To: Interested Parties
From: Michael Town, Executive Director, Virginia League of Conservation Voters
Re: Virginia Clean Economy Act
Date: Friday, March 6, 2020
The Virginia legislature just passed the strongest package of clean energy and climate action legislation in state history.
The Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) will transition Virginia to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045 and, critically, ensure that the low income communities and communities of color most impacted by toxic pollution and climate change will have access to affordable clean power and new clean energy jobs. For the first time ever in Virginia, the Clean Economy Act will address the social cost of carbon, meaning the General Assembly has recognized the economic and public health impacts that carbon pollution creates, especially for vulnerable communities.
Additionally, the legislation will implement the state’s first-ever mandatory renewable portfolio standard, require investments in energy efficiency instead of costly infrastructure, and make it easier to install rooftop solar in Virginia.
This landmark legislation is the result of years of organizing to elect a climate action majority to the legislature and mobilize tens of thousands of Virginians to demand action.
In 2019, Virginia LCV invested $1.5 million to help flip Virginia’s General Assembly to a climate action majority committed to addressing the climate crisis, expanding renewable energy, and moving Virginia away from fossil fuels. Our campaign, the largest and most sophisticated we’ve ever run for legislative elections, centered on direct communication with voters about what the 2019 elections meant for our climate, our health, and our environment.
As soon as we won friendly majorities, our efforts pivoted toward letting lawmakers know that they had a climate mandate and that voters expected bold policies to address climate change in 2020.
Our advocacy efforts around the VCEA included:
Virginia LCV’s poll, conducted by Lake Research Partners, found widespread support for moving to 100% clean energy, with 56% of Virginians supporting the measure and only 31% opposed to it. Support among the Democratic base was even higher, with 83% of Democratic voters in favor of the VCEA.
The poll also found there was little risk for lawmakers for supporting the VCEA — a strong plurality of voters would re-elect a lawmaker who supported the move to 100% clean energy.
Polling results were shared with leadership in both the House and Senate.
Virginia LCV kicked off its program with a two-piece mail flight sent around the holidays targeting lawmakers in 11 target legislative districts. Each mail piece (mail piece 1, mail piece 2) went to a combined universe of about 23,500 voters with the goal of building early support among voters and ramping up pressure on lawmakers in leadership or who sit on key committees in the House and Senate.
Paid phone calls have been ongoing since early January into 30 legislative districts, including overlap with the initial 11 districts we targeted with mail. Throughout the campaign, we completed more than 1,000 calls into legislative offices either urging them to support the VCEA or thanking them for being a patron of the bill.
Virginia LCV, along with our partners at Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club – Virginia Chapter, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, launched a digital video entitled “We’re Watching,” which looks at the climate crisis from the perspective of young people. The video launched on Jan. 22 and has been running ever since across Virginia LCV’s social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).
During the last week of the General Assembly, Virginia LCV and our coalition partners aired a strong commercial entitled “It’s Time,” which aired on CNN and MSNBC stations from March 4-7 in Richmond. The piece echoes the sense of urgency from our digital spot when it comes to addressing the climate crisis, and reflects on how inaction on climate change will affect the next generation.
Governor Northam now has 30 days to sign the bill or offer amendments. VALCV and partners will work to ensure only amendments that improve this legislation get considered and that Virginia’s strongest climate action in history becomes law by April 22 when the General Assembly considers any final changes to legislation.
Transportation emissions comprise half of Virginia’s carbon footprint, and having addressed emissions from the electricity sector we must take significant action to cut pollution from the transportation sector and ensure transit equity.
This will include supporting Virginia’s membership in the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) and actualizing policy recommendations that ensure communities most impacted by transportation emissions benefit strongly are enacted.
We must also accelerate our build-out of mass transit – efforts that get more Virginians out of cars – while incentivizing transit equity and vehicle electrification and infrastructure.
Additional 2020 Pro-Conservation Victories:
In addition to passing the VCEA in 2020, the legislature also acted in other ways to address climate change and move us away from fossil fuels. All together, Virginia LCV and allies passed more than 80 pro-conservation bills through the General Assembly in 2020.