Home Climate change Grassroots Coalition Letter, Analysis/Comparison of Virginia Clean Economy Act

Grassroots Coalition Letter, Analysis/Comparison of Virginia Clean Economy Act

"The House bill is far better than the Senate version"

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See below for an excellent letter, by the the Virginia Grassroots Coalition, sent over the weekend to Democratic legislators regarding the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). Also see a summary/analysis table. Very helpful – nice work!

February 22, 2020

Dear Legislator,

The Virginia Grassroots Coalition is deeply concerned over the adequacy of clean energy and climate bills critical to propelling Virginia into a clean economy, protecting our coastal communities, and combatting climate change.  We ask that resist efforts by the utilities to water down key bills, support the House version of several bills, and reinstate provisions from bills as originally filed.

Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) – HB1526

The House bill is far better than the Senate version (SB851).  Most importantly, it:

  • Raises the Energy Efficiency requirements for Dominion from 2.5% to 5%.  Energy Efficiency is the cheapest and easiest way to reduce carbon emissions.  The American Council for Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) just released its 2020 survey and ranked Dominion Energy 50 out of 52 utilities overall for energy efficiency.  See, https://www.aceee.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/u2004%20rev_0.pdf   Frankly, this is unconscionable.  The General Assembly must stand firm against the Utilities’ lobbying efforts and do what’s right for Virginia.
  • Requires 100% carbon free energy generation by 2045 rather than 2050.  

In other areas, the VCEA has been weakened significantly from the original House and Senate bills.  This is particularly true for SCC utility oversight, cost, and specific exemptions. Specifically, we ask that you:

  • Reinstate Provisions in Original Bills Providing for SCC Oversight.  The current bill eviscerates SCC oversight in critical programs including offshore wind energy and energy storage.  Without sufficient oversight, the utilities have nearly unfettered latitude to decide how to implement these programs, what technologies are most appropriate, and importantly how much the ratepayers must pay for these programs.  The offshore wind program, for example, is declared to be in the “public interest” provided Dominion simply meets very lax competitive procurement requirements and comes in under an absurdly high cost cap.[1] The energy monopoly makes a killing – not just a reasonable return.  Please reinstate SCC oversight provisions from the bill, as originally filed, for both the offshore wind energy and energy storage programs.
  • Reject Corporate Welfare for WestRock & International Paper Plants. Both bills grant millions of dollars of ratepayer subsidies annually to biomass-fired industrial facilities, 4 papermills owned by WestRock and 1 by International Paper. These companies, and only these companies, can profit from burning biomass under the VCEA’s RPS requirements.  (See lines 1302-1338 for the carve-out provisions for certain biomass-fired facilities.)  The Covington WestRock facility alone emits over a million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and 3 million pounds of air pollutants annually and is ranked the highest emitter of toxic pollutants in the state.  No sweetheart deals for polluting businesses!
  • Adopt a moratorium on future fossil fuel generating plants and infrastructure facilities.  Future fossil fuel plants and facilities are incongruous with the policies of the VCEA and will result in stranded assets whose costs will be born by the ratepayers.

Solar Freedom HB572

We urge you to pass the House version of this bill which:

  • Allows local governments to install solar facilities of up to 5 MW on government-owned property and use the electricity for government-owned buildings (Municipal Net Metering).

Fair Energy Bills Act HB1132

This bill is paramount to restore SCC oversight and ensure that ratepayers are not gouged.  We ask you to support this bill which enables the SCC to:

  • Review Dominion Energy’s earnings;
  • Establish a fair and reasonable profit level;
  • Direct the monopoly to lower rates and/or issue refunds if it overcharges ratepayers.

Retirement of Coal and Gas Fired Facilities HB528

Support this ratepayer protection bill.  Under the current law, if a utility is over-earning, it may unilaterally elect to recover, as a one-time expense, the remaining balance on the retired power plant instead of refunding the over-earnings to customers.  HB528:

  • Restores authority to the SCC to establish a time period over which the utility will recover the outstanding balance on a power plant that retires early.  The SCC can consider all factors including potential refunds in establishing this time period.
  • Provides the SCC authority to order refunds with the effect of reducing rates and saving customers potentially hundreds of million dollars in lower electric bills.

Pipelines – Restore the State Water Control Board’s Authority (SWCB) to Issue Stop Work Orders

HB 643 & HB 644

These bills restore authority to the SWCB to stop work on natural gas pipeline construction when it results in substantial adverse impact to water quality.  The Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resource Committee voted to pass by this bill. We urge the Committee to reconsider this bill which has bipartisan support in the House.

  • Construction of the 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline has resulted in many hundreds of violations of regulations meant to keep pollution out of the Commonwealth’s rivers and streams.  Massive quantities of sediment laden mud has washed into streams, buried roads, and caused erosion so extreme that it has skidded steel pipe (13,000 lbs) hundreds of feet onto private property.
  • The Senate must provide a meaningful enforcement mechanism to protect our waters from pipeline construction.

We ask the General Assembly to support the House version of the VCEA and reject efforts to water down the Energy Efficiency Standards.  Please amend the engrossed House bill to address the issues we’ve raised in this letter. We urge you to adopt the municipal net metering provisions of the Solar Freedom bill (HB572), support HB1132 and HB528 – bills critical for ratepayer protection, and reconsider restoring the authority to the SWCB to stop pollution of our rivers and streams from pipeline construction.

Luisa Boyarski, Leader, Virginia Grassroots Coalition

Sharon Shutler and Chris LeMenestrel, Co-chairs, Climate and Clean Energy Working Group, Virginia Grassroots Coalition 

The groups that support this letter include:

Virginia Grassroots Coalition
Network NoVA
Postcards4VA
VA Blue Wave 2019 Fundraising Campaign
Indivisible Below the Beltway
Arlington Action Group
Our Revolution Falls Church
Progressive Democrats of America – Virginia
We of Action (WofA)
Virginia Democracy Forward (VADF)
Indivisible Virginia 11
Indivisible Arlington