The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality held the final public hearing on Virginia’s carbon reduction plan today. At the hearing, participants called for the strongest possible standard to cut Virginia’s carbon pollution from fossil fuel burning power plants. The public hearing was preceded by a press conference held by community members and activists, which was attended by about 50 people.
The Virginia Carbon Reduction Plan is designed to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuel-burning power plants by 30 percent by the year 2030. More than 370 Virginians attended all six hearings that took place across the state, with about 150 people testifying in favor of strong safeguards to support clean energy careers, protect the health of families against fossil fuel burning power plants and reduce the negative impacts of climate change.
“Virginia is taking a step forward, while on the federal level the Trump administration is doing a dangerous dance reducing lifesaving safeguards,” Kate Addleson, Director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, said. “All Virginians can take pride in our Commonwealth for developing a standard that will require corporate polluters to take responsibility for their harmful pollution, including greenhouse gas emissions, that are damaging the health and environment of our communities, ”
“The Governor’s administration understands that action on climate change can’t wait,” Angela Navarro, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources said. “One important component of the rule is participation in the regional carbon market which would allow Virginia to reduce emissions. The regional market is bipartisan and proven, and will be a cost-effective market-based way to reduce carbon. We look forward to being the first south eastern state to move forward with limiting carbon pollution.”
In Virginia, the increase in extreme hot weather, due to climate change, between May and August 2016 lead to 1,700 admissions to the ER for heat related illnesses. Athletes, students, and outdoor workers are particularly vulnerable to heat illness in oppressive weather conditions. Weather imbalances are also leading to longer and more severe allergy seasons. Over the last 30 years, the peak tree pollen count has increased by over 50 percent in Richmond. A warmer climate not only supports a wider spread of diseases and illnesses, but it also releases viruses that have been trapped in ice caps for centuries.
“My patients are the manual laborers who work outside during the hot summer, they’re the elderly, children and low income people who feel the effects of climate change the most,” Dr. Janet Eddy with Virginia Clinicians for Climate Action, said.
Low-income families and communities of color are among those who are most vulnerable to climate change and dirty fossil fuel pollutants. Virginia’s Carbon Reduction Plan must ensure reductions in carbon pollution in environmental justice communities and put in place a mechanism that ensures reductions of co-pollutant greenhouse gas emissions by facilities located in or near affected neighborhoods.
“Environmental justice has to be addressed in this plan. As the trailblazer Virginia always has been, we should assure that benefits accrue for all communities, and there is a mechanism in place to ensure affected communities see carbon reduction,” Harrison Wallace, Virginia Policy Coordinator and Coastal Campaigns Manager at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.