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Where’s the Beef, Terry?


For Virginians aware of the Commonwealth’s tremendous risks from climate change and (potentially even more) tremendous opportunities for prosperity through climate action, the past few days had some real buzz. Governor Terry McAuliffe was going to make a climate-related announcement at Alexandria ReNew (A).  That event has come and past.

We now have some really wonderful tweets from Governor McAuliffe (above, below, and here), a press release, and the issuance of Executive Directive 11.

Okay, I’ve read … and reread … and reread Executive Directive 11 and return to Wendy’s question: Where’s the beef?

A year ago, well into his third year, Governor McAuliffe issued Executive Order 57 which, well, kicked the can down the pike on climate change directing a year-long study to figure out what Viriginia should do to address climate change. The study count increases even as sea level rises.  Yes, worthwhile to have study but substantive action is urgently required. At the end of that year process, what did McAuliffe order: some more study and (potential) regulation development.  Here is the substantive directive material:

1. Develop a proposed regulation for the State Air Pollution Control Board’s consideration to abate, control, or limit carbon dioxide emissions from electric power facilities that:

a. Includes provisions to ensure that Virginia’s regulation is “trading-ready” to allow for the use of market-based mechanisms and the trading of carbon dioxide allowances through a multi-state trading program; and

b. Establishes abatement mechanisms providing for a corresponding level of stringency to limits on carbon dioxide emissions imposed in other states with such limits.

2. By no later than December 31, 2017, present the proposed regulation to the State Air Pollution Control Board for consideration for approval for public comment in accordance with the Board’s authority pursuant to Virginia Code § 10.1-1308.

Okay, yes, it is worthwhile for Virginia government officials to develop draft regulations that would enable Virginia to participate in carbon trading that can be put forward for public comment.

Hmmm … read that previous sentence … are you asking “where’s the beef”, too?  This legitimately merited ‘buzz’ and a special signing announcement?

No, this isn’t Governor McAuliffe announcing

  • A deal with Dominion Virginia Power for constructing a 500 megawatt offshore wind farm along with the infrastructure in the Tidewater area to support the construction and operations of projects not just off Virginia but along the Atlantic coast — that would create economic activity, jobs, reduce electricity costs, improve energy resiliency, and, by the way, reduce (climate and other) pollution.
  • A green schools program that would boost Virginia educational achievement, improve the health of Virginians, create jobs, save money, and, by the way, reduce (climate and other) pollution.
  • The leveraging of the Volkswagen settlement money for sparking a transition to plug-hybrid electric and electric school and transportation buses throughout the Commonwealth that would dramatically reduce health-risks to students, improve educational performance, save money, and, by the way, reduce (climate and other) pollution.
  • Something … well … something tangible.

Again, to be clear, what Governor McAuliffe ordered is useful: directing the development of a proposed regulatory framework so that Virginia will be regulatory-ready when/if it can/does become involved in a carbon market.  However, this does not change Virginia’s climate reality an iota unless/until Virginia does become part of that market space and it is unclear whether it will have any impact on government/business planning and investment in the interim.

With all due respect, Governor McAuliffe, Virginia is far from “#1 on climate issues” and, although I hoped your announcement this morning would move the ball forward in a tangible manner toward #1, Executive Order 11 won’t do much to move it in that direction.


The press release and executive orders have some strong, truthful language related to climate change. Here are the first two paragraphs from EO11.

There is no denying the science and the real-world evidence that climate change threatens the Commonwealth of Virginia, from our homes and businesses to our critical military installations and ports. Rising storm surges and flooding could impact as many as 420,000 properties along Virginia’s coast that would require $92 billion of reconstruction costs. The challenges and costs of bolstering resilience and minimizing risk are too great for any locality to bear alone.

While the impacts are significant, there are technologies in the clean energy sector that could help mitigate these impacts while simultaneously creating jobs in twenty-first century industries. The number of solar jobs in Virginia has grown by 65 percent in the last year alone, and Virginia is now the ninth fastest growing solar jobs market in the country. Revenue for clean energy businesses in Virginia has increased from $300 million in 2014 to $1.5 billion in 2016. Through state leadership, Virginia can face the threats of climate change head on and do so in a way that makes clean energy a pillar of our future economic growth and a meaningful part of our energy portfolio.

Note, the only inaccurate language here is “there is no denying the science” when, it is quite clear, there are far too many ready to deny reality and actively refusing to honestly engage with and about climate science.

(A) Re Alexandria ReNew, this is probably the best website that I have seen from a water sewage authority/operator (writing that having had the chance to look at quite a few).  If this is a domain of any interest, their virtual tour provides an excellent basic tutorial on a sewage plant’s operations and, of course, their own operations.


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