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Updated: Va. falling behind on renewable energy, Sierra Club says

Rosalind Helderman

On the eve of a conference on energy production to be hosted by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), the Sierra Club charges that Virginia is falling behind other mid-Atlantic states in luring alternative energy jobs, including solar and wind power manufacturing.

The group says McDonnell has shown a "failure of leadership" as he has touted his desire to see Virginia become the "energy capital of the East Coast" because he's opposed a mandatory renewable energy portfolio standard, which would require a certain percentage of energy production to come from renewable sources. Virginia has a voluntary goal in place, which McDonnell supported.

They say McDonnell has continued to make a major push to expand offshore oil drilling but has not appointed members of a new Virginia Offshore Wind Authority.

Read the Sierra Club report here.

Update, 12:30 p.m.: McDonnell's office responds. "The Sierra Club has willfully chosen to ignore this administration's positive record of supporting alternatives as part of a comprehensive energy solution for Virginia,'' spokesman Tucker Martin said. "We favor an 'all of the above' approach that uses coal, oil, gas, wind, solar and all forms of energy, along with conservation and efficiency, to create good jobs while keeping energy affordable for our citizens. Our interest is the economic well-being of the people of Virginia, not the narrow ideological demands of one special interest lobby."

The group called on Virginia to rescind tax incentives extended to the coal industry. They said Virginia has fallen behind in part because politicians in both parties are too beholden to Dominion Virginia, the utility that, according to the Virginia Political Access Project, has given $3.6 million to Virginia political candidates since 2005, 55 percent to Republicans and 43 percent to Democrats.

The group notes that Maryland, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey - the last led by Republican Gov. Chris Christie -- have all adopted mandatory renewable standards in recent years.

"While we've been standing still, we're seeing other states pulling ahead," said Ivy Main, chairwoman of the Virginia chapter's legislative panel.

For an environmental organization, the group made the green benefits of renewable energy a relatively minimal part of their report. Instead, the group followed a recent pattern for these groups amid the economic slowdown: They pushed renewable energy as a job creator.

"It's real important to understand the economic disadvantage our leaders are putting us in as we move toward the new energy economy," said chapter director Glen Besa.

We've reached out to McDonnell's office and will bring you their response when we receive it.

By Rosalind Helderman  | October 11, 2010; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman  
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No surprise here - the Sierra Club once again advocates higher taxes for most energy companies, larger tax subsidies for a few friends, and higher electricity rates for consumers. They have no interest in free and fair competition among all energy providers.

Gov. McDonnell's energy plan is far more balanced. It is open to all providers, and relies on competition and market forces. And unlike the Sierra Club, the McDonnell plan does NOT punish Virginia consumers and jobs. Let's hope the legislature has the good sense to adopt it.

Posted by: jrmil | October 12, 2010 1:17 AM | Report abuse

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