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Terry McAuliffe Signs “Governors Accord for a New Energy Future,” But Does It Mean Anything?


by Lowell

I received the following statement by Environment Virginia earlier today, pertaining to yesterday’s announcement of the “Governors Accord for a New Energy Future.” Among others, you’ll note that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is a signatory. The question in my mind, which I’ll discuss after the Environment Virginia press release, is whether this announcement actually, you know, means anything.

Governors’ Clean Energy Accord announced yesterday

Richmond, VA — A bipartisan group of 17 governors announced a new initiative yesterday to commit states across the country to advancing clean energy, encouraging clean transportation, and modernizing energy infrastructure. The Governors Accord for a New Energy Future follows a Supreme Court ruling last week to temporarily block the Clean Power Plan, the centerpiece of the U.S. strategy to tackle global warming that encourages states to develop clean, renewable energy. The states signed onto the accord are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington.

Sarah Bucci, Environment Virginia’s State Director, issued this statement:

“The announcement of the Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future shows Virginia is on the path to become a clean energy leader. These states have leading the way on clean energy and clean cars, and this announcement shows Virginia’s commitment. While the court may have temporarily blocked the Clean Power Plan, it can’t block progress toward wind and solar energy, affordable electric vehicles, and a more modern and efficient electric grid. Kudos to Governor McAuliffe for pledging to forge a path forward for climate progress and clean air.”

Sounds good, but what does this accord commit the governors to do, exactly? As far as I can tell, not much. From reading through the document, although it claims that the signatories “embrace a shared vision” of great things like expanding clean energy sources, there’s also a bunch of less-than-great (or even bad) things in here, such as:

  • no words like “commit,” “pledge,” or “required to do this;”
  • talk about upgrading power grids and other features of a top-down, centralized energy system, but no mention whatsoever of distributed power (e.g., rooftop solar, microgrids, battery storage);
  • zero mention of a major driver behind the need for a clean energy transition — namely, climate disruption;
  • inclusion of the seriously problematic fossil fuel, natural gas (much of it “fracked,” which leads to a wide variety of environmental problems, including leakage of the potent greenhouse gas, methane), as a “clean transportation option;”
  • no specific mention of supporting the Clean Power Plan (CPP);
  • included on the list of governors are at least two – Rick Snyder of Michigan and Brian Sandoval of Nevada – who have been abysmal when it comes to clean energy (e.g, Nevada just basically killed rooftop solar power in that state; Snyder just suspended CPP compliance in Michigan)

I’d further point out that, here in Virginia, the General Assembly is dominated by anti-environment, bought-and-paid-for fossil fuel politicians. As for Gov. McAuliffe, while he has certainly been friendly towards clean energy, he also has continued to push in the 180-degrees wrong direction with regard to offshore oil drilling and new natural gas infrastructure, both of which are big mistakes. Given all that, I’m not exactly holding my breath for any positive serious action from our political “leaders” on kickstarting a clean energy economy here in Virginia.

To end this downer of a post on a bit more positive note: as a pro-clean-energy friend of mine put it, at least this accord – albeit vague and nonbinding – represents some sort of benchmark by which to judge the governors who signed on. Also, to the extent that this moves the conversation more towards a focus on the optimal ways to move towards a clean energy economy, not WHETHER to move towards a clean energy economy, that’s a good thing. Anyway, we’ll see.


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