FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DEMOCRATS REJECT CHANGES TO LAW WHICH IS
BLANKETING VIRGINIA WITH TOXIC SOLAR PANELS
SUVGOP RELEASES VA SOLAR PROJECT LIST – MORE THAN 240 PROJECTS WITH OVER 60 MILLION SOLAR PANELS IN THE WORKS
(Richmond, VA) – This morning the House of Delegates’ Labor and Commerce Subcommittee, controlled by progressive Democrats, voted down House Bill 2265 which would have repealed the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). The vote was along party lines with the six Democrats rejecting the proposed changes to VCEA and the four Republicans voting in favor of the modifications to last year’s law.
Testifying before the Subcommittee, HB 2265 Chief Patron, Delegate Nick Freitas stated, “It is in our interests and we are all in favor of improving our environment here in Virginia, however, the VCEA legislation last year has exposed the dangers of a quick, government-imposed solution. As Dominion Energy has recently determined, over 490 square miles of Virginia’s farmland and forests will be clear-cut to make way for solar farms and electricity costs will substantially increase for all residential customers. With the COVID crisis, we should not be burdening our working families and senior citizens with more electricity costs.”
During the debate this morning, the Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition (SUVGOP) released the first publicly available, comprehensive list of Virginia solar projects. After months of research, the list details more than 240 solar projects in various phases of development in the Commonwealth. The total number of proposed solar panels would be over 60 million.
“Virginia Democrats, with the implementation of VCEA, have turned our State into a “For Sale” sign to solar grifters around the world,” stated Ron Wright, Chief Operating Officer of SUVGOP, “we are seeing solar projects explode in one year and no state authority is managing this abusive rush to blanket the State with toxic solar panels. The far left has neutered the State Corporation Commission in its authority to oversee this process and the Department of Environmental Quality has a significant conflict of interest since a majority of its budget is derived from project filing fees. As of today, that we know of, DEQ has not rejected one solar project filing.”
SUVGOP has also expressed its concern that the Virginia legislators behind the Virginia Clean Economy Act failed to explore the impact of this flood of solar farm development. The organization is uneasy about the future burden the state and localities will face from the toxic chemicals in the 60 million plus panels installed.
“As Wired magazine recently wrote, we are just now beginning to see the problems with solar panels that contain toxic chemicals, like lead and cadmium, that will leach out onsite and in landfills,” added Wright, “Is the Commonwealth preparing for Superfunds to clean up after these solar environmental disasters? Are all the solar projects truly in the “public interest” as claimed by the Democrats?”
Wright stated that the extreme leftward push by the House Democrats and their failure to fully address the problems created by the VCEA law, such as clear-cutting our forests, the toxic dangers of solar projects and the costs to the average working family, especially during the COVID crisis, will now become central issues in the November elections.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF HB 2265 - REPEAL OF THE VIRGINIA CLEAN ECONOMY ACT
BEFORE THE VIRGINIA HOUSE LABOR AND COMMERCE COMMITTEE (Unedited)
Ronald Wright, COO/Steering Committee, Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition (SUVGOP) and President, Northern Virginia Republican Business Forum (NVRBF)
Collister Johnson, Jr., Senior Adviser SUVGOP, Former Chairman, Virginia Port Authority
JAN. 25, 2021
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee-
Thank you for the opportunity to submit this statement in support of HB 2265, a Bill to Repeal the Virginia Clean Economy Act, submitted by Delegate Nicholas J. Freitas on January 14, 2021.
My name is Ron Wright, I am Chief Operating Officer and sit on the Steering Committee for the Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition (SUVGOP), and I am Co-Chair of the Northern Virginia Republican Business Forum. For over thirty years I have lived in Herndon, built two successful technology companies, and been active in the Northern Virginia business community.
My name is Collister Johnson, Jr. I am a resident of Alexandria, Virginia. I have lived in VA since 1973, when I graduated from the University of Virginia Law School. I was honored to serve as the Chairman of the Virginia Port Authority from 1986 to 1992, under the leadership of three Governors of Virginia: Charles Robb, Gerry Baliles, and Douglas Wilder. I was also honored to be appointed by President George W. Bush, and confirmed by the Senate, to two positions in the United States Government: a Director of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, and Administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation.
We are grateful for the leadership of Delegate Nick Freitas in submitting HB 2265 to repeal the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) - the most radical and counterproductive legislation in the United States affecting the generation of electricity. The VCEA was passed on a party line vote last year, without adequate hearings or substantive debate, and without information or awareness of the enormously detrimental consequences which it would unleash on the Commonwealth.
Since the passage of the VCEA, the State Corporation Commission has determined that the VCEA-required mandates for electrical generation will result in an increase of over $800 per year for the electricity bill of the average Virginia family. In addition, Dominion Energy has determined that, in order to meet the VCEA requirements for solar generated electricity, 490 square miles of Virginia’s forest and farmland must be blanketed with solar panels. This is an area the equivalent of 237,000 football fields, 20 times the size of Manhattan Island, and 25% greater than all of Fairfax County.
It does not have to be this way. The climate and the environment of Virginia can be protected without government mandates deciding which are the “most favored” methods for generating electricity. Ruinous increases in electricity rates for Virginia consumers can be avoided, atmospheric carbon dioxide can be maintained at current levels, and the protection of the environment can also be achieved, simply by increasing the use of clean natural gas, and the expansion of existing nuclear generation assets.
This radical transformation of energy policy threatens the citizens who need affordable electricity the most - working families and Seniors on fixed incomes. It is an especially unfortunate time to impose an alarming rise in electricity rates when thousands of Virginians are currently unable to pay more than $100 million in overdue electricity bills due to the COVID crisis.
We have already seen the negative consequences of the rushed passage last year of the VCEA:
- Thousands of acres of clear-cut forests, including the massive 6,000-acre Fawn Lake project in Spotsylvania County - the largest solar facility east of the Mississippi.
- A “gold rush” of over 180 constructed or planned solar projects, which have swamped the resources of County Planning Commissions and Boards of Supervisors, while providing these Counties with only meager tax revenue.
- The creation of a serious conflict of interest for the Department of Environmental Quality, whose oversight responsibility is compromised by the fact that solar permit fees provide a significant part of its operating budget.
- The installation already of over one million solar panels, all of which contain the toxic chemical cadmium, without adequate procedures for their removal and disposition at the end of their 20-year useful lives.
Governor Northam has stated that the VCEA will “advance environmental justice and help create clean energy jobs”. He should know that these clean energy platitudes are demonstrably false. Huge increases in electricity rates will crush middle income working families, and the solar projects themselves are specifically designed so that almost no human labor is required for their operation.
The Commonwealth deserves a rational, reasoned, and honest discussion of energy policy, not a rush to impose only wind and solar generation on Virginia without regard to the consequences. We believe the House of Delegates’ Labor & Commerce Committee should approve HB 2265, the Freitas Bill.
It is in the interests of all Virginians to repeal the Virginia Clean Economy Act, and begin anew a reasoned deliberation of electrical generation policy which will result in abundant, affordable, and reliable electricity for the Commonwealth and its citizens.
Please Note: The Comments Section of the House Labor & Commerce Committee only allows 3500 character submittals. The edited version of the above comments on the HoD website can be found here.
HB 2265 Prevents $800 Annual Increase in Average Residential Electric Bill
(Alexandria, Virginia) – Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition (SUVGOP) announced today their support of House Bill 2265, the Repeal VCEA Act, legislation submitted by Delegate Nick Freitas (R-Culpeper) that will roll back the over development of Virginia’s forests and farmland by solar energy companies and allow for a more broad based approach to Virginia’s energy demands.
House Bill 2265 will also reverse the over $800 per year expected increase in the average Virginian’s residential electricity bill. The State Corporation Commission (SCC) has projected Dominion Energy will need to increase its' rates by 40% to comply with the mandates in the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). The VCEA legislation was rushed through the Democrat controlled General Assembly and signed by Governor Northam last Spring with limited research on the law’s impact.
“During this time of crisis, it is critical that the Commonwealth not add to the financial burdens of people trying to heat their homes by raising their rates as the VCEA clearly does.” stated Delegate Freitas. “In addition, there are a number of other concerns with how this legislation restricts everyone’s access to affordable and efficient energy. Subsidies to companies which encourages them to clear-cut forests and destroy farmland is not an environmentally sound policy.”
With passage of the VCEA law, the Commonwealth is experiencing extensive land leasing and acquisition by solar developers with over 180 solar projects in various stages of approval or construction. Nearly 14 million solar panels are planned for these projects and as of today, no solar project filling to Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has been rejected. Dominion Energy, Virginia’s primary provider of electricity, estimates that by full implementation of VCEA, 490 square miles of Virginia’s forests and farmland, or equal to twenty times the size of Manhattan or 237,000 football fields, will be clear-cut for solar factories.
In addition to the loss for decades of valuable land, the passage of VCEA last year removed the Commonwealth’s State Corporation Commission (SCC) from oversight responsibility. The SCC will not have authority to determine whether other clean electricity alternatives, such as natural gas, nuclear, renewable propane or hydrogen, may be utilized as part of Virginia’s electricity resource base. VCEA specifically approves discrimination in favor of wind and solar production developers.
“The passage of Delegate Freita’s HB 2265 legislation will correct the mandates in the original VCEA legislation” added Ron Wright, Co-Founder and Steering Committee Member of the Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition (SUVGOP), “We need to restore Virginia’s energy flexibility to benefit from a range of existing and innovative new energy resources coming to the market. Our concern for the environment should include the need to conserve our forests and farmland, while keeping energy costs down for our working families and seniors on fixed incomes.”
The SUVGOP Political Action Committee, formed in 2018 to address suburban kitchen table issues, has published a Repeal VCEA website (www.RepealVCEA.com); released a new video about VCEA on its’ YouTube Channel and is raising funds for social media promotion.
(Alexandria, VA) - The Suburban Virginia Republican Coalition Political Action Committee (SUVGOP) today announced its campaign to REPEAL VCEA, the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), calling it “one of the most radical pieces of energy legislation in the United States”.
“In April 2020, the Democrat-controlled General Assembly passed, and Governor Northam signed into law, Virginia’s own version of the ‘Green New Deal’,” stated Terry Johnson, Senior Advisor to SUVGOP. “This falsely labeled law forces the State’s energy companies to clear cut Virginia’s forests and will negatively impact our economy by increasing electricity costs to every consumer and business in the Commonwealth.”
The law’s repercussions are already being felt. In the Integrated Resource Plan Dominion Energy submitted to the State Corporation Commission (SCC) in May 2020, Dominion estimated it would require 490 square miles of land for the solar panel farms needed to meet VCEA’s alternative energy sourcing goals. The Company will be forced to convert farmland and clear-cut Virginia forests in an area approximately 20 times the size of Manhattan or the equivalent of 237,000 football fields to make way for the solar farms.
On top of this environmental degradation, consumers will suffer. The SCC estimates that under the VCEA, the average consumer will pay an additional $67 per month or over $800 per year in increased electricity costs. The SCC projects that lower- and middle-income users will pay over 50% more for their energy.
“The ‘environmental elite’ running the Virginia Democratic Party have decided to use energy policy as part of their push to remake Virginia’s economy,” added Ron Wright, Co-Founder and Steering Committee Member of SUVGOP. “Virginians are already suffering economic shocks from the pandemic, and dramatically increasing their energy costs only adds to their burden. Maybe wealthy Democrats have the luxury to pay 50 percent more for their electricity, but for most Virginians, the Democrats championing VCEA might as well be Marie Antoinette telling them to eat cake.”
VCEA’s “electricity tax” is not the only new tax targeting Virginians. “Citizens will also feel the pain of the new transportation taxes and Highway User Fees Democrats passed in the last legislative session,” said Wright. “And the Democrats were only getting started. In the upcoming 2021 General Assembly session, they are proposing additional gasoline taxes as part of their effort to implement the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI). This would make Virginia’s state gas tax one of the highest in the country.”
SUVGOP will be educating Virginians by way of a new website (www.RepealVCEA.com); asking visitors to sign a petition being sent to legislators; presenting a new two minute educational video released on their SUVGOP YouTube Channel; and launching a social media ad campaign on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“We call on the Governor and all legislators to work together during the 2021 General Assembly session to reverse VCEA before it painfully and permanently degrades Virginia’s beautiful landscape and imposes significant financial burden on all Virginians,” stated Wright.
Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), passed in April 2020 by the Virginia Assembly and signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam, provides both the legal framework for electric energy production in the Commonwealth for the forseeable future, and also prescribes the mandates which Dominion Energy must follow to carry out the philosophy underlying this legislation.
The VCEA is one of the first pieces of energy legislation in the US purporting to provide electricity under a mandate of “net zero” carbon dioxide “emission” by the year 2050. In other words, it is legislation crafted by ”green” activists to fulfill their belief that the release of man- made CO2 during the production of electricity should be cut to zero.
This radical philosophy, which is embodied perfectly in the “Green New Deal”, is a doctrine enthusiastically embraced by the Democrat Party and the left wing of the environmental movement.
When put into practice what kind of electric energy world would this philosophy impose on Virginia consumers? What would it cost? What would it do to the Virginia countryside? Would it be reliable? How would the State Corporation Commission (SCC) — the body which historically has been responsible for regulating Dominion’s electricity monopoly — implement the novel directives contained in the VCEA?
The answers to these questions are contained in the 71-page plan filed by Dominion Energy with the SCC in May 2020.
The answers are shocking and appalling. Never before in Virginia’s history has there been a legislative mandate of such a sweeping and extreme proportions for electrical generation.
Dominion Energy confirms that, by following the mandates of the VCEA, the results will be:
So radical are these mandates that, for the first time in history, the SCC has effectively been entirely stripped of its authority to regulate electricity generation in Virginia, thereby jettisoning the SCC’s historical responsibility to assure Virginians of both the lowest possible cost of electricity coupled with the highest reliability.
There are also a number of other dangerous consequences which will be levied on the average Virginia family by the VCEA:
Because Dominion is a regulated monopoly, every expense it incurs as a result of the VCEA will be paid for, one way or the other, by VA ratepayers, in order to assure that Dominion shareholders earn a legally required return on capital.
The VCEA requires – like the famous phrase emerging from the Viet Nam war – that the Virginia countryside must be destroyed in order to save it. The new solar fields required by the VCEA will blanket 490 square miles of Virginia farm and forest land – an area nearly half the size of of the State of Rhode Island, eight times the size of the District of Columbia, and 25% larger than all of Fairfax County.
In addition, Dominion will need to construct four massive interstate transmission lines at a cost of $8.4 billion to carry electricity from these solar fields to consumers. The County zoning authorities – and local voters – of each of each impacted County may have something to say about the placement of these transmission lines and solar fields in their back yards.
The question then becomes: All of this cost, unreliability, and environmental degradation is required exactly for ……… what ? The results can be summarized this way:
The VCEA will have absolutely zero positive impact on climate, and a devastating negative impact on the environment. Under the VCEA, Virginia will not have cleaner air, purer water, or a more beautiful countryside. Fifteen years from now, not a single Virginian will be able to see, touch, or smell any difference or improvement in the environment resulting from the VCEA. But they will be able to see a landscape ruined by solar panel eyesores and ugly transmission towers.
By embracing radical environmentalism, Virginia seems to be vying with California for the title of creator of the most destructive and unreliable energy policy, at the highest cost to its citizens, in the country.
By enacting legislation based on the deeply partisan, radical ideology of eliminating fossil fuels, and replacing them with costly, inefficient, and unreliable wind and solar energy, Virginia Democrats have bet the farm. As these cost burdens and unintended consequences become known, one can anticipate furious backtracking, finger pointing, and calls for repeal coming out of future sessions of the Virginia legislature.
There is nothing clean, green, renewable, or sustainable about the Virginia Clean Economy Act.
By Collister "Terry" Johnson, Member and Senior Advisor NVRBF
Collister Johnson previously served under Governors Robb, Baliles, and Wilder as Chairman of the Board of the Virginia Port Authority. In 2002, he was appointed by President George W. Bush as a member of the Board of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. In 2006, he was appointed by Bush as Administrator of the St. Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, where he dealt with issues surrounding climate and the Great Lakes.He holds a B.A. from Yale University and a J.D. from the University of Virginia, and currently serves on the Board of Advisors of the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.
A recent op-ed by Del. Richard (“Rip”) Sullivan, D-Fairfax, lauds the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), which mandates requiring the construction of wind and solar electricity facilities in Virginia.
His column criticizes a recent decision by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regarding the price that can be charged by renewable electricity suppliers in the interstate market.
He claims the FERC decision assaults “basic free market competition.”
In essence, FERC’s new rule states that when electricity generated by renewable providers is sold in interstate markets, the price must reflect all of the subsidies provided by Virginia to these suppliers, so that these suppliers will not unfairly compete with electricity generated by existing sources.
And what a vast array of renewable electricity subsidies there are — production tax credits, investment credits, property tax exemptions, rebates, loan guarantees, residential tax credits, job creation credits. The list goes on. FERC stated that failure to consider the impact of these subsidies would result in obvious price distortion, and violate the FERC mandate to assure that prices are “just and reasonable and not discriminatory or preferential.”
Sullivan, as the primary patron of the VCEA, is upset that this will prevent solar and wind from being the sole providers of electricity in Virginia. Think California.
What are all these wind and solar subsidies going to cost Virginia consumers?
Sullivan states that under the FERC order, we “will suddenly be forced to supply wind electricity at an artificially inflated price, 20 times higher than the maximum price” allowed by FERC.
Without all the subsidies, renewable electricity generation costs consumers 20 times more than electricity supplied by existing sources. No wonder Sullivan is upset. FERC just exposed exactly what the VCEA will cost us in order to achieve the fantasy of all wind and solar electrical generation in Virginia by 2035.
Collister “Terry” Johnson, Senior Adviser
Ron Wright, Co-Chairman.
Northern Virginia Republican Business Forum (NVRBF)