Senate committee advances House bill blocking Clean Power Plan

earthThe Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources voted Thursday along party lines to advance Del. Israel O’Quinn’s (R-Bristol) HB 2, which would require that the General Assembly sign off on Virginia’s plan to comply with Clean Power Plan requirements.

The bill is identical to Sen. Ben Chafin’s (R-Russell) SB 21, which has already passed the Senate. If the full House and Senate approve either bill, that measure will be sent to the governor to be signed, amended, or vetoed.

Said Sen. Lynwood Lewis (D-Accomack): “Already, climate change is hurting communities in Hampton Roads and on the Shore. The Clean Power Plan offers a way to swiftly and responsibly address recurrent flooding, sea level rise, and other growing dangers. Rejecting that opportunity is a grave mistake.”

Said Sen. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico), “The Clean Power Plan will help us to mitigate or prevent the worst effects of climate change — but instead of moving forward, my Republican colleagues have again voted for inaction and delay. We need to keep politics out of this issue, and allow the experts to act.”

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 HB 2 carries an expected cost to taxpayers of approximately $350,000.

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