STATEMENT: Governor Northam Proposes New Steps to Address Sea Level Rise

Now General Assembly Must Pass Legislation To Provide Funding

RICHMOND, VA — Today, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced a new executive order that lays out a strong new strategy to protect Virginia’s coastal communities from global warming-driven sea level rise. If implemented, the plan would constitute a major new step in the fight against ever-increasing coastal flooding in the Commonwealth. However, full funding of the Governor’s plan will require legislative action by the General Assembly to access funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Governor Northam declared today that he would again introduce legislation in 2019 to use the state’s proposed carbon cap on dirty power plants to help fund coastal resilience efforts. RGGI is a market-based climate change program, currently comprised of nine East Coast states, that caps and reduces carbon emissions from power plants.

“I will propose legislation to dedicate the revenue generated by our carbon pollution reduction rule to adaptive infrastructure,” Northam said at a speech in Williamsburg today. “Instead of sending tens of millions of dollars back to the companies creating the pollution, we should set those funds aside, take the chance to begin tackling these problems in a meaningful way.”

Executive Order 24, released today, lays out a series of actions the Commonwealth will undertake to limit the impact of flooding, extreme weather events, and also wildfires. This includes improving resilience of state-owned buildings by taking sea level rise projections into account, as well as creating a long-overdue “Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Plan” that will detail specific actions to adapt and protect Virginia’s coastal regions.

“I look forward to working with the General Assembly during upcoming session to make a significant downpayment on this project by investing in our planning effort and setting aside funds for resilience related projects,” Northam said today.

Governor Northam’s executive order comes just weeks after the world’s top scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change sounded the alarm bells for the drastic action needed in order to prevent climate catastrophe.

Harrison Wallace, Virginia Director at the CCAN Action Fund, stated in response:

“We applaud Governor Northam for taking serious steps to address climate change. We look forward to working with him to pass legislation in 2019 that would join Virginia to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and use part of the carbon revenue — hundreds of millions of dollars — to invest in coastal flooding protection efforts. The reality is that coastal Virginia, with nearly two million people and the world’s largest naval base, has been flooding like a damaged ship for years and years and no one has bothered to fix the leaks. Now, Governor Northam appears ready to take the helm. He has a strong plan to begin fixing the holes in the ship and steer us in a new direction. With the recent IPCC report bringing new urgency to the climate crisis, Northam’s action could not have come at a better time.

“This executive order commits the state to serious resilience measures. This will require new sources of funding, some of which can only be obtained by joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. To do so, the General Assembly must pass legislation to allow the Northam Administration to access the hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue raised from that program. Legislation along these lines has been introduced in bipartisan fashion during each of last four legislative sessions in Richmond. A version of that bill will be coming back in January.

“With the added scientific urgency and growing political momentum, we look forward to seeing that bill become law and going to the governor’s desk at the end of the 2019 General Assembly session.”