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Two Great Bills to Advance Clean Energy in Virginia

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By Kindler

Virginia’s super-quick 30-day General Assembly session has begun, leaving little time for anyone to get their bearings and figure out what bills they can support to make a difference. For those interested in the environment, the Virginia Conservation Network (VCN) helpfully sums up and provides regular updates on key environmental bills in its Bill Tracker.

Of the many good bills here, two in particular stand out to me as meriting a call to your Delegate and your Senator to ask them to sign on to:

  • HB2227 / SB1224: Improve Energy Efficiency for New Home Construction – a bill to bring Virginia building energy codes up to national standards;
  • HB1965: Clean Car Standards – a bill for Virginia to adopt the low auto emissions standards used by California and a dozen other states.

Why these two in particular? Because buildings and vehicles are the two biggest users of fossil fuels in the U.S. and Virginia. Cars, trucks and other vehicles account for a whopping 45% of Virginia’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Buildings are responsible for roughly another 41% of these CO2 emissions. (Industrial emissions account for the remainder.)

In the last session, we took a big step towards cleaning up the Commonwealth’s carbon emissions with the Virginia Clean Economy Act, which aimed at decarbonizing the electric power sectors that feeds power to our buildings, homes and factories – and increasingly to our cars, as we switch to electric vehicles. But that gradual supply side transformation of our energy sector to renewable sources needs to be met with demand side transitions as well, among the sectors that use all that energy.

Both of the bills I’m endorsing today are simple, as befits a quickie session with little time for negotiation or quibbling. Ivy Main explained the need for the building code bill in her legislative roundup here at Blue Virginia:

  • A national standard for energy efficiency in residential buildings…known as the International Energy Efficiency Code (IECC), is updated every three years by a national organization referenced in the law setting out procedures for adopting Virginia’s residential building code. Unfortunately, the Board of Housing and Community Development (BHCD) has long ignored its statutory obligation to keep Virginia’s building code at least consistent with these nationally recognized standards.

So the companion bills – sponsored by Del. Kaye Kory in the House of Delegates and Sens. Jennifer Boysko and Janet Howell in the Senate – would simply require that Virginia bring its home energy codes up to the IECC standard, helping homeowners save on their energy bills while slashing the greenhouse gases emitted by this sector. You can track the progress of the House bill here and the Senate bill here.

As for the clean cars bill, co-sponsored in the House by Dels. Lamont Bagby, Rip Sullivan and Ken Plum, its main effect would be to ensure that Virginia car dealerships maintain a healthy supply of electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars for customers to choose from. There’s good coverage of this proposed legislation and the issues surrounding it at EnergyCentral.

This step is essential, as we are going to have to undergo a massive transition from gas-burning cars to EVs in a short amount of time in order to have any hope of meeting the greenhouse gas reduction goals needed to avert catastrophic levels of warming.  I can testify, as a recent plug-in hybrid buyer, that I am enjoying taking much fewer trips to the gas station and monitoring my high gas mileage levels – currently at around 70 mpg.

You can track the progress of the clean cars bill here.

Just spending 5 minutes to call or email your Delegates and Senators to support these two pieces of legislation can do a lot to boost clean energy in Virginia – and you can easily find contact info for both here.  Heading off the worst that climate change has to offer is a heavy lift, but we can get it done with common sense laws like these.

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