See below for video and a press release from Gov. Ralph Northam’s office, in which Northam “announces his budget investments to promote clean energy and combat climate change.” Now, maybe I’m missing something here, but the measures cited by Gov. Northam – while good as far as they go – seem far too small relative to the massive crisis we’re currently facing, as exemplified by dire, horrifying recent headlines like Climate Change Is Ravaging the Arctic, Report Finds and Greenland’s ice losses have septupled and are now in line with its highest sea-level scenario, scientists say and – on a somewhat more positive note – Time Person of the Year: Climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg.
The point is, there seems to be a serious disconnect between the magnitude and urgency of the climate crisis (and more broadly, the multiple environmental crises we’re facing) and the *response* to these crises. Now, clearly, under climate-science-denying, anti-environment sociopaths like Trump and his corrupt/criminal administration, the federal government has almost completely abdicated responsibility for dealing with this threat. Which means that it’s even *MORE* urgent than ever that states and localities pick up the (dropped) ball and run with it – as fast as possible. Yet here in Virginia, what are we seeing from Gov. Ralph Northam? So far, largely business as usual, including continuation of two massive *new* fossil fuel projects (the fracked-gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline and Mountain Valley Pipeline), combined with setting clean energy goals that are both not aggressive enough and also far too long into the future.
In sum: What we need, but so far have not gotten, is a response that is commensurate with the threat we’re facing (as well as the massive economic opportunities a rapid transition to a clean energy economy offers). For some ideas on what *would* be sufficient, see Virginia Enviro Groups Lay Out Ambitious 2020 Policy Agenda and Green New Deal Legislation Introduced in Virginia House of Delegates. Also see As NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Signs Ambitious “Green New Deal” Into Law, Virginia Continues to Fall Behind on Clean Energy.
Governor Northam to Protect Virginia’s Environment, Fight Climate Change, and Grow the Clean Energy Economy
~ Proposed budget makes historic investments in Chesapeake Bay restoration, environmental quality and equity, clean energy, and offshore wind ~
VIRGINIA BEACH—Governor Ralph Northam said his budget will include $733 million in new funding for the environment and clean energy—including a half-billion-dollar capital investment.
The budget creates Virginia’s first Office of Offshore Wind. It also invests up to $40 million to upgrade the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, to secure new investments in the offshore wind supply chain. These investments will help Virginia achieve 2,500 megawatts of energy generated from offshore wind by 2026.
“In Virginia, we are proving that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand—and having both is what makes our Commonwealth such a great place to live, work, and play,” said Governor Northam. “These significant investments in environmental protection, environmental justice, clean energy, and clean water will combat climate change and ensure we maintain our high quality of life here in Virginia.”
The proposed budget supports the Chesapeake Bay clean water blueprint Governor Northam released earlier this year with major investments to support local governments tackling stormwater pollution, upgrade wastewater treatment plants, and assist farmers implementing conservation practices to reduce farm runoff. When added to another $10 million for oyster reef restoration, these investments in clean water total more than $400 million and will put Virginia on track to meet the 2025 Bay cleanup deadline.
Governor Northam also proposed an additional $15.5 million investment for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grant program, bringing it up to $20 million each year, to support targeted land protection through the Governor’s groundbreaking ConserveVirginia initiative.
“This is great news for everyone who cares about clean water,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker. “The Governor’s proposed budget would substantially boost investment in key state programs that are already working to restore our rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. We are grateful to Governor Northam and his staff for their dedication and commitment to the Chesapeake Bay and ensuring clean water for all Virginians, now and in the future.”
As a result of Executive Order Six, which required a full needs assessment for the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), the proposed budget includes more than $25 million to help the agency increase efficiency and responsiveness in permitting, enhance environmental protections, and improve public engagement. Notably, $2.7 million from DEQ will be directed towards environmental justice and community outreach efforts each year. In addition, Governor Northam will propose legislation to create a permanent Environmental Justice Council.
“We are extremely pleased with the significant funding that will go to the Department of Environmental Quality, which works hard to keep our air and water clean,” said Hope Cupit, President and CEO of the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project. “This funding will allow DEQ to engage in more environmental justice and community outreach throughout the Commonwealth and we applaud the Governor.”
To ensure Virginia reduces carbon pollution, the Governor’s proposed budget removes language—added by the General Assembly—prohibiting Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The Governor will also propose legislation making Virginia the newest member of RGGI.
“These significant investments in environmental protection, natural capital, and resilience to climate change will position Virginia as a leader among states in creating sustainable, equitable communities,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “I am proud of the progress we are making.”
Governor Northam also announced that his budget includes priorities to reduce our climate impact and build a clean energy future for Virginia. The proposed budget provides $10 million for a revolving loan fund that will enable both private citizens and local government institutions to make investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The budget also includes funding to hire an administrator of a complementary clean energy-financing program called commercial property assessed clean energy financing (C-PACE). These two financing programs will help capitalize clean energy projects in all corners of the Commonwealth, which will save customers money, create new clean energy jobs, and expand renewable energy and energy efficiency commitments.
“The proposed investments in clean energy financing and the first office of offshore wind will create new business opportunities, expand customer access to renewable energy, and spark high-demand jobs of the 21st century,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Likewise, the investments at Portsmouth Marine Terminal will enable the Commonwealth to attract new economic investment from the offshore wind industry, which is pivotal as we work to diversify the economy in Hampton Roads.”
Watch the video of today’s announcement here. Governor Northam will address the Joint Money Committees on December 17 to share the full details of his budget plan.