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Vivian's Views > Environment

COMMITMENT

Nowhere is the health and well-being of future generations more at-stake than in our actions to protect the environment, invest in green energy and conservation, and preserve Virginia's unique and irreplaceable natural heritage. Through well-reasoned policy decisions, we can strengthen Virginia's economy as we conserve her resources.

I still enjoy back country camping with my grandsons.  I love the beauty and thrills of Virginia's whitewater.  I smile when trillium re-appear behind our house each spring.  Especially in times of great change, many of us reach to nature to regain our sense of stability.

But even as Virginia's lush vegetation, stream valleys, and open waters can be a source of peace, they cannot endure like the ancient Appalachians without our help.

We need to make critical land purchases now to buffer the Chesapeake Bay from run-off. The phenomenal increase in transit use revealed capacity restraints and the need to expand the system. Reducing global warming is critical.   Laws to control land use, protect ground water, prevent air and water pollution can't be effective without sound environmental impact research and the will to enforce them. 

ENERGY AND CLEAN AIR


It is past time to adopt significant initiatives including but not limited to: off-shore wind energy; bio-energy research focused on non-food stocks; demand metering that provides readily visible, real time information; green construction; re-cycled product development; safe nuclear generation; and a significant gas tax and/or electronic tolling that reflects the true cost of providing a transportation system that cuts greenhouse gas generation through reduced vehicle usage.

Energy Conservation –Virginia’s voluntary renewable portfolio standard goal of 15% (of 2007 base year) by 2025 should be increased and be made mandatory.


New Energy – Wind turbines in the relatively shallow waters at least 12 miles off Virginia’s coast would capture significantly more steady wind power than the mid-west, avoid migratory birds, not interfere with Navy training, and allow efficient power transmission to population centers. I support a Renewable Portfolio Standard that would require that a certain percentage of the state’s electricity come from renewable resources with preference to zero-emission resources. I oppose drilling for natural gas off Virginia's coastline ... proposals to limit drilling to 30 miles out involves depths at which there are only a handful of wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

Coal-fired power plants – most built in the 1940's and 50's – are the greatest source of air pollution in Virginia. Unfortunately, recent federal Clear Skies rules allow these plants to continue to pollute even when they’re upgraded. Other east coast states are reacting by passing state regulations and I believe that Virginia should join these initiatives. Technology could remove 95% of pollutants, equivalent to taking 4 million cars off Virginia roads.

TRANSIT


The capacity of the existing Metro system must be increased by fully utilizing the multi-billion dollar track infrastructure through purchasing significantly more cars and making technological and platform modifications to accommodate 8-car trains; maintenance of the 40-year old Metro system is critical; and circumferential expansion of Metro as recommended in the 2020 Plan must commence with identification and purchase of future Metro station sites to be used initially as HOV / SLUG and express bus service (BRT) lots.  It is also critical that such collector lots be established as a condition of I-95 HOT lanes construction – if the HOT lanes are constructed before the collector lots, they will significantly increase sprawl at the terminal access points.

Both as a legislative leader in changing the transportation formula and as Secretary, I increased Metro funding 4-fold.  I currently co-chair a Senate House Joint Committee on Enhanced Priority Bus Service.  I will continue to work for more transit funding.  I was shocked in 2005 that the Family Foundation labeled additional money for Metro as anti-family and caused the Senate bill to be killed by a party-line vote in House Finance Committee. I believe users of Virginia roads should pay a larger share of the cost of the transportation system, rather than currently less than half of what they did in 1990. 

SMARTER GROWTH

As Secretary, I chaired a year-long, unprecedented regional effort of top local officials, staff, and citizens that brought land use and transportation plans together for the first time to create a coordinated Northern Virginia Transportation Plan. As chair, I prevailed over VDOT’s objections and insisted that citizen participation be equal to technical staff input. I fully support the update of that plan, which includes a transit corridor between Springfield and Tysons Corner and rail out I-66.

The key to preserving the integrity of designated growth areas and keeping the designation from being undercut by a court challenge is to establish the area upon defensible planning premises that can be and are documented using measurable factors. In addition, an inclusive public processes will help establish broad community acceptance of the principles and hopefully prevent electoral swings in philosophy.

OPEN SPACE AND HISTORIC PRESERVATION


As a conferee, I helped preserve the Land Conservation Tax Credit from the Senate attempt to severely weaken it.  It is highly successful in preserving land and is serving as a national model.  I believe that we closed developer abuses. It was also important to preserve the ability to sell the credit because of the important incentive this represents to some of the lower income people I represent who back onto streams that are part of the Chesapeake water shed.  The Tax Credit can play an important role in helping Virginia meet its commitments under the Chesapeake Bay Interstate Preservation Agreement.

I support transferable development rights, but want to be sure that the sale of the development right is in perpetuity and cannot be reversed by a Master Plan change.  Based on my work on the Land Preservation Tax Credit Study, I look forward to taking an active role in assuring that Virginia’s Historic Preservation Tax Credits also are fully implemented.

CLEAN WATER


7,000 miles of Virginia rivers and streams, including our portion of the Chesapeake Bay, are on the national “dirty water” list.  We have yet to identify a source of ongoing funding to carry-out our commitment under the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement to remove the Chesapeake Bay from the federal list of impaired waters. 

Our efforts have focused on upgrading wastewater treatment plants and working with farmers to reduce agricultural runoff.  However, to meet the nitrogen reduction goal, we must improve our efforts to curb nitrogen pollution which involves controlling urban runoff.

In 2000, I supported crucial protection of Virginia’s rivers, marshes, and, of course, the Chesapeake Bay through passage of Non-Tidal Wetlands Protection legislation. Its significance for controlling land use was underscored by how hard it was fought. At one point, a “compromise” proposal would have permitted development of 90% of the Great Dismal Swamp!

A number of poor counties accepted large private trash “dumps” to increase local tax revenue and create jobs. Between 1993 and 1998, the annual increase would fill a line of trash trucks stretching bumper-to-bumper from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  By 1999, Virginia had become second in the nation in the amount of out-of-state trash coming into the state, causing concerns about ground water contamination and transport spills. Unfortunately, Congress failed to grant state's the power to limit trash under interstate commerce and ground water pollution remains a serious concern.

STATE PARKS


Virginia is dead last in funding for parks and natural areas, which limits their use and proper care.