Update from the Virginia General Assembly


Bills are flying through the General Assembly this session! All of the bills we have been working on have already gone through committee meetings and I’m happy to announce that one of our RPS reform bills, Del. McClellan’s HB 1166, has unanimously passed the house and its companion, Sen. McEachin’s SB 382, will most likely sail through the Senate by the end of the week!

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Solar Fund Bill Signed!

Yesterday, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell signed the Voluntary Resource Fund Bill (HB 2191 and SB 975), which we’ve mentioned before (here and here).

Governor signs renewable energy bills into law

Signing this bill into law is a great start, but we hope that this is just the beginning of a new commitment on Governor McDonnell’s behalf to do whatever he can to support the development of renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, the Governor couldn’t go without mentioning fossil fuels during his speech yesterday, touting coal’s future in Virginia as well as making the incredulous claim that Virginia will be the first to build new nuclear. Even on a day dedicated to renewables, the Governor was beholden to our past.

Because of our two extraordinary natural resources, solar and offshore wind energy, Virginia should be the CLEAN Energy Capitol of the East Coast of our future. We need to push him to make this happen.

Check out our photos from the bill signing ceremony:

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul

The House Appropriations Committee approved an additional $1 billion in funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to ensure that the agency has the resources necessary to aid those whose homes and livelihoods were devastated by the recent tornadoes in Joplin, MO. Continue reading

Virginia Environmental Advocates Call on Dominion to Make Swift Move Toward Offshore Wind

Initiative could create 10,000 jobs, provide power for 700,000 homes


Jamie Nolan, jamie@chesapeakeclimate.org, 410-463-9869

RICHMOND – A coalition of Virginia environmental, labor, and business leaders today announced the creation of the VA4Wind coalition, which aims to make Virginia the offshore wind energy capital of the east coast. Because Dominion Virginia Power is the commonwealth’s largest electric utility, the coalition is calling on the company to develop a large-scale offshore wind energy project off of Virginia’s coast. VA4Wind’s primary members, the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, the Green Jobs Alliance, Interfaith Power & Light, and the Sierra Club Virginia chapter, formally announced the launch of their effort at a press conference this morning in Richmond. Representatives of Virginia’s labor, business, and faith communities joined VA4Wind leaders at the campaign launch.

At the event, VA4Wind leaders touted the plentiful benefits of offshore wind energy and the opportunities it provides for the commonwealth, including the addition of thousands of new jobs and a new revenue source for Virginia’s economy, cleaner air and water, and stable long-term energy prices. With plentiful offshore winds, a deepwater port and a skilled and experienced labor force, Virginia could easily be the east coast capital for America’s new offshore wind industry.

“It’s really incredible how much clean, domestic energy is untapped, right here off of Virginia’s coast,” said Beth Kemler, Virginia State Director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. “If the commonwealth takes action now, offshore wind could power 700,000 Virginia homes within a decade, while completely avoiding the risks associated with burning fossil fuels. Unlike conventional energy sources, wind power doesn’t explode, spill, or combust.”

In just a matter of weeks, VA4Wind has already collected more than 3,000 signatures from Virginians who want to see Dominion take concrete steps towards developing offshore wind power. In addition, more than 60 Virginia businesses and organizations have already pledged their support for offshore wind energy. Leaders applauded Dominion for its recent decision to study offshore wind transmission potential off the coast of Virginia Beach, but noted that research isn’t enough. As proof that offshore wind is a mature technology, the advocates pointed out that America’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind in Massachusetts, was given a green light by the federal government in April and plans to start construction as early as this fall.

Randy Flood, Executive Director of Green Jobs Alliance, said, “If we’re ever going to fully recover from this recession, the United States needs to return to making our own products. Developing an offshore wind industry right here in Virginia is a common sense solution to put Virginians back to work, and no other industry can promise the kind of job creation that offshore wind can offer.”

“Today, we’re calling on Dominion to join our team and work together with us to bring offshore wind energy to Virginia,” said Glen Besa, director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter. “We’d really like to see plans to build large-scale offshore wind in Dominion’s 2011 Integrated Resources Plan (IRP) as it moves forward with plans to retire its obsolete coal-fired power plants. Dominion’s interest in entering the offshore wind market should be reflected in its IRP filings before the Virginia State Corporation Commission this September.”

Trieste Lockwood with Virginia Interfaith Power and Light was on hand to discuss the importance of addressing climate change through clean energy. “Members of Virginia’s faith communities are legitimately concerned about climate change and how it will affect their children and grandchildren,” Lockwood explained. “It’s our responsibility to do all we can to protect the planet for future generations, and harnessing clean, renewable energy is a crucial part of this. By embracing wind technology, Virginia can truly become the energy capitol of the east coast.”

Learn more about the coalition of Virginians promoting wind energy at www.va4wind.com.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Virginia General Assembly session just wrapped up and your legislators have headed back to their districts. Here’s a run down on what happened in the last 46 days:

The Good
These bills had our full support and passed this session:

HB 2191 and SB 975 Patroned by Delegate Adam Ebbin and Senator Mary Margaret Whipple:
You have heard from us frequently throughout session about this legislation, which establishes a voluntary solar resource development fund. Through this fund, Virginia homeowners can apply for low-interest loans to put solar PV or solar thermal on their rooftops. This fund will help homeowners with the upfront costs associated with these installations while creating jobs in the clean energy sector in the Commonwealth. Anyone can contribute to this fund once the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy creates it later this year.

HB 1686 Patroned by Delegate David Toscano:
This legislation will promote distributed solar generation by setting up a pilot program for utility-owned facilities. It also allows utilities to create a tariff to encourage citizens to own distributed solar generation.

HB 2389 Patroned by Delegate Albert Pollard:
The Virginia Resource Authority (VRA) provides cost-effective financing to Virginia municipalities for various projects. HB 2389 allows the VRA to add more renewable energy projects to its list of projects it can already finance for municipalities. Continue reading