It’s Long Past Time for Terry McAuliffe to Step It Up on...

It’s Long Past Time for Terry McAuliffe to Step It Up on Climate, Environment

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When Terry McAuliffe was running for governor in 2013, some of his biggest supporters were environmentalists. For instance, according to VPAP, McAuliffe second-largest donor – other than the Democratic Governors’ Association – was the Virginia League of Conservation Voters (LCV), at a whopping $955,000. Another big player in the 2013 Virginia governor’s race was climate activist and billionaire Tom Steyer – or as Politico called him in November 2013, “Virginia’s $8 million man.”

Steyer’s political committee, NextGen Climate Action, publicly entered the Virginia race in August by paying to air a wave of television ads produced by Democratic Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe’s campaign. The spots blistered Cuccinelli for launching an investigation into the research activities of a University of Virginia climate scientist.

What unfolded in the ensuing months was an overwhelming flood of spending from the coffers of a single donor determined to inject climate into a race in which state education and transportation issues, and a federal government shutdown, almost certainly played a more decisive role. Steyer paid for $3.1 million in TV advertising, $1.2 million in digital ads, 12 different pieces of campaign mail, a field program that hit 62,000 households on get-out-the-vote weekend and even a Cuccinelli impersonator who showed up at public events carrying a briefcase of mock cash to attack the Republican’s ethics.

In other words, Terry McAuliffe owes his election as governor of Virginia, by just 2.5 percentage points over Ken Cuccinelli, in no small part to environmentalists. Yet since McAuliffe became governor, not only has he failed to act like a committed, passionate champion for environmental protection, climate action and clean energy scaling, he’s continued to support the inexcusable: offshore drilling and fracked natural gas pipelines. As if that’s not bad enough, McAuliffe has also:

  • Stood by his “captured” DEQ head, David Paylor, who “accepted gifts from Dominion in 2013, including a trip to the Masters golf tournament in Georgia,” instead of calling for Paylor’s immediate resignation.
  • On the Clean Power Plan, one of the country’s most important climate and clean energy initiatives, McAuliffe spent months whining and complaining about how it was supposedly “unfair” to Virginia, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.
  • Opposed divesting Virginia’s pension funds from fossil fuels.
  • Flat-out admitted that he gets his wildly wrong information on energy and the environment from…yep, you guessed it, Dominion “Global Warming Starts Here” Power.

On and on it goes. All while the global climate crisis gets more and more urgent by the day (e.g., see the recent story, Global warming could deplete the oceans’ oxygen – with severe consequences and hundreds of others). And all while the cost of clean energy continues to plummet. Meanwhile, as the planet burns, is that the sound of fiddling I hear coming from the Virginia governor’s mansion? Or is it the not-very-dulcet sound of dirty energy lobbyists whispering in Gov. McAulife’s ears?

Either way, it’s unacceptable — note that a couple weeks ago, McAuliffe was “rewarded” for his pathetic environmental record with a report card giving him a D+ grade — and deserves to be drowned out by another, much more pleasant sound: that of thousands of outraged Virginians calling Gov. McAuliffe’s office, telling him to listen to THEM and not to the clinking of the fossil fuel interests’ filthy lucre.

McAuliffe can start by: a) dramatically slowing down and/or stopping the approval process for any new natural gas infrastructure in Virginia; b) telling Dominion where to shove it on its laughably pathetic “Integrated Resource Plan;” c) firing his DEQ head; d) demanding that Dominion change its approach drastically on coal ash disposal; e) reversing course on offshore drilling; and f) making sure that Virginia’s Clean Power Plan is as strong as possible, including a sharp reduction not just in Virginia’s rate of greenhouse gas emissions, but in the absolute level of those emissions.  That’s just a short list, but it would certainly represent a good start — and a nice change of pace from what we’ve seen since McAuliffe, elected in large measure thanks to environmentalists, took office in January 2014.

  • Owl

    Great piece. I’m very concerned that some in the VA environmental community, including LCV, isn’t holding Terry McAuliffe to a higher standard.