Monday, June 26, 2006

Moving Virginia Backward

In case you missed it, Virginia is taking away one of the benefits of driving a hybrid, ending the HOV exemption. Critics of the exemption blame hybrids for clogging the HOV lanes on I395, but there are more HOV violators than hybrids. According to the Washington Post, "Virginia officials estimate that 22 percent of the 35,250 people who used the I-95/395 HOV lanes on a typical morning in 2004 were violators. Officials said hybrid use was as high as 17 percent. "

It's a major step backward in a region that's long been in violation of federal clean air standards. According to The Sierra Club, 30 years after passage of the Clean Air Act, the Washington area still fails to meet health standards for smog. We should be encouraging people to buy more hybrids, more electric cars, and take more public transportation.

It's been disappointing to see the lack of leadership Virginia Governor Tim Kaine has shown on environmental issues. The Democrat got elected in part on an anti-sprawl agenda, but he barely mentioned any of those initiatives this year. Instead, he's encouraging people to live in the outer suburbs by supporting I66 expansion, and discouraging people from driving hybrid cars by taking away the HOV exemption. Go to Kaine's "Moving Virginia Forward" website, and you'll see plenty of talk of expanding roads and cutting taxes, but no mention of the environment or sprawl.

As the Washington Post detailed back in March, environmentalists are trying to give Kaine a chance. Kaine certainly says all the right things, so we're hoping as term goes on, he's able to get more accomplished. But considering as many as 80 percent of Americans consider themselves environmentalists, you'd think Kaine would be using his environmental beliefs to appeal to Virginia voters of both parties.
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