The Greenwashing of the Kaine Administration

Addressing an environmental summit in Washington, D.C., yesterday, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine called for Virginia to take the lead in conserving electricity and promoting renewable fuels. “We don’t want to have to wait until the prices rise dramatically to conserve (energy),” he said. “That’s a significant challenge.”

The governor called for more research on environmentally friendly building construction and safe nuclear technologies as well as a regional climate change initiative to reduce greenhouse gases, reports the Associated Press.

Kaine is saying all the right things, but he hasn’t offered anything specific. Here’s the question. Now that he’s completed the state’s long-term energy plan, an impressive document outlining a broad spectrum of strategies, what will he actually do? Which of the plan’s many proposals will he try to implement? What legislation will the governor propose for the upcoming session of the General Assembly, now only two months away?

Kaine has made big promises to the conservation/environmental lobby before. During his gubernatorial campaign, he proposed giving municipal governments more power to block re-zoning requests if the transportation system didn’t exist to handle the traffic. Many credited that proposal with pushing him over the top among growth-weary voters in Northern Virginia. But Kaine abandoned that controversial idea in the face of aggressive lobbying by the home builders.

Many conservationists felt betrayed, but they didn’t immediately abandon hope: Kaine had appointed Scott Kasprowicz, who is closely aligned with the Piedmont Environmental Council, as deputy secretary of transportation. But Kasprowicz has quietly left the administration in frustration. Further, while the governor talks about Global Warming, we don’t hear any talk about linking rezoning and transportation adequacy in order to curb “suburban sprawl.” To the contrary, what I’m hearing now is that the home builders, emboldened, will push to roll back proffers, a mechanism by which developers help offset municipal costs related to growth.

Here’s my hypothesis regarding the governor and the environment: Kaine will dish out lots of feel-good rhetoric and support lots of green policies — such as a cap-and-trade program for carbon-dioxide at the federal level — in areas where he won’t get any push-back from developers, home builders and other industry lobbies that bankroll Virginia political campaigns. In other words, we’ll see “green building” programs, support for Chesapeake Bay clean-up (paid for by the general taxpayer, of course), and other initiatives that threaten no vested interests.

Perhaps my interpretation is unfair and off base. I hope so. Here are the key issues by which we can gauge the sincerity of Kaine’s green rhetoric:

  • Growth management. If the home builders push for a rollback of proffers, where will Kaine stand? Will he resurrect his idea to link rezonings with adequate transportation capacity?
  • Electric re-regulation. Kaine signed re-regulation legislation that is highly favorable to Dominion Virginia Power. Will he accede to a Big Grid electric power infrastructure, or will he back meaningful efforts to evolve Virginia’s power grid into a more decentralized system with small-scale and renewable power producers? (Addendum: In fairness to Gov. Kaine, the conservation and renewable-energy measures included in the 2007 electricity re-regulation bill, modest though they were, were inserted at Kaine’s insistence.)
  • Global warming. If, in the estimation of the Kaine administration, sea levels are rising, what measures will he propose to protect Virginia’s low-lying coastlands? Will he act to curtail development in low-lying areas? Will he re-evaluate expensive road-building projects like the Southeast Expressway that would skirt the low-lying wetlands of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach?

Needless to say, Virginia’s newspapers aren’t paying attention to any of these issues. But you can count on Bacon’s Rebellion: We will.

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12 responses to “The Greenwashing of the Kaine Administration”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Well if you were a politician – either donkey or pachyderm, head of your party and you were informed that your share of “free speech” from the development community would not be forthcoming for you or any of your party at the next election if you persisted in fullfilling your “electioneering” promises

    what would you do?

    those that nip at the heels of politicians who barked and then whimpered (pun intended) while steadfastly maintaining the rightgeousness of “free speech” for developers to use “inflence” money (horrors).. might be called “anklebiters”…. in the best tradition of yapping…just to be yapping…

    🙂 scuse me while I go get the soap and toothbrush…

  2. E M Risse Avatar

    Great post and great comment!

    Until there is commitment to Fundamental Change, the downward trajectory continues.


  3. Anonymous Avatar

    And maybe after the commitment to fundamental change as well.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    Kasprowicz got the boot because he didn’t do his job. Barbara Reese was doing it.

    Do you honestly think Kaine doesn’t support giving localities’ the right to deny rezoning permits based on transportation infrastructure.

    The bill had no chance in the legislature in 2006 or 2007.

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Anonymous 2:55, Regarding Kasprowicz, I don’t pretend to have inside information, but you and I may both be right. Being frustrated and “not doing his job” may be two sides of the same coin.

    As for Kaine’s support of giving localities the right to deny rezoning permits, it doesn’t matter whether he “supports” the idea or not. What matters is how much political capital he’s willing to put behind it. Obviously, not a lot.

  6. Anonymous Avatar

    Tim Kaine will not likely expend political capital on giving localities more authority over land use. He has clearly come up with some of the best ideas from a Virginia Governor on land use ties to transportation. It won the election for him.

    But his performance lags his ideas by several hundred miles. In many ways, Kaine is just another tax and spend Democrat. He’s no Doug Wilder. That’s a big disappointment to me, as I truly thought he would fight for land use reform.

  7. Groveton Avatar

    I must say that I am confused here. I have read dozens (hundreds?) of posts on this board saying that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors have failed miserably in their zoning decisions. Now I read that Gov. Kaine may not have the political clout to let municipalities control their futures with regard to zoning.

    Which is it – the local guys are screw-ups with zoning or they don’t have authority from the state?

  8. Jim Bacon Avatar

    Which is it? Both.

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    It is both. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors (and others) could surely use additional authority over land use issues. However, the current group of supervisors simply refuse to exercise all of the existing powers that they have on land use issues.

    The solutions are simple: expand local authority over land use to include the ability to enact an adequate public facilities ordinance; and, on November 6, vote out all incumbents, except for Sharon Bulova and Mike Frey who are semi-reasonable. Bulova would do a much better job if Gerry Connolly were gone.

    If the incumbents are generally reelected in Fairfax County, the residents will see only more of the same.


  10. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    It IS – BOTH.

    First the State enables localities to make their own land-use decisions.

    But the State does not mandate that they must maintain levels of service for the infrastructure impacted by land-use decisions.

    The current dust-up is about who is responsible for integrating land-use decisions with infrastructure impacts – such as roads.

    Many pro-growth advocates are opposed to responsible infrastructure policies, such as adequate public facilities, proffers, impact fees or anything, in fact, that would require a locality to insure that any development mitigates it’s impacts.

    Their mantra is that – “infrastructure is a government/taxpayer responsibility”

    and what they want is local land-use decisions and state-level funding of roads and other infrastructure impacted by land-use decisions.

    Kaine and others want the locals to be held accountable for BOTH land-use decisions AND the infrastructure consequences.

    The title of this thread is “Greenwashing”.

    I guess the implication is that if Kaine does not follow-through on his promises that he made them not intending to follow through.

    I’d only point out the obvious – that influence money which does affect elections… comes from those who would lose in any scenario where local accountability for infrastructure is implemented.

    Then.. I’d ask.. if Kaine is .. greenwashing.. what are the Republican candidates promising (or not) with regard to this issue?

  11. Groveton Avatar

    TMT wrote:

    “The solutions are simple: expand local authority over land use to include the ability to enact an adequate public facilities ordinance; and, on November 6, vote out all incumbents, except for Sharon Bulova and Mike Frey who are semi-reasonable. Bulova would do a much better job if Gerry Connolly were gone.

    If the incumbents are generally reelected in Fairfax County, the residents will see only more of the same.”.

    Well TMT – the challengers will get at least two votes – yours and mine. I am with you – throw out all the incumbents, regardless of party.


    Maybe a column someday about how land use decisions are really governed in Virginia? Not so much the special interests angle but the official political angle. What authority does the state have? What authority does the local government have? Where it works (if anywhere) – why does it work? Where it fails – why does it fail?

    I know a lot has been written about this but it never seems to be in one place.

    Just a thought.

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    what localities cannot do in Va that can be done in Md is to institute defacto growth morotoriums such as limiting development if the schools are maxed or if there is not water or sewage capacity.

    This obstensibly prevents localities from “stopping growth” by not planning for it.

    But Facquier has proven that you can still stop growth through other strategies.

    Basically the way to stop it is to require virtually everything other than single lots to require rezonings where the BOS can then negotiate for infrastructure using Level of Service Standards.

    LOSS basically lays down the established levels of services for schools, roads, libararies, EMS, etc – and any new development must ensure that these standards are not lowered.

    So a study is done.. to determine how much each of those facilities would have to be improved – for them to maintain parity with previous levels of service.

    If the developer agrees, the project is approved. If not, he walks.

    Affordable housing can be addressed by requiring 10% of the homes to be within a range close to the median local income in exchange for lower proffers for those units.

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