Sunday, June 29, 2008

Opportunity Lost: Virginia Dems & the Wise Co. Power Plant

Virginia's Air Pollution Control Board last week approved Dominion's permit to build a coal-fired power plant in Wise County. You can read a first-hand account at the Chesapeake Climate Action Network's blog. The Southern Environmental Law Center has vowed to continue the fight against the Wise County plant in court.

The biggest losers are Virginia consumers who will now have to pay high costs in both the short term and long run. In the short term, we'll be paying at least $1.8 billion to build the plant. And in the long term, we'll bear the burden of skyrocketing coal prices along with any national carbon pricing.

But the plant decision also represents a huge opportunity lost for Virginia's leading Democrats:

  • Opportunity lost for Gov. Tim Kaine, a relentless cheerleader for Dominion and coal who has seen his national standing tarnished and his statewide approval rating drop to 46 percent. There are many factors to Kaine's plummeting popularity like the ongoing gridlock on transportation solutions and his signing of the estate tax repeal. But his have-it-both-ways environmental stance - talking tough but refusing to take a stand on coal - has managed to tick off everyone, angering both flat-Earth conservatives and climate activist liberals.

  • Opportunity lost for U.S. Senate candidate Mark Warner, who put forth a strong energy plan but passed on an opportunity to put his principles into action. Warner instead pandered on the power plant while in southwest Virginia, calling it the proposed plant "an economic engine for the whole region" even though the SCC has said the plant would result in a net loss statewide of 1,474 jobs. Is Warner a Kaine clone - saying one thing in Northern Virginia and another down south?

  • Opportunity lost for gubernatorial candidates Creigh Deeds and Brian Moran, who've chosen to stay completely silent on the most critical environmental issue our state has faced this year. Environmentalists fought hard to elect Tim Kaine, only to see him take environmental stances so soft they should be served in a mini-helmet covered in strawberry sauce and walnuts. Why should environmentalists bother fighting for either Deeds or Moran if they side with Dominion and coal over clean energy and climate action?
If Virginia Republicans were savvy, they could follow the models of Gov. Charlie Crist (R-FL) and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), using environmental issues to win over moderate voters. But they're much too busy targeting immigrant families, trying to ban all abortions, and blocking funding for transportation solutions.
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