The Virginia General Assembly will meet twice in April: April 11, to finalize the biennial budget, and April 18, to vote on Governor Ralph Northam’s vetoes.
Auduboners should weigh in with state legislators soon.
Continue Land Conservation
On the budget, conservation advocates are working to increase funding for land conservation. For the Land Conservation Fund, the Governor’s budget proposed $4.5 million. The Senate cut it to $1.5 million and the House eliminated all funding for the first year and provided $4.5 million in the second year.
VLCF awards grants to localities to help fund the purchase of permanent conservation easements, open spaces, parklands, lands of historic or cultural significance, farmlands and forests and natural areas.
Since 2000, during 12 grant rounds, VLCF received 337 applications requesting almost $123 million in state funding, which was almost two-and-a-half times the available amount.
From 1999 to 2017, VLCF has awarded funding to 203 of the 337 grant applications, awarded more than $50.9 million to land conservation projects and helped protect more than 63,800 acres.
Address Climate Change
During the veto session, anti-climate-change legislation could be at issue. HB1270 would prevent the administration from moving forward with a carbon rule without General Assembly approval. Both chambers approved the bill on a party-line vote. Specifically, the bill prohibits the Governor or any state agency from adopting any regulation establishing a carbon dioxide cap-and-trade program or bringing about the participation by the Commonwealth in a regional market for the trading of carbon dioxide allowances, such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), without the General Assembly’s approval. Auduboners can urge their state legislators to uphold an anticipated veto.
The Virginia League of Conservation Voters makes these arguments against the bill:
- This bill would tie the state’s hands and curtail many of the economic benefits that come with addressing climate change, cutting carbon and transitioning to cleaner, renewable energy.
- Joining RGGI would generate approximately $200 million of revenue for Virginia from the sale of carbon allowances, funds that would go toward coastal resiliency, renewable energy, energy efficiency and economic development in other legislation (SB696 and HB1273) introduced this session.
- The economic value of cutting air pollution in the RGGI states translated to $5.7 billion in health and productivity benefits alone. In more human terms, this means up to 830 lives saved, more than 8,200 asthma attacks avoided, and nearly 40,000 lost workdays averted because of cleaner air.
- At the same time RGGI has achieved these public health benefits, electricity prices in RGGI states fell by 6.4 percent while prices rose by a similar margin of 6.2 percent in the rest of the country, and the economies in the RGGI states outpaced every other state in the country other than California by more than 4 percent.
- This bill sets a new precedent by diminishing the authority that has historically and constitutionally rested with the Executive Branch and its agencies and boards. The State Air Pollution Control Board has full authority to regulate carbon as a pollutant and harm to public health. A full opinion from Virginia’s Attorney General reaffirms this authority.