Senate panel blocks effort to reduce greenhouse gases

earthThe Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources voted along party lines to defeat Sen. Donald McEachin’s SB 571, a bill to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. The bill would have caused Virginia to join either the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or a similar market-based system to cap pollution; the resulting funds would have been used primarily to address recurrent flooding and sea level rise.

Said Sen. Donald McEachin (D – Henrico), “Climate change is real and must be addressed. Already, extreme weather — disasters like Hurricane Sandy — cost communities billions of dollars, and that problem will only get worse. This bill would have greatly reduced our carbon emissions, created jobs, increased efficiency, and promoted renewable energy. In the face of these benefits, I’m disappointed that my Republican colleagues have once again refused to act.”

Said Sen. Lynwood Lewis (D – Accomack), “Climate change poses grave dangers — not just in the future, but here and now. Recurrent flooding and rising seas are a great and growing problem in many of our coastal communities. We need to assist those communities, not ignore them.”

SB 571 would have required the governor to seek to enroll Virginia in either the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) or a comparable interstate compact to reduce power plants’ carbon emissions. RGGI limits the total allowable pollution by power plants within its member-states; those states then auction off pollution rights up to the agreed-upon limit. SB 571 would have allocated resulting revenues — estimated at $250 million per year — as follows:

  • 50% to help localities plan for and recover from major effects of climate change — i.e., severe weather, recurrent flooding, and sea level rise
  • 30% to promote and facilitate energy efficiency or energy conservation efforts, especially among low- and moderate-income families
  • 10% to assist communities adversely affected by declining fossil fuel production in Southwest Virginia
  • 5% to support renewable energy generation efforts
  • 5% to cover administrative costs

Representatives from a wide array of organizations testified in support of the bill, including the Virginia Municipal League, the City of Norfolk, solar development company Secure Futures, the Richmond Region Energy Alliance, the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

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