In Slow News Week, Environmental Issues Loom Large

Looks like I picked a good week to go on vacation and give the ol’ brain a rest from Virginia politics. So little happened while I was gone that the main preoccupation of Bacon’s Rebellion bloggers was the Valley Blue Dog. Is he a hypocrite, a fool, a closet Republican? C’mon guys, let’s focus on more important things….

Like last week’s unveiling of Jerry Kilgore’s environmental plan. Lisa Guthrie, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, which has already declared for Tim Kaine, characterized the plan as “very fuzzy.” And I have to agree. Kilgore declares his support for such worth goals as clean water and clean air without providing a lot of specifics on how he would achieve those goals. It’s as if his campaign staff was checking off another box on the issues list. The environment? Yeah, sure, we’ve got an environmental plan.

The lead plank in Kilgore’s plan calls for “a stewardship based model for governing Virginia’s natural resources and environmental assets.” It’s not clear what exactly Kilgore means by a “stewardship based model,” but his press release implies that it entails consulting with “all involved parties” from government, landowners, corporations and advocacy groups. C’mon, people now… let’s get together and love one another… right now… The press release also alludes to “science-based policies.” Sounds good. But, as a practical matter, what does that mean?

Praising Republican legislators for allocating $50 million this year to modernize sewage treatment plans, Kilgore also says that he “will honor this historic commitment to the Chesapeake Bay.” He will honor the commitment… What does that mean? That he won’t renege on the deal? That he won’t ask for the money back after it’s already been spent? If Kilgore proposes to actually do something, it’s not clear what that is.

Additionally, Kilore says he would extend the nutrient credit trading system for point source pollution (like factories and waste treatment palnts), to non-point sources (like farms and parking lot run-off). The idea of creating market mechanisms for reducing pollution is an interesting one. But, again, let’s see details.

Finally, I would observe that there is one nugget worthy of everyone’s attention. Kilgore would reverse previous funding cuts to the Department of Environmental Quality’s pollution prevention program. By disseminating best management practices across the private sector, DEQ’s pollution prevention programs “help businesses reduce costs by advising them on initiatives like materials substitution, inventory control, preventive maintenance, and office waste reduction.” By appealing to the profit motive, pollution prevention induces companies to conserve water, reduce discharges and cut back on waste — often in excess of state and federal standards. Virginia gets a tremendous bang for the buck with this program. Nothing vague about Kilgore’s recommendation on this issue. Let’s hope he can move it forward.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    Wow, this really is a slow day. Kilgore’ plan is “fuzzy” because this is a non-issue in Virginia politics. The only part of an environmental plan that might become an important issue is related to energy investment. In other words, does he have a plan to invest in alternative energy sources that would relieve our dependence on high priced foreign sources in exchange for cleaner and more locally abundant sources of energy. Neither candidate appears to have a real plan here.

  2. anon:

    I dunno – do you really think that environmental issues don’t matter? Why would the Republican House Caucus inexplicably spend $50 million on cleaning up the Bay last year (which, by the way, absolutely SHOCKED some of my environmental lobby friends…knocked them off their feet)?

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    I didn’t say environmental issues didn’t matter, just that it’s a non-issue when you compare the candidates’ positions and compared to other more important issues that really motivate the general electorate here (e.g. taxes, transportation, social issues, gov’t waste). I am surprised your environmental friends were surprised. The Republican leadership has had a very balanced and reasonable approach to supporting real environmental quality (clean air, clean water) issues that everyone agrees on and have done this in a concerted approach to not negatively impact the economy. This kind of approach resonates with voters as opposed to the extreme environmental “doom and gloom” wing of the Democrats. I believe if the Republicans could add to their resume by investing in development of clean energy sources that can hopefully be developed locally (not overseas)as well. This would have both an environmental as well as security enhancing affect if realized. Such an approach would bring in supporters from both the conservative and liberal side, and I don’t believe this is talked about enough. Creating incentives for private industry to lead the way here is a proven winner as well. However, I have not seen a real committment from either side on this.

  4. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Jim, is the environmentally endorsed Kaine plan more specific, i.e., less “fuzzy?”

    A candidate’s plans, especially environmental plans, would be a lot clearer if we had some clue as to who he would appoint to top positions. Maybe the people he has in mind have accomplishments in “stewardship.” We’ll never know unless Kilgore is elected.

    I’m also curious as to any examples you can cite of the DEQ’s pollution prevention program, underfunded as it might be, doing any of the worthy things you mention.

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Will, You ask a legitimate question: Is Kaine’s platform any more explicit? Go to his website – — and you’ll find that Kaine’s environmental platform is longer but not a whole lot more specific.

  6. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    P.S. Will, I can’t cite chapter and verse on DEQ’s recent pollution prevention efforts. Most of my knowledge dates to the pre-Warner era. However, you can get a sense of what DEQ is trying to accomplish by perusing the winners of the Governor’s Environmental Excellence awards. I judged that competition one year, and I was very impressed by the quality of the entries. A lot of Virginia companies are acutely aware of their “environmental footprint” and doing their best to reduce it.

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    It may be that the biggest source of solid waste in the state is the paperwork associated with various envrionmental causes.

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