Virginia Governor’s Race: Responses to CCAN Action Fund Questions on Climate

A few weeks ago, CCAN Action Fund sent a questionnaire to the Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli campaigns. We asked a series of questions about where they stand on climate and clean energy policies, and what they’ll do as governor to move Virginia forward.

To date, we have received a response from the Terry McAuliffe campaign. Unfortunately, we have yet to receive a response from the Cuccinelli campaign. You can read the responses from candidate McAuliffe below. Click here for more information on how to cast your vote for climate action on November 5th.

CCAN Action Fund Gubernatorial Candidate Questionnaire

Responses from the Terry McAuliffe campaign

1) Scientists say that Earth’s climate is changing because of the burning of fossil fuels. Top climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has said, “We face a climate emergency.” Do you agree with climate scientists that climate change is underway and largely human-caused?

I agree with the scientific consensus that climate change is real, it is happening, and human activity is driving it. My opponent, however, has a long record of putting his extreme ideological agenda first. He launched a witch-hunt against UVA that had no legal basis, simply because he disagreed with a climate scientist’s research. Virginia needs to keep our doors open and welcoming to the best and brightest minds so that we can continue to foster education, innovation, and new businesses.

2) Scientists agree that climate change has already contributed to heat waves, sea-level rise, extreme storms and droughts. The sea level in Virginia’s Tidewater region is predicted to rise more than 5 feet by end of the century. Do you consider climate change a serious threat to the people of Virginia, the state’s economy and the environment? If so, what are three key policies you would put in place to help prevent the worst impacts?

Sea level rise is already impacting the Hampton Roads region and that’s why I have proposed a climate change mitigation commission that will look into ways the state can support our most vulnerable communities as we attempt to reduce the damage climate change is inflicting on this critically important region of our Commonwealth.

3) Gov. Bob McDonnell eliminated the state’s Commission on Climate Change, a group of scientists, economists, environmental advocates and industry representatives that had been charged with evaluating the effect of climate change on Virginia’s natural resources, the health of its residents and its economy. The commission produced a 51-page Climate Action Plan in 2008 that included strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to build resilience for the changes ahead. If you were elected governor, would you reestablish the commission and move forward with its recommendations?

Yes. Everyone must do what he or she can to be responsible stewards of our climate. It’s time to stop pretending this isn’t a problem and start working on solutions.

4) Transportation is the source of 48 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Virginia. What policies would you put in place to reduce emissions from this sector?

As governor, I will continue the state fleet’s conversion to cleaner burning natural gas, invest more heavily in transit and intercity passenger rail, and work to reduce congestion so that we waste less gasoline idling in traffic.

5) Would your administration lend its weight to repealing the “hybrid tax” passed in the last General Assembly session and signed by Governor McDonnell?

No compromise is perfect, and the recent transportation bill represented people from many different viewpoints making concessions to advance the state. While I was not a fan of the new fees on hybrid vehicles put forth as a part of the transportation package, I have grave concerns about what could happen if we were to open that legislation up to legislative changes. The revenues that bill creates are critically important to improving the transportation future of our Commonwealth.

6) Many states have mandatory renewable portfolio standard (RPS) laws setting the percentage of a state’s energy that must come from wind, solar or other renewable source by a certain date. These standards lower greenhouse gas emissions and create jobs. Virginia has a voluntary goal of 15 percent by 2025, and much of the energy sources that have qualified so far are hydroelectric dams that have been operating since the Great Depression. Would your administration support a mandatory RPS? What goal would you propose for Virginia? Would you press for eliminating loopholes that allow old hydro-dams to qualify as renewable energy sources?

I have spoken out in support of a mandatory RPS standard for Virginia, in keeping with those of our neighbors in the Mid-Atlantic. Any progress in that direction is progress I would support. I certainly believe that any legislation that implemented a mandatory RPS should include provisions to encourage the construction of actual new renewable energy generation.

7) George Washington National Forest, the largest national forest east of the Mississippi, contains 230,000 acres of old-grown forest. It is also home to the headwaters of the Potomac and James rivers, which supply drinking water for 4.5 million Virginians. Do you support hydro-fracking for natural gas in the George Washington National Forest?

I don’t support hydro-fracking in the George Washington National Forest.

8) Dominion Resources won the leasing rights to develop Virginia’s 112,800-acre offshore wind energy area. Do you support wind energy for Virginia? What steps would your administration take to ensure that Dominion moves forward quickly to develop wind energy and create clean-energy jobs for Virginia?

I was thrilled to see leases being sold for offshore wind energy off of our coast. I will work with Dominion to ensure that their test turbines go into the water expeditiously and I will continue to push for installation and manufacture of wind turbines here in Virginia.

9) What education or other incentive programs would your administration support to help transition workers from the coal industry to clean energy industries?

As governor, I will make investment in community colleges a major education and workforce development priority. These institutions are the keys to successful worker retraining in all fields, including energy. At Virginia Highlands Community College in Abingdon, I met a Virginian who had spent his whole life working in manufacturing. But he needed new skills for the jobs of the future and was learning how to install solar panels. Because of our higher education institutions, he will have opportunities for the rest of his life. I hope to see that story repeated across Virginia when I am governor.

10) What policies or programs would you support to put solar and other clean energy in reach for low- and moderate-income families?

I will spend my time as governor focused on ensuring that Virginia’s energy mix is diverse, affordable, and green. All ratepayers should be confident that the electricity they pay for is increasingly generated in a renewable and sustainable fashion.

11) What measures would your administration support to encourage the clean energy economy and job growth in:

a. Energy efficiency?

As governor, I will support a range of energy efficiency measures. I will support tax credits and grants for installation of equipment to improve energy efficiency along with a renewed push to ensure that the Commonwealth is as efficient as possible in its use of energy.

b. Clean energy manufacturing?

While I will support growth in all areas of manufacturing, the best opportunity for clean energy manufacturing in Virginia will flow from our offshore wind leases in conjunction with our port. By moving aggressively to ensure that we begin installation of offshore wind as soon as possible we can attract manufacturers to build the poles, turbines, rotors, blades, etc. right here in Virginia. Once that infrastructure exists near our port we can supply other east coast offshore wind projects, creating clean energy jobs for years to come.

c. Clean energy innovation?

It’s critically important that we continue to innovate in all areas, including clean energy. By investing in our institutions of higher learning we can drive progress on research and development of clean energy technology. Institutions like Virginia Tech and ODU are already breaking new ground, and by writing budgets that don’t starve these and other institutions of resources we can support their efforts.