Northam addresses environment, climate change in upcoming budget

virginia general assembly

Photo Credit: traveler1116/iStock Photo

A $733 million budget proposal from Gov. Ralph Northam would create an Office of Offshore Wind, support ongoing efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay and significantly boost the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grant program.

“In Virginia, we are proving that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand—and having both is what makes our Commonwealth such a great place to live, work, and play,” Northam said today. “These significant investments in environmental protection, environmental justice, clean energy, and clean water will combat climate change and ensure we maintain our high quality of life here in Virginia.”

The budget proposal calls for investments up to $40 million to upgrade the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, to secure new investments in the offshore wind supply chain. These investments will help Virginia achieve 2,500 megawatts of energy generated from offshore wind by 2026.

The budget also supports the Chesapeake Bay clean water blueprint that Northam released earlier this year, with investments to support local governments tackling stormwater pollution, upgrade wastewater treatment plants, and assist farmers implementing conservation practices to reduce farm runoff.

Added to another $10 million for oyster reef restoration, these investments in clean water total more than $400 million and will put Virginia on track to meet the 2025 Bay cleanup deadline.

Northam also proposed an additional $15.5 million investment for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation grant program, bringing it up to $20 million each year, to support targeted land protection through the governor’s ConserveVirginia initiative.

“This is great news for everyone who cares about clean water,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker. “The governor’s proposed budget would substantially boost investment in key state programs that are already working to restore our rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. We are grateful to Gov. Northam and his staff for their dedication and commitment to the Chesapeake Bay and ensuring clean water for all Virginians, now and in the future.”

“Gov. Northam’s announcement today leaps Virginia forward in the fight against climate change,” said Will Cleveland, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “There is no clearer indication that a state is committed to clean energy than using state dollars to fund solutions that will get us closer to a carbon free environment. Likewise, backing legislation that will allow Virginia to become a full member of RGGI is a clear signal of the Commonwealth’s commitment to fighting carbon emissions.  Equally important and inherent to the work of establishing a clean energy economy is addressing issues of inequity and environmental injustice. We are heartened to see the Governor’s financial commitment in this proposed budget to the important work of environmental justice.”

“We applaud the governor for his commitment to restoring our waterways, preserving natural lands, and putting Virginia on a path to a cleaner, healthier future for its natural resources,” said Bill Street, Chief Executive Officer of the James River Association. “As Virginia’s final Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan makes clear, we need bold investments to achieve the pollution reductions necessary to meet our 2025 deadline for restoring the James River and the Bay. With this budget proposal, Governor Northam has shown, once again, that he is dedicated to achieving a healthy Bay and a grade-A James.”

“Chesapeake Conservancy applauds Gov. Northam on his strong commitment to conservation and to the protection of Chesapeake Bay lands and waters in his proposed FY 2020 – FY 2022 budget,” Chesapeake Conservancy President & CEO Joel Dunn said. “By increasing funding for critical conservation programs like the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, this budget will better enable Virginians to protect iconic natural landscapes across the Commonwealth and protect the places most important for our environment and wildlife, and for outdoor recreation and public health.”

“We are extremely pleased with the significant funding that will go to the Department of Environmental Quality, which works hard to keep our air and water clean,” said Hope Cupit, president and CEO of the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project. “This funding will allow DEQ to engage in more environmental justice and community outreach throughout the Commonwealth and we applaud the Governor.”

To ensure Virginia reduces carbon pollution, the proposed budget removes language — added by the General Assembly — prohibiting Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The governor will also propose legislation making Virginia the newest member of RGGI.

“These significant investments in environmental protection, natural capital, and resilience to climate change will position Virginia as a leader among states in creating sustainable, equitable communities,” said Secretary of Natural Resources Matthew J. Strickler. “I am proud of the progress we are making.”

Northam also announced that his budget includes priorities to reduce the Commonwealth’s climate impact and build a clean energy future for Virginia. The budget provides $10 million for a revolving loan fund that will enable both private citizens and local government institutions to make investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects.

The proposal also includes funding to hire an administrator of a complementary clean energy-financing program called commercial property assessed clean energy financing (C-PACE). These two financing programs will help capitalize clean energy projects in all corners of the Commonwealth, which will save customers money, create new clean energy jobs, and expand renewable energy and energy efficiency commitments.

“The proposed investments in clean energy financing and the first office of offshore wind will create new business opportunities, expand customer access to renewable energy, and spark high-demand jobs of the 21st century,” said Secretary of Commerce and Trade Brian Ball. “Likewise, the investments at Portsmouth Marine Terminal will enable the Commonwealth to attract new economic investment from the offshore wind industry, which is pivotal as we work to diversify the economy in Hampton Roads.”

         
 

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