up money that could be spent on new jobs and a better-educated workforce.
I'm starting my review of 2015 energy legislation with a look at bills dealing with renewable energy and energy efficiency. Most of these bills will be heard in the committees on Commerce and Labor, though bills that cost money (tax credits and grants) usually go to Finance.
Bills referred to Senate Commerce and Labor are heard by the full committee, which meets on Monday afternoons. It consists of 14 members: 11 Republicans and 3 Democrats. They form a tough lineup; none of these senators received better than a "C" on the Sierra Club's Climate and Energy Scorecard.
The House bills are typically assigned to the 13-member Special Subcommittee on Energy (10 Republicans and 3 Democrats, no fixed schedule, but we've heard February 3d is the likely date). Bills that do not meet the approval of Dominion Power can expect a quick death here on an unrecorded voice vote, never to be heard from again. But on the plus side, the meetings are often quite lively, like old-fashioned hangings.
Net metering bills
Net metering is the policy that allows owners of solar (or other renewable) energy systems to be credited for the excess power they feed back into the grid when the systems produce a surplus; the owners use the credits when their systems aren't supplying power and they need to draw electricity from the grid. Virginia law restricts who can use net metering, and how much. Expanding net metering is a major goal of renewable energy advocates, who argue it offers a free market approach to growth-give customers the freedom to build solar projects, get the utility out of the way, and solar will thrive.
Isn't that nice of him? On the other hand, since he's wallowing around in $30 million of our tax money (ain't taxpayer-funded corporate welfare grand?); skewing Virginia's energy policy in a harmful, pro-fossil-fuel direction that hurts all of us; and earning $10.9 million in compensation in 2013, while his company earned $545 million in the third quarter of 2014 alone, I suppose the least he can do is wish us "suckers" a happy 2015. One thing's for sure: Tom Farrell will be livin' large this year (and for many years to come), given his company's protected monopoly status, not to mention its (wildly corrupt) de facto ownership of the Virginia General Assembly, State Corporation Commission, etc. :(
(Dominion: Making friends and influencing enemies? Not in Nelson County. - promoted by lowkell)
The day after Dominion sued an additional 39 landowners to include Nelson's Sheriff David Brooks, it hosted one of its dog and pony shows in Nelson County. Hundreds of landowners and citizens schooled Dominion on what it means to live in and be a part of a community.
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, attendees broke out in song, singing the chorus from Robin and Linda Williams anti-pipeline song, "We Don't Want Your Pipeline." Later during the event, in support of an African American community which will be devastated if the ACP is ever built and whose ancestors were given land by their slaveholders after emancipation, citizens and landowners stood arm-in-arm belting out a revised version of the old hymn, "We Shall Overcome."
Dominion's tax projections given to the media and local governments were questioned. How Dominion would deal with the landslide propensity of Nelson's thin soils on steep slopes; water quality protection; fire protection; and many other concerns were shared. Because of a natural gas pipeline explosion in Mississippi early Wednesday morning, many residents were quick to question Dominion's safety record. The canned responses from Dominion were mostly unsatisfactory to landowners and community members alike.
(A shortened version of this piece originally appeared in the January 13th edition of the Richmond Times Dispatch as an op-ed. Dawone Robinson - Virginia Policy Director with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network)
Have you ever put together a list of items you would purchase if you won the lottery-before you remembered that you haven't even purchased a ticket? Upon reflection, how premature was that list you so perfectly pieced together?
In Virginia, we face a similar dilemma when it comes to addressing the mounting crisis of flooding along our coast.
We've got plenty of laudable lists in the works. Last year, Virginia lawmakers unanimously passed a resolution establishing a joint subcommittee to study recurrent flooding issues and adopt recommendations. Legislators from both parties sent a unified message: flooding is a problem in Hampton Roads and we need to do something about it.
In 2008, former Governor Tim Kaine's Climate Change Commission laid out more than 100 recommendations to mitigate and adapt to climate change and sea level rise. So far the state has failed to adopt a plan to execute them. To his credit, Governor Terry McAuliffe recently launched a similar commission. This panel, the state's Secure Commonwealth Panel, and the General Assembly's aforementioned recurrent flooding subcommittee all have the same mandate: convene, discuss, deliberate, and draft a set of recommendations.
So what's the catch? While what needs to be done is relatively easy to identify, the cost is significant-if not staggering. Virginia needs to win the equivalent of a multi-hundred-million-dollar lottery every year to fund the adaptation measures required to protect coastal residents and infrastructure.
Hampton Roads is home to the world's largest naval base, more than $80 billion in economic activity, and 1.7 million residents who routinely feel the effects of sea level rise. Streets need to be raised, levees need to be built, and homes and businesses need to be protected. The U.S. branch of the Dutch engineering firm Fugro estimated that it would cost the city of Norfolk at least $1 billion to fully adapt to rising seas and frequent flooding-which equals Norfolk's entire annual government operating budget.
I'm sorry to email you twice in one day. I didn't include this ACTION ALERT, because it just seemed to add too much information --- And, of course, the focus in the earlier email needed to be:
Attend the Dominion Open House tomorrow night!
But I need to send out this very important message because our immediate action could “make or break” this unscrupulous bill - and we need to break it!
The bill,HB 1475, titled Natural gas utilities; recovery and deferral of system expansion infrastructure costs, will be brought up for committee vote THIS Thursday, Jan. 15 (the day after tomorrow!)
This outrageous bill would declare all natural gas infrastructure, including pipelines, to be "in the public interest," without any process whatsoever to determine whether the public benefits at all.
To stop HB 1475 before it gets to the General Assembly Floor, we need to call or email the Delegates on the committee (listed below along with their contact information)---today or tomorrow.
HB 1475 states in part:
"The authorization and encouragement of the expansion of natural gas infrastructure and the promotion of the use of natural gas are declared to be in the public interest. Allowing Virginia's natural gas utilities to approach expansion of intrastate infrastructure into unserved and underserved areas on a more proactive basis by expanding, improving, and increasing the reliability of Virginia's energy infrastructure is also declared to be in the public interest."
The harm to property owners, residents of affected counties, and the environment caused by the Atlantic Coast Pipeline far outweigh any benefits. We need more accountability and transparency in the regulatory process, not the complete abandonment of any process at all!
And HB1475 would make rate-payers pay for the expansion of natural gas infrastructure, and would prohibit the State Corporation Commission, (the regulatory agency!) from asking too many questions.
"The SCC is barred from examining other revenue requirement or ratemaking issues in its consideration of the natural gas utility's application."
For anyone who thinks that dirty, dangerous, polluting offshore oil drilling is the answer to our energy and economic challenges, or just as wrongly that wind power is NOT the answer, check out this new report by Oceana and find out how misguided that belief is. A few key points from this report include:
*"...many of the arguments made about the benefits of offshore drilling do not stand up to scrutiny, and the benefits of offshore wind prove to be greater and available over a longer period of time."
*"The oil industry's estimates are often based on unrealistic assumptions about the job growth potential of developing oil and gas."
*"On the other hand, developing even a modest amount of available offshore wind resources would be a far better strategy to lead the U.S. toward energy independence, while generating hundreds of thousands of new jobs."
*"Unlike offshore drilling, offshore wind provides power directly to coastal communities without resulting in pollution, carbon dioxide emissions or spills."
*"The Atlantic has minimal fossil fuel resources compared to other regions used or being considered for domestic oil and gas production," so little that "oil consumption could actually only be met for 132 days and gas consumption for only 283 days." Pitiful.
*"A modest and gradual development of offshore wind on the East Coast could generate up to 143 gigawatts of power over the next 20 years, which is enough to power over 115 million households."
*"In the next 20 years on the U.S. East Coast, offshore wind could create about 91,000 more jobs than offshore drilling, which is about double the job creation potential."
*"In just 13 years of producing energy, offshore wind could generate more energy than could be provided by all of the economically recoverable offshore oil and gas resources."
*"Along the Atlantic coast, nearly 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rely on healthy ocean ecosystems, mainly through fishing, tourism and recreation (and those would be put at serious risk by offshore oil drilling).
*Virginia has 11.3 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power potential. To put that in perspective, Virginia as of 2012 had 5.2 GW of coal-fired generating capacity and 5.7 GW of natural-gas fired generating capacity -- slightly less, combined, than Virginia's offshore wind power potential.
*Offshore wind would create 15,456 jobs in Virginia, 1 1/2 times greater than the 10,295 jobs offshore oil drilling would create, but again without the risk of environmental damage.
*Also keep in mind that when the oil runs out, the jobs run out too. In stark contrast, wind power will never run out, which means that the jobs will also never run out. All "without the risk of a catastrophic oil spill." Is this a no brainer or what?
One more point: offshore wind power is booming in many places around the world, just not here in the United States, thanks to our wildly biased, pro-fossil-fuel energy policies. For instance, in Europe, as of the end of 2013 there were "2,080 turbines...installed and grid connected, making a cumulative total of 6,562 MW, in 69 wind farms in eleven European countries." During the first half of 2014, another 781 MW of offshore wind power came online in Europe, with 1,200 MW more awaiting grid connection. All told, in Europe, the "total capacity of all the wind farms under construction is over 4,900 MW when fully commissioned."
I frequently visit VPAP.org for information on campaign and lobbying expenditures; data that is required to be filed with the state and which the Virginia Public Access Project (VPAP.org) then puts up on its user friendly website.
When I looked for lobbying expenditure data on the VPAP website the end last year, perennial top spender Dominion VA Power had been bumped from the #1 position in 2014 by the Koch Bros' Americans for Prosperity which was out to kill "Obamacare."
If you visit VPAP.org today that data is gone, and the only lobbying related data provided is for gifts and entertainment lavished on our legislators. The total cost of lobbying programs is no longer up on the site, even though this data is reported to Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
When I inquired with VPAP about the absence of this data, their response was: "We made a decision to no longer include the total expenditure numbers on the site. They are essentially meaningless because of inconsistencies in the way lobbyist compensation is reported." In other words, the law is so poor that data is not reliable.
After seeing our immediate past Governor convicted of corruption, another way to look at it is that Virginia is so corrupt that it is no longer worth keeping score.
However flawed the data, it is what the registered lobbyists report to the Secretary of Commerce, and that data deserves to be accessible.
At least for now, campaign expenditures are still reported on VPAP.org. And Virginia's largest polluter, Dominion Virginia Power, remains the #1 non-political party affiliated spender at over $1.2 million for 2014-- over 5 times more than the next largest contributor--coal giant Alpha Natural Resources at $224,000 and cancer facilitator Altria at $220,000.
I'm not sure how we'll fill the data gap now that VPAP has stopped reporting lobbying expenditures. At least for the dirty energy polluters like Dominion and Alpha, Sierra Club will be pulling the reports from the office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and putting the data on our website. Look for that data on our website in the near future.
The other day, I highlighted California Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address as a model for state-level energy and climate policy. In Gov. Brown's speech, he set ambitious goals: increasing "from one-third to 50 percent our electricity derived from renewable sources;" reducing "petroleum use in cars and trucks by up to 50 percent;" doubling the efficiency of buildings in the state. He further laid out a vision for "more distributed power, expanded rooftop solar, micro-grids, an energy imbalance market, battery storage, the full integration of information technology and electrical distribution and millions of electric and low-carbon vehicles." As I noted, all of these things would be superb to see in Virginia, and I encouraged Gov. McAuliffe to be as bold, as "big ideas" as Gov. Brown, in his State of the Commonwealth speech tomorrow.
If Gov. McAuliffe needs more ideas, he should read The greenest governor in the country tells Grist about his big climate plan - an interview between David Roberts of Grist and Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee. Recently, Gov. Inslee "unveiled an ambitious policy agenda anchored by two interlocking pieces": 1) "a carbon cap-and-trade system, the revenue from which will be divided among transportation, education, and assistance for low-income Washingtonians and affected industries"; and 2) "a 10-year, $12 billion transportation plan...funded by a combination of carbon revenue and more traditional sources - the gas tax, license fees, etc."
Of course, our Republican/Dominion-controlled, fossil-fuel-bought-and-paid-for General Assembly wouldn't approve such a plan, but that's no reason not to tell the people of Virginia what needs to be done, what should be done, for our economic and environmental future. I'd also point out that Washington State has a Republican-controlled Senate and a narrowly-divided House, so it's not THAT much different in some ways there than it is here.
Another great idea comes from Virginia Delegate Ron Villaneuva (R-Virginia Beach), as outlined in this op-ed in this morning's RTD. In sum, here's what Villaneuva's bill, the "Virginia Coastal Protection Act," would do:
*"By joining the state into the highly successful and fully established Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, the bill would generate more than $200 million per year in new state funds to invest in coastal adaptation and other climate change solutions."
*"Under Villanueva's bill, half of Virginia's projected $200 million in annual auction revenues would fund coastal adaptation efforts, 35 percent would fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects and 10 percent would fund workforce development, education and economic assistance in Southwest Virginia."
*"The Virginia Coastal Protection Act is a win-win-win solution. We can establish a consistent and significant source of revenue to tackle flooding in Hampton Roads and generate funds to invest in other statewide priorities, while putting policies in place to help Virginia meet carbon reduction goals in an efficient and practical manner."
Given that Virginia will have to meet EPA Clean Power Plan goals regardless, and given that switching to clean energy would constitute a huge boost for Virginia's economy, what Del. Villaneuva (R) is proposing should be a no-brainer for everyone to get on board with. As an added bonus, note that since 2008, "electricity prices have dropped by 8 percent in participating [RGGI] states, compared to a 6 percent rise throughout the rest of the nation." Lower electricity prices and carbon pollution combined with additional revenues for coastal adaptation, workforce development, education and economic assistance in SW Virginia? Why would anyone, other than the fossil fuel companies and the politicians they've bought and aid for, oppose that? Got me.
The purpose of Blue Virginia is to cover Virginia politics from a progressive and Democratic perspective. This is a group blog and a community blog. We invite everyone to comment here, but please be aware that profanity, personal attacks, bigotry, insults, rudeness, frequent unsupported or off-point statements, "trolling" (NOTE: that includes outright lies, whether about climate science, or what other people said, or whatever), and "troll ratings abuse" (e.g., "troll" rating someone simply because you disagree with their argument) are not permitted and, if continued, will lead to banning. For more on trolling, see the Daily Kos FAQs. Also note that diaries may be deleted if they do not contain at least 2 solid paragraphs of original text; if not, please use the comments section of a relevant diary. For more on writing diaries, click here. Thanks, and enjoy!