ken-cuccinelliBy Peter Galuszka

Is one-time conservative firebrand Ken Cuccinelli undergoing a makeover?

The hard line former Virginia attorney general who lost a bitter gubernatorial race to Terry McAuliffe in 2013 is now helping run an oyster farm and sounding warning alarms about a rising police state.

This is remarkable switch from the man who battled a climatologist in court over global warming; tried to prevent children of illegal immigrants born in this country from getting automatic citizenship; schemed to shut down legal abortion clinics; tried to keep legal protection away from state gay employees; and wanted to arm Medicaid investigators with handguns.

Yet on March 31, Cuccinelli was the co-author with Claire Guthrie Gastanaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia of an opinion column in the Richmond Times Dispatch. Their piece pushes bipartisan bills passed by the General Assembly that would limit the use of drones and electronic devices to read and record car license plate numbers called license plate readers or LPRs.

Cuccinelli and Gastanaga say that McAuliffe may amend the bills in ways that would expand police powers instead of protect privacy. “The governor’s proposed amendments to the LPR bills gut privacy protections secured by the legislation,” they write. The governor’s amendments would extend the time police could keep data collected from surveillance devices and let police collect and save crime-related data from drones used during flights that don’t involve law enforcement, they claim.

When not protecting Virginians from Big Brother, Cuccinelli’s been busy oyster farming. He has helped start a farm for the tasty mollusks on the historic Chesapeake Bay island of Tangier. According to an article in The Washington Post, Cuccinelli got involved when he was practicing law in Prince William County after he left office.

He would visit the business and get roped into working at odd jobs. He apparently enjoyed the physical labor and the idea that oysters are entirely self-sustaining and help cleanse bay water.

Environmentalists scoff at the idea, noting that as attorney general, Cuccinelli spent several years investigating Michael Mann, a former University of Virginia climatologist who noted that humans were responsible for the generation of more carbon dioxide emissions and that has brought on climate change.

Some have pointed out that if Cuccinelli had had his way, he would have helped quash climate science, generated even more global warming and sped up the inundation of Tangier Island by rising water levels.

It will be interesting to see if Cuccinelli intends to rebrand himself for future political campaigns and how he tries to reinvent himself.

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26 responses to “A New, Improved Ken Cuccinelli?”

  1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
    Tysons Engineer

    Don’t forget he also is in favor off shore drilling, I wonder if he’ll come begging for government bail outs when the oil companies destroy yet another coastal habitat which is worth more for its fisheries and tourism than any of the oil they might find (and better for tax revenue anyways)

    Ironically oyster farming is one of the most sensitive to water pollution fisheries one could operate. smh

  2. Peter, I know it’s difficult for you to conceive of this possibility, but a person can consider himself an environmentalist without believing in the global warming dogma. In this particular case, Cuccinelli can be concerned about the condition of the Chesapeake Bay without also thinking that CO2 emissions are leading to runaway and catastrophic temperature increases. I see no reason to think that he’s “rebranding” himself — he’s just pursuing his beliefs, values and interests as he always has.

    As for your description of Michael Mann as someone who “noted that humans were responsible for the generation of more carbon dioxide emissions and that has brought on climate change”…. I don’t know anyone who denies that human activity increases CO2 emissions, and I can’t think of many who deny that CO2 emissions might play some role in climate change. That’s not what sets Michael Mann apart. He is famous/infamous for his so-called “hockey stick graph,” which purportedly showed a marked an unprecedented increase in global temperatures beginning in the 1970s (or maybe the 1980s), and which has been decried by critics as so flawed as to be almost fraudulent.

  3. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Unlike Mark Warner, who – Oh – supports offshore drilling.

    “•Senator Warner cosponsored the Offshore Petroleum Expansion Now Act of 2012, which would expand American offshore energy production with a revised five-year leasing plan and provide revenue sharing to all participating coastal states. The bill provides an alternative to the Obama Administration’s proposed 2012-2017 offshore oil and gas leasing plan, which currently excludes Virginia.”

    1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
      Tysons Engineer

      Hey, I never said I supported Warner for that too, but there is a degree of support.

      GOP is obsessed with drilling and oil/coal commodities

      Democrats say they aren’t against sometimes if they are moderates (Warner took it farther than most democrats). I personally am against both regardless of their party. The chesapeake and our eastern shore are worth more to the commonwealth than what we would get from oil companies. That no one has ever proven otherwise. We are talking about endangering a sustainable year in year out multi-billion dollar industry for a short term boom town drill baby drill scheme with limited pay back to the commonwealth itself. Sorry, I’ve seen North Dakota and the bust that is happening now, I’m good with keeping Virginia away from the oil industry.

  4. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Pretty good tap-dancing.

    1. Tysons Engineer Avatar
      Tysons Engineer

      Not sure if that was meant in response to me, but if it was I really don’t consider it tap dancing. I am an issues voter. It pains me not at all to say democrats often make plenty of mistakes when it comes to things like zoning, placating corporations just as often as republicans, over use of our military, and a myriad of other issues.

  5. I suspect that Cuccinelli is an EPA hater also.. and probably on board with the folks suing the EPA over the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup.

    so no, he doesn’t have to be on board with the climate issues but he’s picked a avocation that is pretty dependent on a cleaner Chesapeake Bay that we now have and an indicator species that may well see commercial extinction if we don’t act – according to what EPA is recommending.

    At the very least -those who don’t like or agree with the EPA -need to step up with their own plan – and I don’t see Cuccinelli doing any of it… but I’ll eat my hat if he actually does.

    otherwise -whatever Cuccinelli is up to – needs some further definition given the fragility of the Chesapeake Bay with regard to supporting the benchmark species that make it famous.

  6. Cuccinelli’s biggest assault against the very Chesapeake Bay where he raises his oysters was the Accotink Creek EPA cleanup suit. Nobody can argue that Fairfax County and Virginia royally screwed up the waterwater engineering around the Accotink Creek. And nobody can argue that deluges of rainwater cause sediment disruption. And nobody can argue that the disrupted sediment washed down stream into the Bay where it helps to cause algae blooms that rob the Bay of oxygen.

    So, what did the environmentalist do? He deliberately prevaricated an assault against the EPA by claiming that it was treating rain water as a pollutant.

    If Cuccinelli really wants to help the Bay perhaps he should tie a pork chop around his neck and go for a dip over by Cornfield Harbor …

    1. the problem with most conservatives on most issues these days – is that they are pretty clear about what they oppose and not at all clear about what they would do instead.

      Cuccinelli fits that mold.

      Conservatives of yesteryear were complete packages – they would opposed the “left” approach but they could be depended on to come up with a common sense, cost-effective conservative alternative.

      So when you look at the lawsuits against the EPA – look at what the alternative proposals are in most cases – NADA…

      1. Hear, hear! As in, “Repeal Obamacare” — and then what??

        1. larryg Avatar

          it’s a real problem with so-called Conservatives these days. They know what they are against but they apparently have no idea of what they actually are in favor of.

          It’s funny listening to them tell those on ObamaCare that they are not going to let them lose their insurance … then they stop talking..

    2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      The EPA’s lawyers lost the case to Virginia and Fairfax County. They were unable to justify the Agency’s interpretations of the law. Do we want the government to be bound by laws or not? If we don’t care, let’s write Queen Elizabeth and tell her our ancestors screwed up. We want her to tell us what to do.

      It’s absurd to blame the State or the County for what happened in the past. The City of Alexandria’s sanitary sewer system fails on average more than once a week and dumps raw sewerage into the Potomac. Should we burn down the City?

      Fairfax County has been aggressively addressing storm water. It requires substantial treatment with any rezoning project. It is taxing everyone for storm water management and is taking over maintenance over all HOA storm water detention facilities for any residential development with more than three units. Have you looked at your sewer bill? It’s been going up faster than about anything else due to the County’s contributions to upgrade the sanitary sewer systems serving the county. Each new building at Tysons will be required to hold the first inch of storm water. Etc., etc., etc.

      VDOT requires storm water facilities with every new project that could impact storm water runoff. Both the Commonwealth and the County are working to improve water quality in the Bay. Probably more than other states, most especially Pennsylvania.

      1. TMT – the EPA is trying to protect the bay from creeks like Accotink – all over Virginia – and Fairfax successfully found a technical way to challenge the EPA – instead of working to find something that could work – not only on Accotink but other similar creeks with storm water problems.

        so the game played by the opponents is to NOT try to find a more reasonable way to move things forward but to stop the EPA, stand back and do nothing and wait to see what the EPA tries next.

        that’s not a path forward to find solutions.

        so that’s something I would expect to come from political leaders especially those who have played in the political arena and now are engaging in activities that do depend on a cleaner bay.

        it’s about what you’d to – to find acceptable alternatives forward – vs sitting on the status quo waiting to oppose the next proposal from those who do want to move forward.

        one of the toughest nuts to crack on storm water – is not the new development – it’s the existing development – done without standards that now pollute Accotink every time it rains.

        that’s a tough problem that takes political courage and leadership to try to find a way to to have a bay – not a pristine bay – but a bay that can support the crabs and the oysters that Cucinelli has put his own money into – and I assume he’s not wanting to throw it away, right?

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          Larry, I’ve asked Fairfax County officials whether the CB Act and related state laws and regulations requires retrofitting of existing projects and the answer given was “no.” The law does not require this. Congress did not pass a law that mandates what the EPA said it could do. Do you want some Obama lackey making up the law? Do you think someone can come to your property and say, you need to change your drainage and install facilities that will hold the first inch of rain? Might you ask where the authority came from? Do you think Congress would pass such a law? Hell no. So the EPA cannot make people or businesses retrofit their property.

          Do you want to live in a country where principles of law control or allow a government to make up the law? The EPA, like most of the Obama Administration, acts outside the law. And a County Board controlled by Democrats took the EPA to court and pinned its ears back.

          1. larryg Avatar

            TMT – why does Va have to wait for the EPA to decide what to do?

            If there was no EPA what would happen in Va?

            what did Fairfax tell you that they wanted to do instead?

            see this is the problem. there is no local/state effort to do what needs to be done but at the same time they oppose Federal efforts and try to demonize the EPA and take swipes at Obama to deflect blame even more.

            just curious – how do you fix Accotink without making changes?

            what I’m asking is if you don’t like EPA or Obama – what do you like?

            that’s why I was saying we need courageous and leadership to do something more than make excuses and blame others.

  7. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Larry, Fairfax County has a current plan for Accotink Creek since at least 2011. It includes a number of watershed restoration projects. The County is also spending millions on storm water, but expense and capital.

    But I guess this doesn’t count. But then, apparently neither does the federal statute. It’s easier to ignore the facts and the law and believe nothing is being done.

    1. larryg Avatar

      TMT – the link does not seem to have Accotink in it (or perhaps I missed it). Do you have a reference for Accotink?

      the problem with Accotink and other creeks that also suffer from development that was pre storm water – is similar to and as tough as the CSO issues.. it will take decades and money and probably selective acquisition of decrepit properties to turn them into places to sequester runoff.

      I don’t pretend to know the answers but we all know that it’s the older development storm-water – as well as nutrient runoff from agriculture that has to be dealt with.

      The EPA long before Obama has transformed the country from superfund sites to CSOs and dozens, hundreds of things that have the support of citizens yet now the politics has demonized them for basically trying to do what they’ve always tried to do – keep the environment healthy enough to support life even if not pristine.

      I just don’t buy the current politics about the EPA .. what’s changed is the right who have gotten more and more extreme in their views – not only the environment – but just about everything that is a significant challenge to us- they oppose and they offer no alternatives… they don’t lead any more like they used to when they would not only oppose but propose serious – better – alternative solutions – more cost effective and more reasonable. No more.

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        I do know the County is spending money on the Accotink watershed. It doesn’t control all of the territory. For example, some is within Fort Belvoir. Some is within the City of Fairfax.

        I think it is a good use of tax dollars for Fairfax County to spend on stream restoration and other storm water projects in this basin. I agree that much of the problem comes from pre-CB Act development. But Congress has not required retrofitting of that development. And that means, the EPA cannot require it. Do you think a government agency that clearly lacks a specific power should be able to exercise that power anyway? If Tim Kaine, for example, wants to require retrofitting, let him introduce a bill to require it. And then see what happens.

        What you seem to want is a world where the Selective Service can send my son (and my daughter) a draft notice even though Congress has not give the Selective Service the authority to operate a peacetime draft. I’m sure our defense and security folks could make a decent argument that a peacetime draft of young men and women would provide some public benefits, just like retrofitting everyone’s home and business to hold the first inch of rain. But neither the draft nor mandatory retrofitting is the law. Do we really want to live in a nation where the law doesn’t matter so long as some agency thinks it can do good? That type of world suggests that, instead of going to court to challenge agency actions or to Congress to change the law, people ought to kill the people doing the regulation. A nation without law is a nation in constant revolution.

        There is no obligation under the Anglo-American legal system to require a challenger to a law or regulation to offer something in exchange. For example, Verizon has filed a petition for review of the FCC’s network neutrality rules. All Verizon needs to do is demonstrate why those rules are illegal under many possible grounds. It is not required to offer a different set of rules. VDOT and Fairfax County showed a court where the EPA’s proposed regulation of water volumes exceeded the Agency’s authority. Case closed. Neither is required to offer something instead, even though both are working on storm water issues. Let’s stick with the legal system we have instead of science fiction.

        1. larryg Avatar

          re: ” But Congress has not required retrofitting of that development. ”

          TMT – why does Virginia and Fairfax have to wait for the Feds to do this?

          why don’t they do it themselves before the Fed and EPA get involved in the first place?

          Fairfax has taken actions that we now know damage the bay. Why don’t they do what is necessary to fix it instead of waiting on the Feds to weigh in?

          1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            Larry, are you calling for Fairfax County to order its residents to retrofit their storm water drainage? To install storm water ponds or underground storage? If this occurred, even someone as likeable and popular as Sharon Bulova would find herself unemployed this coming November. Do the right thing and everybody spend $10 grand. That’s what you are saying. It’s crazy talk.

            I maintain Fairfax County is doing a fine job addressing storm water and sanitary sewers. It’s addressing both future and the past, to a reasonable level.

          2. larryg Avatar

            TMT – does Fairfax and/or other localities make their folks pay for CSO upgrades?

  8. larryg Avatar

    TMT – stormwater is polluted and it demonstrably harms the bay.

    No honest person would dispute that.

    yet – Fairfax used a legal technical argument to evade responsibility for the pollution.

    I see nothing in the literature you provided that shows that Fairfax is specifically addressing Accotink… but perhaps they are.

    I’d also admit – that this could have been some sort of govt agency vs govt municipality pissing contest and EPA lost..

    but you know that in the long, long History of EPA – virtually everything they have pursued has turned out to be affirmed not only legally but from society’s viewpoint who have agreed with past EPA actions and who largely depend on the EPA for clean water and clean air and actually blame EPA if there is a pollution release – for having too lax regulations. damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

    In point of fact – it’s the EPA that says the Chesapeake Bay is in trouble and I don’t see the folks who oppose storm-water regs disputing that the EPA has lied about the status of the Chesapeake Bay – right?

    so how can people essentially agree that the EPA is correct about the pollution in the Chesapeake Bay but dispute the reasons the EPA gives for the pollution?

    it sounds cockeyed…

  9. Tysons Engineer Avatar
    Tysons Engineer

    @Larry, CSO is really not a big deal in Fairfax. Only 5-8% of the county has this on a population basis, and the county is continuing to address it just takes time.

    I actually agree with TMT on this, Fairfax isn’t the problem. They were the problem, but over the past 20 years of Ches Bay regs they have been iteratively improving what was largely a pre-existing problem that pre-dated knowledge of stormwater management.

    The requirements Fairfax has in place now, will fix issues over the next 20 years. The true problem in the Chesapeake however that remains unaddress is the rural areas of Virginia which dump all sorts of pollutants

    Take a look in that document. Notice which watershed is the greatest problem? The James, not the Accotink/Potomac. From 1985 through 2009 the Ches Bay regulations did the job for the Potomac and actually REDUCED drastically the pollutants to the bay.

    However the James was not bound by those requirements, and has continued to dump raw waste and farm runoff into the chesapeake.

    You want to fix the bay? Stop kowtowing to agriculture bad practices and fix the darn WWTP down there.

    Consider also, the potomac watershed has double the population of the James watershed, and yet LESS pollutant runoff, and you can see that alot of the blame of northern virginia is because we can pay for it, not because we are the cause of problems.

    1. larryg Avatar

      TE – thanks for weighing in. My reading tells me that pre-existing development that had no storm water regs – in most urban areas – is a problem. It’s actually part of the CSO problem. What does not go into storm sewers – runs off into streams..

      The TMDLs (your article is 2011) are still not done and are being sued by the Farm Bureau and others because, in essence, the allocations and restrictions are done with a model and not actual measurement.

      In other words – someone is told to spend thousands, millions of dollars to “fix” something that they do not know the precise numbers for – at the beginning nor at the end. So we don’t know for a particular stretch of river whether it’s nutrients are off the chart or non-existent but we require money spent and the farmers are especially reactive about this since farming is not a high-profit margin operation – anyhow.

      but even after someone spends a bunch of money – because we do not measure – we don’t even know if it actually had an effect – sufficient or insufficient. To properly validate the model – they’d need to have a network of real-time measuring devices (which do exist and are in use on other rivers like the Mississippi).

      I’ve seen nothing about what Fairfax proposes to do about Accotink. Not saying it does not exist – just saying I’ve not seen it nor did I read that they were offering it as a reasonable alternative to what the EPA wanted – as much as they were intent on finding a legal way to essentially claim that storm-water is not pollutants.

      So the cleanup has it’s problems that even I have questions about but the point I was making to TMT – was that we demonize the EPA, politicize it as specific to Obama – but the agency has been around for decades doing pretty much what it’s trying to do – today – and I further point out the irony that the who Chesapeake Bay cleanup is based on the EPA assessment of the health of the Bay so I think it’s funny to argue with the EPA about how to clean it up but accept the EPAs verdict on the degraded status of the Bay.

      why not do what other deniers are doing and claim the big Bad EPA and Obama are cooking the books and the Chesapeake Bay is not really polluted – that’s it’s a govt conspiracy to convince people the Bay is polluted just so more grants can be awarded… etc?

      the whole political environment these days on a number of tougher issues has degenerated into opposition – without supporting alternatives.

      That’s why I ask what Fairfax is proposing to do about Accotink – instead of what the EPA wants. What if Fairfax doing on it’s own separate from the EPA?

      If Fairfax wants to actually employ real-time sensors to measure the pollution – I’d be totally on board with that and oppose the EPA path but I do have to see that Fairfax actually has a plan beyond it’s opposition.

    2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Glad someone else recognizes that Fairfax County has been seriously addressing both sanitary sewer and storm water issues.

      I’m still confused, Larry, as to where you sit on whether government can make homeowners and, indeed, commercial building owners retrofit their drainage systems. And what is the statutory basis for such power?

      It’s like trees. When someone proposes a rezoning in Fairfax County, the County requires some type of tree proffer in most cases – either preserving trees or a planting obligation. But it does nothing when someone builds by right, unless the last rezoning had tree cover proffers. A person who comes to Fairfax County and says “Stop my neighbor from removing trees from his backyard” is told this cannot be done. It’s only the new buildings constructed at Tysons that have to hold the first inch of rain onsite. The county cannot make the owner of a building constructed in 1985 comply. But if he seeks rezoning, the storm water proffer must be made.

      Where does the county, state or EPA get authority to make someone retrofit their drainage?

      1. larryg Avatar

        re: retrofitting –

        TMT – do you think when pollution standards are tightened and they have to remove more pollutants that fees for water/sewer are raised to pay for it?

        do you think people pay increased fees for CSOs and storm water removal?

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