Small businesses lobby for governor’s support of federal Clean Power Plan.
Just in time for today’s Virginia General Assembly hearing on the federal Clean Power Plan, some Virginia business owners have voiced their support for the plan in a letter delivered Tuesday to Gov. Terry McAuliffe and other lawmakers.
Fifty business leaders from across the state, representing a range of industries from clean energy to real estate and food service, signed the letter — an effort sponsored by the national nonpartisan business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). The group of business leaders, investors and others says its promotes smart environmental policies that drive economic growth.
The Virginia House and Senate Commerce and Labor Committees are meeting today to discuss the impact on Virginia of a draft regulation that the Environmental Protection Agency released in June that would reduce carbon emissions. It calls for cutting emissions from existing power plants by 30 percent below 2005 levels by the year 2030 .
The hearing is expected to draw a large coalition of various student, public health and environmental groups. They plan to rally today at 12:30 p.m. at the Bell Tower on Richmond’s Capitol Square to show their support for ramping up clean-energy sources in the commonwealth to address the threat of climate change.
According to E2, the Clean Power Plan gives Virginia an opportunity to develop its clean-energy economy and create thousands of jobs. However, the plan has generated plenty of controversy, and the EPA is allowing time for people and states to submit comments on the new regulations.
E2 executive director Bob Keefe, an Alexandria resident and one of the letter’s signatories, said:
“Our leaders in Richmond should recognize the economic and job opportunities that will come with strong implementation of the Clean Power Plan.”
The letter says implementation of the plan in Virginia could:
· Expand the state’s wind industry. Currently, Virginia has five wind-energy supply chain manufacturing facilities. Development of Virginia’s offshore wind resources could grow these businesses and generate enough electricity to meet 10 percent of the state’s demand.
· Help spur improvements in the state’s energy-efficiency programs. Increased energy efficiency in Virginia could create 5,600 direct new jobs and save Virginia commercial and industrial businesses $531 million by 2020, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
· Grow Virginia’s solar industry. By sending a clear market signal that would steer private-sector investment capital into solar energy, Virginia could add to its 1,900 solar employees and expand beyond the 124 commonwealth businesses that are part of the solar industry’s supply chain.
· Protect vulnerable coastal communities. Sea-level rise threatens infrastructure critical to the economy and the national security, including Naval Station Norfolk.
A September E2 poll found that 63 percent of Virginia’s small-business owners think Virginia lawmakers should do more to help the state compete with other states to attract and develop more clean, renewable energy companies and jobs. The same poll showed a majority of Virginia’s small business owners think McAuliffe and the state legislature should support the Clean Power Plan.
According to E2, Virginia continues to lag behind neighboring states in clean energy job growth. E2’s most recent national quarterly jobs report shows that Maryland and North Carolina are among the top 10 states in the country for clean energy job announcements. Since E2 first began tracking clean energy job announcements in 2011, North Carolina has announced 12,900 jobs; Maryland about 5,300 and Virginia barely more than 400.
Other voices have weighed in on the plan, including Barry DuVal, president and CEO of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce. In an op-ed piece in Sunday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, Duval contends that the plan would risk Virginia’s affordable energy prices and put it at a competitive disadvantage against neighboring states. That’s because the EPA’s draft regulation assigns Virginia a state emissions limit more stringent that that of neighboring states.
“It is important that Virginia businesses and public officials insist on more equitable treatment for our state under this rule,” DuVal said.
Virginia’s State Corporation Commission, the state agency that regulates utility rates in Virginia, has said the plan would cost the state’s largest utility, Dominion Virginia Power, up to $6 billion to implement.
McAuliffe said in an earlier statement that he agrees with the plan’s goal of reducing carbon emissions in order to combat global warming. However, the state has submitted comments to the EPA “with the intent of improving the Clean Power Plan by making it more equitable and better recognizing the progress that states like ours have already made in reducing carbon.”
Under the current proposed regulation, states receive no credit for zero-emitting generation such as nuclear power (Virginia has four nuclear units at two power plants), something Virginia would like to see changed.
According to the state’s Department of Environmental Quality, Virginia power companies reduced carbon emissions by 39 percent from 2005 to 2012.