Home Energy and Environment An Open Letter to Gov. Northam: Doing the Climate Math in Virginia

An Open Letter to Gov. Northam: Doing the Climate Math in Virginia

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by Glen Besa

Dear Governor Northam:

I assume you’ve been briefed on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s new report, Global Warming of 1.5 Degrees Celsius.  Most of the facts in the report are not new.  The intent was to present them in a more compelling way to enlighten policy leaders as to the risks we face and the immediate action that is required to avoid the grave consequences of a dangerously warmer world. Basically, the report calls for no new carbon emissions from new fossil fuel infrastructure unless that pollution is more than offset by carbon reductions. I would urge you to talk with climate scientists about the report’s implications — we have many respected scientists here in Virginia.

Related to reducing carbon pollution, the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board earlier this week advanced your proposed rule that would cap and then reduce carbon pollution from fossil fuel power plants by 3% annually. The rule would start with a 2020 base year cap on carbon of 28 millions tons and by 2030 could cut these emissions to 19.6 million tons per year, a 8.4 million ton per year reduction in carbon pollution.  

Unfortunately, this commitment to reducing carbon pollution is overshadowed by emissions associated with the two new gas pipelines now under construction in Virginia.  FERC’s Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (Vol 1, page 4-621) states that this one pipeline “would result in approximately 29,957,375 million tpy CO2e emitted from end users.” Note that this estimate of 30 million tons per year does not include the climate impacts of methane leaks from the pipeline or the fracking wells that produce the gas. Additionally, the carbon emissions from the Mountain Valley Pipeline are estimated at over 40 million tons per year.

It should be evident that the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines seriously undercut your desire to address climate change. Carbon pollution from these two pipelines represents over 70 million tons per year of new emissions as soon as the pipelines are turned on, while your rule would only reduce carbon pollution by less that 10 tons per year by 2030.  These 70 million tons will not all be emitted in Virginia, but regardless of where this gas is burned, its impact on climate change will be the same.

The administrative approach you have proposed to reduce carbon pollution is one step in the right direction; however, the increased annual carbon pollution from the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines is over 7 times greater than the reductions you propose to achieve by 2030.  This is just one of many compelling reasons why you should stop these pipeline projects.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report is intended to sound the alarm for policymakers that major reductions in carbon pollution are needed immediately.  It is up to policymakers, such as yourself, to hear the alarm and to act. I urge you to seek the advice of climate scientists and have climate science guide your policy and actions as Governor.  Unless all of us do our part, the dire environmental, social and economic consequences of climate change may be unavoidable.

Sincerely,

Glen Besa