by Jorge Aguilar, Southern Region Director, Food and Water Watch
The recently announced Green New Deal Virginia, launched by Delegates Sam Rasoul and Elizabeth Guzman, has set into motion critical mechanisms needed to address the interconnected issues of economic, social, environmental, and climate justice. The Virginia OFF Act, or HB1635, should be a crucial piece of the Virginia Green New Deal.
If passed, The Virginia OFF Act would provide a vital piece in progressing the Virginia Green New Deal’s policy of “clean water and air for all Virginians.” This key bill would institute a moratorium on all new fossil fuel projects, providing a necessary system change to keep antiquated polluting infrastructure, like fracked-gas pipelines, out of Virginia communities. It would prevent these communities from enduring the long struggles of fighting large corporations, like Dominion Energy. In other words, this bill would mean no more fighting the rubber-stamping of permits project by project – permits would be permanently denied for any new fossil fuel infrastructure.
The Virginia OFF Act would also mandate that electricity suppliers provide 80% of their electricity from clean energy sources by 2028 and 100% by 2035. This clean energy is defined as power from solar, wind, geothermal, and ocean tidal sources – it does not include the dirty biofuels Virginia currently considers to be “renewable energy.” Energy efficiency, conservation, and storage are also included in the definition of clean energy. The Virginia OFF Act not only puts Virginia on the path to electricity from 100% clean energy, but it pushes for more efficient, less wasteful energy use – another important part of the Virginia Green New Deal’s policy themes.
The bill also mandates the establishment of a Climate Action Plan. The Climate Action Plan would: address aspects of climate change like mitigation and resiliency; support the development of community and privately-owned clean energy; instill programs that provide for job training, higher education and other assistance for individuals transitioning from employment with the fossil fuel industry; outline environmental justice goals developed with the input of environmental justice organizations; and ultimately ensure that the transition off of fossils fuels is a just and equitable one by advancing “the goal of 100% clean energy in a manner that benefits the Commonwealth’s most disadvantaged communities.”
The Virginia OFF Act is the bill that provides the long-term framework for the Virginia Green New Deal’s “100% renewables plan that leaves no workers or communities behind.” Bills like the Virginia OFF Act and others that provide more acute solutions – like the soon-to-be-introduced People’s Clean Energy campaign, which would pave the way for public institutions (like schools) to establish community solar programs with grants from outstanding overcharges from utility companies like Dominion – are essential pieces of legislation that hold polluting monopolies like Dominion accountable while putting Virginia on the path to 100% renewable energy in a manner true to the Green New Deal.