[Richmond] Among the many amendments to legislation offered by Governor Bob McDonnell is a change to HB1300/SB128 that weakens the authority of the State Air Pollution Control Board to mandate reductions in nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide in coal-fired power plants Northern Virginia. NOx and SO2 contribute to smog and acid rain, respectively.
“Governor McDonnell doesn’t seem to care at all about healthy air in Northern Virginia or anywhere else in the state,” said Glen Besa, Director of the Sierra Club. “Rather than vetoing the bill as we requested, he’s made matters worse by extending the reach of this anti-environmental legislation statewide to Northern Virginia which experiences the worst air quality in the state.”
The legislation as originally introduced by Delegate Jerry Kilgore (HB 1300) in the House of Delegates and by Senator Ryan McDougle (SB 128) in the Virginia Senate would have denied the State Air Pollution Control Board the authority to require operators of coal plants like Mirant and Dominion to make reductions in air pollution at their local power plants. Instead, power plant operators would be allowed to buy pollution credits from any where in the country. Purchasing air pollution credits outside of the region does not result in cleaner air within the State. In 2006, the General Assembly had passed Clean Smoke Stacks legislation that authorized the Air Board to prohibit trading if the Board determined that local reductions in air pollution were necessary to protect the public health. The legislation as originally proposed repealed that authority statewide.
During the session, rather than vote to kill the legislation, Senator Chap Petersen of Fairfax offered an amendment to exempt Northern Virginia from the bill. It is that amendment that Governor McDonnell has deleted from the legislation with his amendment.
After the bill’s passage in March, the Virginia environmental community sent a letter to the Governor requesting that he veto this legislation. “We never got a formal reply,” said Besa. “I guess his answer is this amendment making a bad bill worse.”
“We are calling on state legislators to reject Governor McDonnell’s amendment,” said Besa. “We wish we could kill this bill but the best we can get at this time is to not make matters worse.”