House GOP reverses course on green mandates
by Steve Hanner
First published this morning by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy.
Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates passed a series of bills opting out of Virginia’s rush to a fossil fuel-free future, but those were party votes and the Virginia Senate Democrats, who hold the majority on this side, could quickly kill them all.
Two bills to repeal or amend the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) of 2020 were also opposed in testimony from major Virginia electric utilities, which are investing heavily in mandated renewable energy assets, including including a 179-turbine offshore wind facility planned by Dominion Energy Virginia. . Various environmental groups were unified and expressed their opposition to the bills.
But utility opposition voiced in the House Committee on Commerce and Energy has not stopped the bills. On the more comprehensive proposal, two senior Republicans chose not to vote in committee. However, once House Bill 118 reached the full House, both voted yes. One of them had voted in favor of the VCEA two years ago, the only Republican delegate to do so.
On the side of the Senate, opposition to public services is likely to stiffen. The committee likely to hear all or most of the bills is split between 12 Democrats and 3 Republicans, and two of those Republicans have already voted to kill (“pass indefinitely”) another measure drafted to amend the VCEA and give to the State Corporation Commission power to reject renewable projects.
There was very little House-side debate and no legislative maneuvering as Republicans formally dismantled the net-zero emissions vision that Democrats imposed when they were in control in 2020 and 2021.
None of the bills received public discussion, let alone support, from Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) or members of his administration. The only item on its day one agenda affected by these bills is ending Virginia’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Besides legislation, there are other avenues to abandon the RGGI and end the carbon tax associated with it.
Youngkin would probably be happy to sign House Bill 1301, a direct repeal of the RGGI. The same objective is achieved in House Bill 118, but this legislation goes much further and also repeals the entire VCEA. His passage was highlighted on the Republican list of “promises kept” released on Tuesday.
The argument against House Bill 118 fell on Delegate Richard “Rip” Sullivan, D-Arlington, who argued that its passage and future solar and wind reliance are major economic boons for the Commonwealth. “Jobs and businesses are flowing to Virginia,” he said. Certainly, jobs for installers will explode during installation, and there is a turbine blade assembly plant planned for Hampton Roads to support offshore wind construction.
A bill passed the previous day, House Bill 73, which actually received a vote from a Democrat, attracted far less attention on the floor. It leaves most of the VCEA intact, but removes specific mandates of how much wind and solar to build, and by when, and restores the authority of the State Corporations Commission to rule on needs. , reasonableness and prudence. These standard tests have been replaced by the VCEA as passed.
Many Democrats at least pretended to restore the SCC’s independent review to protect consumers, but missed the chance to put that position into action.
Two House Democrats officially vote for House Bill 1257, which establishes in law the right to use natural gas if it is available. It was filed in response to a City of Richmond decision, copying a national trend, threatening to shut down its municipally-run gas utility. Under the pending bill, Richmond would instead have to seek a buyer for the transaction.
But the bill is broader than that, banning local ordinances against new gas connections and reaching non-utility uses of natural gas. Eliminating natural gas from power generation is only part of the net zero vision, which extends to an outright ban on the energy source. Negative votes on the bill can and will be portrayed as votes to kill natural gas.
Finally, House Republicans also voted en bloc to overturn a recent regulation passed by the Air Pollution Control Board and signed by former Gov. Ralph Northam (D.). rules promulgated by the California Air Resources Board.
House Bill 1267 (no Democratic support for it) would allow the Air Council to reconsider such a settlement. But this time it is expected to conduct a full regulatory review and allow public comment, bypassed in previous legislation. And that would move the timeline for Virginia’s alignment with California rules to no earlier than 2029. California plans to ban the sale of all new internal combustion or hybrid cars and small trucks by 2035. The Lobby of Virginia Auto Dealerships applauded and opposed the regulations. this bill.
Democrats, confident that public opinion is on their side, are dug in, though polling data suggests voters are siding with GOP lawmakers. The majority of the State Senate is expected to confirm its desire to ban new gasoline or diesel cars, ban natural gas stoves and furnaces, impose ever-higher carbon taxes on electricity, and then to shut down all fossil fuel production. The deadlines are always well beyond the next election or even the end of their career.