Earlier this year, the Democratic-controlled Virginia General Assembly passed the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), arguably the most significant piece of energy legislation ever passed in the Commonwealth. As we’ve pointed out repeatedly, VCEA is a good start, but far from perfect or even sufficient compared to what the science strongly suggests that we do – phase out fossil fuels as *rapidly as possible*. As I wrote back in April:
- I *strongly* agree with Jennifer Lewis, Executive Director of Friends of Augusta, that “Now is not the time for half measures when it comes to tackling the number one threat to our existence, climate change…We are in desperate times and we must take drastic steps to a clean, more just future, now. Our elected officials have a responsibility to listen to science and research instead of corporate donors.”
- I strongly agree that the legislature should move to “commit the state to a 100% clean renewable energy grid by 2035, put a moratorium on all new fossil-fuel infrastructure, enact stronger worker and environmental justice (EJ) protections, establish aggressive ratepayer protections, and address how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation to zero.”
In the end, by the way, the vast majority of environmental groups – the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, the Virginia Sierra Club, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Environment Virginia, the Virginia Conservation Network, etc. – and clean energy groups supported VCEA, not because they thought it was perfect or even sufficient, but because – as one of these groups’ leaders explained it – this legislation finally gives us a “vehicle” to drive clean energy adoption in Virginia, even as that “vehicle” needs to be a lot bigger, faster and bolder than it is now.
Perhaps not surprisingly, VCEA has been criticized from its “left,” by those who argue that what we needed instead was a Green New Deal, that VCEA is badly inadequate, that VCEA isn’t equitable enough, that VCEA is a corporate boondoggle for Dominion, etc. Whether you agree with those critics of VCEA from the “left,” I’d argue that they are serious, substantive, coherent critiques that deserve to be addressed.
Also not surprisingly, VCEA has been attacked by Republicans, because sadly that party has become a kneejerk, reactionary, pro-fossil-fuels, anti-environment, anti-science party. With Republicans, of course, you expect the criticisms to be based on falsehoods and distortions about the cost and reliability of clean energy (fact: the costs have been plummeting and reliability has gotten much, much better).
But now, a group called the “Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition” PAC is attacking VCEA as *simultaneously* TOO GREEN and also NOT GREEN ENOUGH. Seriously…WTF?!? Check out the following (from this post on repealvcea.com) by former George W. Bush college roommate and former George W. Bush appointee Collister “Terry” Johnson (who is also a big-time climate change minimizer/denier who mockingly calls those concerned with the climate crisis “Alarmists” and “True Believers”):
The Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition Political Action Committee (SUVGOP) today announced its campaign to REPEAL VCEA, the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), calling it ‘one of the most radical pieces of energy legislation in the United States’. In April 2020, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly passed, and Governor Northam signed into law, Virginia’s own version of the ‘Green New Deal’,” stated Terry Johnson, Senior Advisor to SUVGOP…
…This radical philosophy, which is embodied perfectly in the ‘Green New Deal’, is a doctrine enthusiastically embraced by the Democrat Party and the left wing of the environmental movement.
…There is nothing clean, green, renewable, or sustainable about the Virginia Clean Economy Act.”
So…what to even say about this steaming pile of you-know-what? I mean, for starters, it’s just astounding how these guys attack VCEA for being simultaneously “radical,” “Virginia’s own version of the ‘Green New Deal’,” something “enthusiastically embraced by Democrat [sic] Party and the left wing of the environmental movement”; AND AT THE SAME TIME not “clean, green, renewable or sustainable.” Utterly incoherent and internally illogical/inconsistent babble, in other words. None of which is true, of course. In fact:
- The Virginia “Green New Deal” (GND) is *not* synonymous with VCEA. In fact, some of the biggest battles over VCEA in the 2020 Virginia General Assembly Session were between supporters of VCEA and supporters of GND. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that at least *some* GND folks really, really dislike VCEA, because they don’t think it goes far enough, doesn’t ban fracked-gas pipelines or other new fossil fuel infrastructure, etc.
- In stark contrast, Virginia Republicans want more, more MORE fossil fuel infrastructure, and hate the GND – or any serious climate action, really – with the heat of a thousand suns. So…who the hell knows, but this mostly just seems like an incoherent, throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-if-something-sticks approach by right-wing, climate-science-denying, pro-fossil-fuel opponents of *any* climate action whatsoever, whether it’s GND or VCEA.
- In fact, there’s absolutely nothing “radical” about the VCEA, or about the concept of taking action to move towards a clean energy economy in the face of overwhelming evidence – and urgency – regarding the climate crisis. What IS radical, actually, is what the Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition is advocating, which is to stick with planet-killing fossil fuels forever, and to *never* take action to combat the #1 threat to having a habitable environment in years to come.
By the way, the treasurer of the PAC behind this effort is Chris Marston, general counsel of the VA GOP and also previously treasurer for Del. Nick Freitas (R)’ VA07 (failed) congressional campaign; Michele Bachmann (R) for President’s former treasurer; etc. Also, the group’s assistant treasurer is Brenda Hankins of the Republican National Lawyers Association. Sensing a pattern here?
Anyway, it’s interesting that Republicans are putting resources into trying to repeal VCEA. Obviously, as long as Democrats are in charge in Richmond, that’s not going to happen (as noted above, if anything, VCEA needs to be strengthened significantly). But if Republicans manage to take back power next November – Gov. Kirk Cox (R) or Amanda Chase (R) anyone? – it seems obvious that they’d immediately move to repeal VCEA, and probably most of what Democrats passed into law in 2020. So, obviously, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen, but instead that we maintain or even *expand* the “blue” majority in Richmond…then pass even stronger clean energy, environmental, and progressive legislation in every other area.