Huge Climate Victories and Hope for Change: A Virginia Election Wrap-Up

November 20, 2019
Photo by Paul Sableman / Creative Commons

With FWA-endorsed environmental champions in office and a slew of upcoming environmental legislation, Virginia seems poised for green success

This month’s electoral results in Virginia mark a win for the movement to address climate change. In a state where corporate utilities like Dominion have long dominated politics, to the detriment of public health and safety, the recent election suggests there is a shift coming. And it couldn’t come a day too soon for the advocates fearlessly battling fracked gas plants and pipelines across the state, like the Chickahominy Power Station, the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) Southgate Extension, and the Transcontinental (Transco) Southeastern Trail Expansion Project. If built, these projects would endanger the air, water, and soil of countless Virginia communities, while also exacerbating Virginia’s role in global warming. It’s time to have officials in office who will work towards the common good and not corporate profits.

Food & Water Action endorsed a small but impressive roster of local candidates leading up to the November 5th election, all of them champions who advocate for a turn away from fossil fuels. Delegate Elizabeth Guzman of District 31, Delegate Lee Carter of District 50, and incoming Delegate Dan Helmer of District 40, all endorsed by Food & Water Action (FWA) for their commitment to combating climate change, won their races. These officials have bold plans that include fighting back against pipeline expansions, protecting public health by ensuring clean air and water, and promoting an equitable transition to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2035. These winners have shown time and time again that they will stand up to corporate interests to protect the health and safety of Virginia’s communities.

There’s lots to look out for in the upcoming legislative session, from proactive, equitable climate ideas to truly terrible and regressive ones. While Governor Ralph Northam recently introduced an executive order mandating for 100% clean energy by the year 2050, this timeline is far too distant and leaves the door wide open for harmful systems like burning trash or nuclear energy.  We are hopeful the newly elected legislators will not just blindly follow Gov. Northam’s lead, and will instead take up the mantle in pushing for a fully necessary and equitable transition to 100% clean and renewable energy by 2035. The Green New Deal Virginia coalition, for instance, has already endorsed the 100% by 2035 goal and a moratorium on fossil fuels as a legislative pillar for next session. 

All of this, of course, must be accomplished in part by reining in Dominion’s dangerous and monopolistic practices, which prevent communities from making long-term investments in wind and community solar. There needs to be special attention to making these efforts accessible to low-income communities and communities of color, who have historically borne the brunt of climate-related woes, and tend to be in closer proximity to noxious refineries and polluting superfund sites.

As mentioned before, weak, ‘it’s better than nothing’ ideas should not be prioritized by legislators or the public. This includes the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which masquerades as climate action, but in reality has undue impacts to vulnerable communities, promotes pay-to-pollute schemes, and incentivizes more fracking. Food & Water Action just released an important fact sheet on the unacceptable environmental justice implications of the policy. 

As always, Food & Water Action will continue battling special interests and corporate dollars to ensure a brighter, healthier, fossil fuel-free future for Virginia communities. We’re glad to have a roster of champion legislators to battle alongside.