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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

Mark Herring
Attorney General

202 North Ninth Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219


For media inquiries only, contact:  
Michael Kelly, Director of Communications
Phone: (804)786-5874 
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


~ As the D.C. Court of Appeals prepares to hear oral argument on the Clean Power Plan, coalition of 25 states, cities, and counties fight for reduced carbon pollution that will reduce the impact of climate change on Virginians' health and Virginia's economy, coastal communities, agriculture/forestry industry and the military ~

(September 27, 2016)-Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia will hear arguments on the Clean Power Plan, a national pollution-reduction strategy that will mitigate the impact of climate change on Virginia's economy, coastal communities, the military, agriculture and forestry industry, and the health of Virginians. Attorney General Herring, along with 24 other states, cities, and counties, intervened to defend the CPP in court.


"The Clean Power Plan is an essential, achievable plan for realizing the economic, health, and environmental benefits of clean air," said Attorney General Herring. "As arguments are heard today in a Washington, D.C. courtroom, Virginia will be on the side of science and the overwhelming majority of Virginians and Americans who understand climate change is real and that the CPP is the kind of bold step forward we need. Our Commonwealth is uniquely vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change and associated sea-level rise. Farming and forestry, still Virginia's number one industry, will become more difficult and expensive as erratic and extreme weather becomes the norm. Hampton Roads has already endured 14 inches of relative sea-level rise since 1930, making it the nation's second most vulnerable region and 10th in the world in value of assets threatened. The rise contributes to nuisance flooding that just last week led to school closures from a simple rain storm. Even the military is taking climate change seriously and taking steps to prepare for the negative effects at Naval Station Norfolk and other facilities around the world. Not only is the Clean Power Plan a lawful exercise of the EPA's mandate to regulate air pollutants, it is a critical step forward in protecting the economic and environmental wellbeing of our Commonwealth and our people, and in moving towards the clean energy future we need."


The CPP, which was developed over several years with an unprecedented amount of input from states, cities, nonprofits, the business community, and the public, calls for a 32% national reduction in carbon pollution from power plants by 2030, including a 32% reduction in the Commonwealth's carbon output by 2030, roughly the same reduction the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality says Virginia achieved between 2007 and 2012. Power plants are responsible for about one third of the country's carbon pollution, making them the single largest source in the country. Implementing these reductions will make a lasting impact by removing the carbon equivalent of approximately 166 million cars.


"The Clean Power Plan is our nation's biggest effort to-date to tackle the climate change that threatens our very way of life here in Virginia. A blueprint to cut the harmful greenhouse gases putting our communities at risk, the CPP is also the catalyst we need to advance our state's clean energy economy," said Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters. "We applaud Attorney General Herring for standing up to the fossil fuel interests responsible for this meritless legal challenge and for putting the public health and safety of the Commonwealth's citizens first. With his continuing leadership, we look forward to seeing this historic plan to cut carbon pollution move forward."


"The Sierra Club Virginia Chapter is confident in the merits of the Clean Power Plan, and hopes to see the legal challenges resolved swiftly," said Kate Addleson, Director of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter. "We are grateful to Attorney General Mark Herring, who has shown outstanding leadership by standing up to big polluters in this case in defense of climate protection. The Attorney General knows the plan stands on strong legal precedent and that a healthier environment will benefit all Virginians. By cutting carbon emissions, Virginia can use the Clean Power Plan to develop tens of thousands of jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and address increasing temperatures and sea level rise. All Virginians will benefit from this, but especially low income and minority communities who are disproportionately harmed by the negative effects of a rapidly changing climate."


The Commonwealth will have considerable flexibility to create its own practical, scientifically-sound plan to comply with its pollution reduction goal under the CPP. Implementation of a plan to meet Virginia's pollution reduction goal will continue the Commonwealth's recent trend of reducing carbon pollution through conversion of dirty plants to cleaner fuels like natural gas, improvements in energy efficiency, and deployment of more renewable and carbon-free power sources like wind and solar technologies. Since 2010, utilities in Virginia have retired approximately fourteen coal-fired units, converted two units to natural gas, and converted three units to renewable biomass fuel. Two additional coal-fired unit retirements and two additional natural gas conversions are already planned and anticipated to be completed by the end of 2016.


"The Clean Power Plan provides an unprecedented opportunity to set Virginia on the path for healthier communities, new hometown jobs, and cleaner, cheaper energy choices," said Frank Rambo, Senior Attorney and Clean Energy and Air Program Leader at the Southern Environmental Law Center. "Governor McAuliffe and Attorney General Herring have rightly recognized the Clean Power Plan will benefit Virginia's economy and communities, and we appreciate their leadership in standing in support of this initiative. Whether it's Hampton Roads residents concerned about flooding or children suffering from asthma because of coal pollution, Virginians have more to gain than most."


In December 2014, Attorney General Herring submitted comments to the EPA regarding the draft Clean Power Plan rule. In his comments, he recommended an approach that considers all implementation costs and benefits, as well as the cost of inaction to Virginia and other vulnerable areas. He recommended that, in developing the final rule, the EPA give Virginia more credit for recent investments in zero-carbon generation, offer Virginia more flexibility for adjusting its implementation plan if necessary, treat energy efficiency investments more equitably compared to clean energy generation investments, and help promote cooperation among neighboring states.  The final Clean Power Plan makes substantial improvements in each of these areas, including incentivizing energy efficiency investments, and relaxed Virginia's pollution reduction target by 15% to a level that both energy companies and environmental advocates agree is achievable.


According to the Yale University Project on Climate Change Communication, 64% of Virginians believe climate change is happening and half believe that it is mostly caused by human activity. More than half believe that climate change will harm people in the United States, 76% support regulating carbon dioxide as a pollutant, and 66% support limits on carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants as proposed in the CPP.



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