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Arlington Community Energy Plan Draft’s Goals “Stunningly Lack Ambition Given the Existential Urgency of the Moment”

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The following is by Jonathan Morgenstein, Senior Advisor for Renewable & Resilient Energy at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. My main question is what tools localities like Arlington have, in light of the fact that Virginia is a hard-core “Dillon Rule” state, in which localities have minimal authority unless explicitly granted by the state. If Democrats take back the legislature, we definitely need to allow localities to do things like put a price on carbon pollution, for instance, or require a certain percent of that jurisdiction’s electricity be supplied by clean power sources. [UPDATE: see Jonathan Morgenstein’s excellent response, below, to my question(s) about the Dillon Rule]

Arlingtonians!

The Arlington County Virginia – Government in May released their draft 2019 update of the Arlington County Community Energy Plan (CEP). This draft’s goals stunningly lack ambition given the existential urgency of the moment. Join me in pushing the County Board for a much stronger set of goals: CountyBoard@arlingtonva.us.

Not only do they not call for community-wide net-zero emissions, nor for net-100% renewable electricity, even by 2050 (goals the entire states of California and New York will soon establish), it doesn’t even call for county government operations alone to ever reach those goals either. And in fact the vast majority of policy goals (12 of 16) have no measurable benchmarks whatsoever to even be able to objectively determine if a goal has been met.

Yesterday morning, the “E2C2 Energy Committee” (the officially sanctioned committee to advise the county board on energy issues) on which I sit, sent the attached letter to the County Board (shorturl.at/gD137) calling for major revisions to the CEP.

I ask that if you are an Arlington Voter do what you can to push the County Board, who will take a final vote on the CEP in September, to ensure a much stronger draft is produced before they consider approving an updated CEP. I’ve listed a series of crucial dates between now and the Board’s expected vote on adoption on September 21. Please consider maximizing the opportunities of these dates to push for stronger action.

Please share this with other Arlingtonians. And I’m hoping to plan some explicit advocacy actions around these dates, so please contact me if you’re interested.:

· Tues, June 25 (3-5pm) — County Board Work Session Explicitly Dedicated to the CEP
County Courthouse Building
County Board Room (3rd Floor)
2100 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201

· Sat, July 13th (8:30am-5pm) – County Board Hearings & Interim Vote on Guidance RE: CEP
County Courthouse Building
County Board Room (3rd Floor)
2100 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201
***I will find out greater specifics on what time this day they will address the CEP issue

· There is NO AUGUST County Board meeting. So July is your LAST CHANCE to influence the County Board directly before their September vote!!!

· Sat, Sept 21st (8:30am-5pm) – County Board Vote to adopt updated CEP.
County Courthouse Building
County Board Room (3rd Floor)
2100 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201

Morgenstein’s response regarding the Dillon Rule:

We were very cognizant of Dillon Rule constraints, which the CEP explicitly cited and if I recall, the Energy Committee letter mentions too. But VA localities have a host of tools at their disposal anyway: 1) County Govt operations aren’t impacted by the Dillon Rule and can serve as a powerful “lead-by-example” standard. Yet the CEP draft doesn’t call for even county govt net-Zero emissions nor net-100% Renewable Electricity by 2050, let alone sooner. 2) Within existing Virginia law is permission for localities to establish “Community Choice Aggregation” (CCA) (www.virginiaclean.energy/what-is-cca.html) which is the largest single (among many) mechanism by which California is decarbonizing it’s grid. The CCA would allow Arlington County to buy electricity for everyone in the county from 100% renewable sources (permitting any individual users to choose to “opt-out”), and setting different degrees of local renewable consumption/generation policies… all irrelevant to the Dillon Rule. 3) the county can offer a host of positive incentives to encourage decarbonization, 4) given the arrival of the Va Tech and Amazon Campuses, creative public-private partnership solutions could be developed regarding electrification infrastructure. 5) lastly, the CEP are a set of policy goals, not a roadmap to meet those goals. If we set ambitious goals and do our best to achieve them but come up short, oh well. But if we don’t set such goals and hypothetically (imagine for a moment) Dems gain 3 Senate and 5 House seats in Richmond this year and have the power to eliminate or at least alter the Dillon Rule, then we suddenly don’t have such constraints, but remain with woefully meager and uninspired ambitions.