Senate votes to block Clean Power Plan

earthThis afternoon, the Senate passed Russell Republican Sen. Ben Chafin’s SB 21, which would require that the General Assembly sign off on Virginia’s plan to comply with Clean Power Plan requirements. Under current law, the executive branch can prepare and submit such a plan without waiting for lawmakers’ approval.

Said Sen. Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack), “In Hampton Roads and on the Eastern Shore, sea levels are already rising. Recurrent flooding is a fact of life. We have to address climate change, and the Clean Power Plan offers us a reasonable and responsible way to do that. Instead of embracing delay and obstruction, the General Assembly should act.”

Said Sen. Dave Marsden (D-Fairfax), “Climate change endangers every corner of Virginia — not just Hampton Roads. This bill would waste time and taxpayer dollars to prolong a debate that — outside of politics — is already settled. We need to reduce carbon pollution, and further delays won’t help anyone.”

Said Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico), “We have a chance to address climate change in a way that creates jobs and lowers Virginians’ power bills. Instead of embracing that opportunity, my Republican colleagues have voted for pointless politicking and needless delay. I am deeply disappointed in their choice.”

The Clean Power Plan is the Obama administration’s initiative to reduce heat-trapping carbon emissions from existing power plants, which are a major driver of climate change. All states are required to submit a plan to meet a specific reduction target; under current law, Virginia can prepare and submit such a plan without waiting for the General Assembly’s approval. If the GOP-controlled legislature were to involve itself, and if Republicans were to block any compliance plan from moving forward, a plan would eventually be imposed by the federal government.

Studies suggest that a well-designed Clean Power Plan compliance plan could create jobs and lower power bills in Virginia. A Natural Resources Defense Council brief documenting potential environmental and economic benefits of CPP compliance is available here.

Note that SB 21 carries an expected cost to taxpayers of approximately $350,000.

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