Governor Youngkin releases Energy Plan with few solutions
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Today, Governor Glenn Youngkin unveiled his 2022 Energy Plan, calling for – among other things – the repeal of Virginia’s Clean Cars Standards, expedited approval of gas pipelines, and requiring the Virginia Clean Economy Act to be reevaluated and reauthorized in 2023, and every five years thereafter.
“The misguided call to repeal Clean Cars standards would scrap the biggest step Virginia has taken to address the largest source of climate pollution,” said Trip Pollard, leader of the Southern Environmental Law Center’s Land & Community Program. “The plan doubles down on the misinformation campaign the administration is mounting against Clean Cars and would hit the snooze button on transportation electrification.”
Will Cleveland, a senior attorney in SELC’s Charlottesville office said that while the plan highlights Virginia’s increasing energy costs, it unfairly demonizes clean energy as the cause. In reality, fossil-fuel generation and an anti-customer utility code have driven most costs increases since 2007, with Dominion adding more than $1 billion to customer bills in unexpected coal and gas prices last year alone.
“Clean energy is not the problem here. The problem is a regulatory system that enables utilities to over-charge customers on the one hand and then drive rates even higher with new surcharges with the other hand. Years of bad legislation have handcuffed the State Corporation Commission’s ability to prevent these ratepayer abuses. We would happily work with the Governor to rectify the fundamental ratemaking problems, but we cannot retreat from our clean energy transition. Proven, falling-cost resources like solar, wind, and battery storage simply do not threaten reliability or affordability, as this energy plan claims.”
The plan also continues to repeat the administration’s misguided attacks on Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
“RGGI has a long track record of success and is already working to reduce emissions and improve public health in Virginia, while bringing in critical funds to help low-income households reduce energy bills and localities to plan for increasingly common flooding events, like those associated with Hurricane Ian.” reiterated Cleveland.
The Energy Plan also comments on the Mountain Valley Pipeline, arguing that the permitting process in conjunction with “litigious special interest groups” has significantly impacted the ability of natural gas utilities to meet the energy demands of their customers. The report also states that Virginia has historically been supportive of natural gas pipeline projects due to their “clear benefits” of job creation, economic development, and energy reliability.
SELC Senior Attorney and leader of its Regional Gas team, Greg Buppert, disagrees.
“We are well beyond the idea that natural gas—methane—is a clean replacement for coal-fired power generation. It’s simply not. Methane is a dangerous fossil fuel that’s driving climate change, and it’s time for the Commonwealth to recognize that scientific fact,” said Buppert. “For its part, the Mountain Valley Pipeline would cause tens of millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year. And this project is not in the home stretch: only 55.8% is complete to final restoration, and some of the most challenging work still looms. Meanwhile, the on-the-ground cost of pipeline construction across Virginia has been staggering.”