Congratulations, CCANers. After reaching out to our Virginia legislators hundreds and hundreds of times, you successfully defended Virginia climate progress for yet another year under our regressive Governor Glenn Youngkin and an anti-climate House of Delegates. That alone is cause for celebration. So give yourselves a pat on the back – we couldn’t have done it without you.
We even picked up a few wins along the way, including creating a revenue stream for bus and pedestrian infrastructure, and restoring regulators’ ability to lower bills by curtailing utility overcharges. These are essential first steps to moving away from car dependency and relieving Virginians’ untenable energy burden.
But there is so much more we can and should do. This year, we fought to expand access to community solar and create funding for electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in rural, low-income localities. Both efforts passed the Senate but met their demise in the House. The long story short is: if we are going to build on our climate progress, we need more Delegates that will fight for climate action.
And guess what? For the first time, CCAN Action Fund is gearing up to do just that. The stakes are too high. It’s time to jump in the race. Stay tuned for more on that—and RSVP to join us at our first post-session Action Member meetup on March 20.
In the meantime, let’s take stock of the great work we were able to accomplish this legislative session.
GOOD BILLS WE PASSED:
Cleaner, more accessible transit: HB2338 and SB1326 will allow funds from the Transit Ridership Incentive Program (TRIP) to build and improve bus and pedestrian infrastructure, as well as provide guidance to transit agencies on how to electrify their fleets. Despite being the best solution for vehicle pollution in the short-term, transit is desperately underfunded in Virginia. These bills will make walking and using the bus more attractive options, improving lives for Virginians who already travel without a car and incentivizing others to do the same. Thanks to Delegate McQuinn, Senator McClellan, and Senator McPike for taking the lead and making this happen!
Energy justice: HB1604 and SB1321 (“the Affordable Energy Act”) will restore regulators like the State Corporation Commission with the ability to lower utility rates when utilities like Dominion are poised to over-earn. Because Dominion has overcharged customers by billions of dollars over the last decade, this will put money back in the pocket of Virginians. The bill was met with unanimous support in both chambers.
BAD BILLS WE DEFEATED:
Attacks on Clean Cars: No less than seven bills were filed to repeal Clean Car Standards, not including a last-minute effort on the floor during budget negotiations. Let’s take a moment to commemorate the lawmakers that tried and failed to stop us from cutting carbon and cleaning up our air:
- Senator Stuart (SB778)
- Senator Newman (SB779)
- Senator DeSteph (SB781)
- Senator Reeves (SB782)
- Senator McDougle (SB785)
- Delegate Fowler (HB1372)
- Delegate Wilt (HB1378)
- Dishonorable mention: Senator Obenshain (floor budget amendment)
At the same time, we would be remiss not to acknowledge the committee members that stopped these bills in their tracks:
- Senator Petersen
- Senator Marsden
- Senator Lewis
- Senator Mason
- Senator McClellan
- Senator Favola
- Senator Morrissey
- Senator Hashmi
Our work to defend Clean Car Standards is far from over. Expect the naysayers to be back next year with renewed vigor, and expect CCAN AF and environmental partners to keep pushing for complementary policies that ensure the successful implementation of the Standards.
Attacks on the Virginia Clean Economy Act: After CCAN AF and partners defeated simple VCEA repeal bills last year, climate opponents got smarter. They moved to weaken and amend these policies through bad faith arguments cloaked in a veneer of reasonableness. But CCANers reached out to their lawmakers over 400 times to reveal these bills for what they were: big steps backwards.
SB1125 and HB2130 would have weakened our commitment to closing coal plants in 2025 and absolved us of our responsibility to acquire new solar and wind on the timeline laid out by the Clean Economy Act. Both were handily defeated in the Senate Commerce and Labor committee.
HB1430 would have exempted industrial polluters from paying their fair share of the clean energy transition. We fought back so hard that the patron, Delegate Ware, was forced to pull the bill before it even got a vote in the Senate.
HB1643, when it was first introduced, would have classified coal mine methane as renewable. This can be a Trojan horse for defining methane gas (i.e. natural gas) writ large as renewable, as we have seen happen in other states. After pushback, it was amended to simply study how to best incentivize the capture of fugitive methane gas from coal mines. This is a problem worth looking into, so CCAN AF and partners ultimately went neutral on this bill.
SB1265 and HB1770 went through numerous transformations throughout the legislative process. At first, they sought to dramatically increase utilities’ profits, eliminate competitors, and weaken our coal plant retirement commitment. The backlash was so strong and from such a diverse coalition that the final legislation accomplished none of these tasks, and even reduced Dominion’s allowable over-earnings.
HB1783 and SB1485 would have prevented localities from implementing policies that mandate the electrification of new residential buildings. This is seen as a first step to decarbonizing our building stock, and would have been contrary to our 100% clean electricity goals. The Senate companion was pulled by the patron, Senator Morrissey, and the House version failed in a Senate committee.
SB2197 would have classified “advanced” nuclear technology as renewable and allowed it to benefit from renewable energy credits (RECs), a financial incentive for building clean energy. This would have reduced the value of these credits, making it far less attractive for developers to invest in proven clean energy technologies like solar and wind. Moreover, the nuclear technology of choice, small modular reactors (SMRs), don’t yet exist – except one floating barge in Russia – and projects elsewhere in the U.S. are several billions of dollars over budget and years late. This bill failed in committee.
SB2333 would have opened the gate for SMRs by authorizing up to 6 sites and pressuring regulators to approve proposed projects. Just one SMR could cost over $9 billion, meaning that we could spend over $54 billion to produce less energy than the offshore wind project we’re currently building at a fraction of the price – and there’s no guarantee the projects would ultimately produce a single electron. That’s an unconscionable affront to the many Virginians who are already suffering from high energy bills due to decades of unnecessary fossil fuel investments and utility profit-grabs. This bill was improved substantially in the Senate to protect ratepayers, but failed to emerge from a conference report. Special thanks to Senator Surovell, who led the charge to put heavy guard rails on spending pursuant to SB2333.
Attacks on RGGI: After numerous attempts to repeal the legislation enjoining us to the Regional Greenhous Gas Initiative (RGGI) last year, it became clear that there was little appetite in the legislature to abandon one of Virginia’s most popular and necessary policies.
SB1001 would have removed Virginia from RGGI. It met an early demise in a Senate committee. Meanwhile, Governor Youngkin continues his unlawful crusade to remove Virginia from RGGI via regulatory action.
GOOD BILLS THAT WILL BE BACK NEXT YEAR:
Shared solar: SB1266 and SB1083 would have made community solar more accessible to all Virginians by establishing a reasonable cost of service for the existing Dominion program and expanding it to Appalachian Power territory. Community solar, or shared solar, allows people who cannot obtain rooftop solar to benefit from power produced by small solar arrays off property. It’s a key tool for expanding the pool of people who can directly benefit from cheap, clean solar power and for meeting our clean energy goals. Both bills passed the Senate with bipartisan support (SB1083 passed 35 – 4!) and were killed in a special subcommittee in the House. While the result is disappointing, we’re happy to have established a good precedent of bipartisan support in the Senate and will keep fighting for shared solar in the coming years.
Rural EV infrastructure: SB1466 and HB1588 would have created a funding mechanism to put EV chargers online in rural and low-income areas. This is important in the short-term as federal funding and private markets primarily focus on major highway corridors. Beyond making it possible for residents of rural areas to own an EV, it is also an essential policy to ensure that people all over the country are able to visit – and invest in – our scenic rural areas. Sadly, HB1588 was defeated in the House Appropriations committee and SB1466 never received a vote in that same committee. We’re hopeful that we can build more grassroots support for this policy to show lawmakers of all political stripes why it is necessary for the economic future of our rural areas.
Utility disconnection protections: HB2283 and HB1875 would have expanded protections from utility disconnections during extreme weather and for people with particular medical conditions. While our major utilities actually stood up to support both bills, a familiar story ultimately unfolded: both were killed by the House Commerce & Energy committee.
During a hostile political climate populated by fossil fuel allies, we not only defended our best climate policies, we moved forward in some key areas. This wouldn’t have happened without you.
On March 20, we’re going to build on this momentum with a post-session meetup for Action Members. If you’d like to join as an Action Member, sign up here. For as little as $1 a year, you’ll be joining a community of concerned individuals committed to taking action together. As an Action Member, you’ll have the opportunity to provide input and support to our climate campaigns. We’ll unlock access to activist conference calls and trainings, and you’ll have the opportunity to join one of our local action teams. You’ll also get invites to community-building events like hikes and lunches.
Sign up to become an Action Member today, and stay tuned for an invite to the 20th!