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Virginia Joins Multi-State Coalition Supporting Economic, Environmental, and Health Benefits of Clean Air


Good stuff from AG Mark Herring’s office…

~ National plan to reduce carbon pollution will protect Virginians’ health and Virginia’s economy, coastal communities, agriculture/forestry industry and the military from the impacts of climate change ~
RICHMOND (November 04, 2015)-Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced today that Virginia will join a coalition of seventeen other states and seven major municipalities taking legal action to support the Clean Power Plan, a national pollution-reduction strategy that will combat the impact of climate change on Virginia’s economy, coastal communities, the military, agriculture and forestry industry, and the health of Virginians. The Clean Power Plan, which was developed over several years with an unprecedented amount of input from states, cities, nonprofits, the business community, and the public, calls for a 32% national reduction in carbon pollution from power plants by 2030. Power plants are responsible for about one third of the country’s carbon pollution, making them the single largest source in the country, and implementing these reductions will make a lasting impact by removing the carbon equivalent of approximately 166 million cars.
“The Clean Power Plan gives Virginia a tremendous opportunity to realize the economic, health, and environmental benefits of cleaner air and cleaner energy generation,” said Attorney General Herring. “The fact is, climate change is a real and urgent threat to the health and safety of Virginians, our environment, and our economic success as a Commonwealth. We simply can’t ignore it any longer.

“Hampton Roads is already confronting sea level rise that could eventually displace residents and businesses and threaten Naval Station Norfolk and other military and economic assets. Extreme weather, droughts, and floods associated with climate change will make it harder for our farmers and foresters across the Commonwealth to thrive and make a living. Too many Virginians are forced to bear the cost of dirty air through increased healthcare costs, time missed from school or work, and strain on our energy, transportation, and water infrastructure. It’s long past time to acknowledge these realities and take decisive action.
“I’m proud to stand up for cleaner air and cleaner energy in Virginia. Our pollution reduction goal is ambitious and achievable, and it gives us a real opportunity to improve the health of our people, our environment, and to grow jobs and businesses in our clean energy sector. We should seize this opportunity.”
The Clean Power Plan calls for a 32% reduction in the Commonwealth’s carbon output by 2030, the same reduction the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality says Virginia achieved between 2007 and 2012. The Commonwealth will have considerable flexibility to create its own practical, scientifically-sound plan to comply with its pollution reduction goal. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will lead the development of the state’s Clean Power Plan compliance strategy with significant input from stakeholders, and this process is already underway.
The Clean Power Plan also advances the goals of Governor Terry McAuliffe’s comprehensive Virginia energy plan, which prioritizes development of Virginia’s clean energy sector and reducing carbon pollution.
“Growing up on the Eastern Shore and living in Norfolk, I’ve seen firsthand the effects of climate change and sea level rise,” said Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam.“We have a tremendous opportunity to grow our economy and create jobs through renewable sources such as wind and solar, while protecting our natural resources and our tremendous military assets throughout Hampton Roads.”
Implementation of a plan to meet Virginia’s pollution reduction goal will continue the Commonwealth’s recent trend of reducing carbon pollution through conversion of dirty plants to cleaner fuels like natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, and deployment of more renewable and carbon-free power sources like wind and solar technologies. Since 2010, utilities in Virginia have retired approximately fourteen coal-fired units, converted two units to natural gas, and converted three units to renewable biomass fuel. Two additional coal-fired unit retirements and two additional natural gas conversions are already planned and anticipated to be completed by the end of 2016.
Virginia is uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change, particularly sea level rise. According to the Old Dominion University Center for Sea Level Rise, Hampton Roads has experienced two feet of sea level rise in the last 75 years, and may face an additional two to five feet by the end of the century. The region is considered the country’s second most vulnerable area to sea level rise, the second largest vulnerable population to sea level rise, and it is tenth in the world in value of assets exposed to increased flooding from relative sea level rise. The United States Department of Defense has recognized that climate change is an urgent and present challenge and has begun taking steps to defend its installations in Hampton Roads and against the effects of sea level rise.
“The future of Virginia’s coastal communities and our Commonwealth’s economic and environmental future are intricately linked with how we use energy and where it comes from,” said Norfolk Mayor Paul D. Fraim. “Energy conservation, efficiency and expanding renewable power generation will reduce carbon emissions, improve our environment, and create jobs.”
In order to keep the nation’s new pollution reduction plan on track, a coalition of eighteen states and seven municipalities filed papers today in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to intervene as respondents in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of states opposed to the plan, as well as special interest groups representing fossil fuel companies and carbon-intensive industries. Two previous attempts to challenge the Clean Power Plan in court have already been thrown out.
Intervening states and municipalities include New York, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia, Washington, the District of Columbia, the Cities of Boulder, Chicago, Philadelphia, South Miami, and New York, and Broward County, Florida.
In December 2014, Attorney General Herring submitted comments to the EPAregarding the draft Clean Power Plan rule. In his comments, he recommended an approach that considers all implementation costs and benefits, as well as the cost of inaction to Virginia and other vulnerable areas. He recommended that, in developing the final rule, the EPA give Virginia more credit for recent investments in zero-carbon generation, offer Virginia more flexibility for adjusting its implementation plan if necessary, treat energy efficiency investments more equitably compared to clean energy generation investments, and help promote cooperation among neighboring states.  The final Clean Power Plan makes substantial improvements in each of these areas, including incentivizing energy efficiency investments, and relaxed Virginia’s pollution reduction target by 15% to a level that both energy companies and environmental advocates agree is achievable.
Attorney General Herring previously made Virginia the first Chesapeake Bay state to defend the Bay cleanup plan against attacks by out-of-state special interests and states that don’t border the Bay. His amicus brief filed in the Third Circuit Court of Appealslaid out Virginia’s history of interstate cooperation and cooperation with federal partners to clean up the Bay, as well as the economic, environmental, and intrinsic value of the Bay to Virginia. The Bay cleanup plan was unanimously upheld by the Third Circuit.

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