Via E&E Publishing:
Virginia’s General Assembly yesterday blocked funding for the state environment agency to work on ways of fulfilling a federal mandate to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
In a move decried by environmental groups, the Virginia House of Delegates yesterday pushed forward language in the state budget stating that the Department of Environmental Quality can no longer use state funding to prepare or submit a compliance plan for the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan “unless the stay issued by the United States Supreme Court is released.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) supports the Clean Power Plan. In March, he vetoed a bill Virginia lawmakers put forth requiring the General Assembly’s approval of the state compliance plan submittal for the EPA rule (ClimateWire, March 3).
The governor had proposed an amendment to remove the language in the budget barring the DEQ from spending state funds to comply with the Clean Power Plan.
“I strongly believe that Virginia needs to proceed with development of the regulations while a stay is in place,” the governor’s recommendation stated, adding “submission of such plan to the United States Environmental Protection Agency will not be authorized until the stay issued by the United States Supreme Court is released.”
But yesterday, the House of Delegates voted to override the governor’s amendment, meaning the state agency will be restricted from working on compliance with EPA’s climate rule as of July 1.
Michael Dowd, director of the Virginia DEQ’s air division, said in an email yesterday the agency still needs to meet with its attorneys and the governor’s office to determine the full impact of the budget language.
“Certainly, we won’t be putting pen to paper to draft a plan or start a regulatory process,” said Dowd. “With the stay in place, we are pretty limited on what we can do anyway, so it might not impact our work too much.”
A restriction or a ‘symbolic jab’?
Virginia environmental groups criticized the budget restriction, holding a protest outside the General Assembly yesterday morning wearing orange life vests and yellow rain boots.
Virginia Sierra Club director Glen Besa argued it’s “more than ironic” that Republicans in the General Assembly “would use the budget to block action on climate change when Virginia taxpayers are already spending millions to deal with sea-level rise.”
However, Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Walton Shepherd argued McAuliffe may be able to devise a workaround allowing his state to continue pursuing Clean Power Plan compliance. He called the budget language a “symbolic jab.”
“I just don’t think this is something that will stop the governor from moving forward,” said Shepherd. “By doing it through a budget restriction, it’s necessarily a very narrow action.”
Dominion Resources Inc., a major Virginia utility that recently made headlines for filing an amicus brief calling the Clean Power Plan’s goals “feasible,” declined to comment on the funding block.
“The budget issue is the purview of policymakers, the Governor, and the legislative process,” Dominion spokesman David Botkins said in an email.
McAuliffe’s office did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Virginia’s Legislature is not the first state to restrict funding for its environment agency related to the Clean Power Plan.
Wyoming’s governor this spring signed a law prohibiting the state’s Department of Environmental Quality from spending money to plan for EPA’s climate rule, although it does allow the agency to “attend meetings and otherwise be informed as to any potential need to develop and submit a state plan” (ClimateWire, March 7). Missouri’s General Assembly is moving forward with a similar bill (ClimateWire, March 16).
See the article here.
- On April 21, 2016