Subcommittee rejects coastal protection bill

Environmental activists pledged to continue fighting after a legislative panel killed a bill that would have made Virginia part of a regional cap-and-trade initiative to cut greenhouse gases.

By Janeal Downs

Environmental activists pledged to continue fighting after a legislative panel killed a bill that would have made Virginia part of a regional cap-and-trade initiative to cut greenhouse gases.

A House subcommittee killed the bill that environmentalists say would have cut greenhouse gas emissions and generated millions of dollars to protect coastal areas from flooding caused by rising sea levels. The bill had the support of the Virginia Housing Coalition, the Norfolk City Council and the mayors of Virginia Beach, Portsmouth and Norfolk.

The Special Subcommittee on Energy voted to table House Bill 2205, proposed by Del. Ronald A. Villanueva, R-Virginia Beach. Under the bill, called the Virginia Coastal Protection Act, Virginia would have joined a consortium of nine states called the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The RGGI is a market-based cap-and-trade program aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions in the power sector. Villanueva and others say the program would have generated about $200 million for Virginia. The legislation sought to use half of this money to help localities in Hampton Roads cope with rising sea levels and flooding.

“It’s a forward-thinking bill that has many elements that you may like and some that you may not agree with. But nonetheless, it’s a good starting point that has promoted discussion on both fronts,” Villanueva told the subcommittee, part of the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

Several other people also spoke on behalf of the bill at Tuesday’s subcommittee meeting. They represented groups ranging from the Chesapeake Climate Action Network to the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. CCAN, which is concerned about global warming, started in 2002 and has offices in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. On January 30th, the group sent an email encouraging environmentalists to show their support for the bill.

After HB 2205 died in the subcommittee, the organization issued a press release saying it would not give up on the cause.

“While the General Assembly failed to make the right choice this year, there’s no question that the problem of flooding along our coast will only grow, and so will the movement for solutions,” said Dawone Robinson, CCAN’S policy director for Virginia.

Charlie Spatz, the statewide organizer for CCAN, said that sea level rise was a “massive bipartisan issue” and that Virginia was on the front lines of climate change. Spatz said HB 2205 would have benefited the community in several ways. For example, he said, it would have helped Virginia comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan, which seeks to reduce pollution.

Membership in the RGGI also would generate millions of dollars for Virginia, environmentalists said. Spatz noted that under HB 2205:

  • 50 percent of this money would have gone to coastal adaptation efforts in Hampton Roads
  • 35 percent would have funded statewide clean energy and energy efficiency programs
  • 10 percent would have boosted Southwest Virginia’s ailing economy
  • 5 percent would have covered programmatic expenses of RGGI

Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Richmond, filed companion legislation (SB 1428) to Villanueva’s bill, but it was killed via a Senate committee’s 8-7 vote.

The defeat of McEachin’s and Villanueva’s bills means Virginia won’t join the RGGI this year. But it’s possible the state will at least study the idea.

Sen. Lynwood W. Lewis, Jr., D-Accomac, is sponsoring a resolution (SJ 291) to ask the state Department of Environmental Quality to study whether participating in the RGGI would generate funding to protect Virginia’s coastal communities against floods.

The Senate Finance Committee approved Lewis’ resolution, 13-1. It is currently awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

Photo by: DVIDSHUB

  • error

    Report an error

Capital News Service

There is 1 reader comment. Read it.