OK, Maybe Tim Kaine Deserves More Credit Than He Gets on the Environment

In an earlier post, I questioned Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s environmental credentials, so it’s only fair to take note of important environmental initiatives that he has supported — even if he couldn’t get them through the legislature.

As Kaine noted in a statement yesterday after the adjournment of the 2008 General Assembly session: “Unfortunately, the General Assembly was not supportive of all of our efforts to clean and protect the environment, including measures to create a voluntary reporting system for greenhouse gas emissions, to set a higher standard for energy-efficient green buildings, and to codify a goal of increasing energy conservation. Taken together, these items would have gone a long way toward protecting and cleaning our environment.”

I haven’t seen much coverage of these issues, so I can’t explain to readers who opposed these measures or why. Herewith, my observations.

Voluntary reporting system for greenhouse gas emissions. What could possibly be wrong with this? As I have noted repeatedly, I am skeptical of chicken-little, sky-is-falling claims about Global Warming. But the responsible position is not to take head-in-the-sand approach and insist that there is no risk. Public policy must be based on sound science and accurate data. I can not see how collecting data on greenhouse emissions can do any harm, especially if the reporting is voluntary. Good data will inform intelligent debate.

In his Index of Leading Environmental Indicators 2008, Steven F. Hayward shows the steady progress we’re making toward energy efficiency and reduced CO2 emissions. In 2006 the United States economy experienced a 1.5 percent drop in greenhouse gas emissions — the first such decline in a non-recessionary year. (Somehow, that story didn’t make the front page of the New York Times, I can’t imagine why.) Here’s another interesting finding: The intensity of greenhouse gas emissions per unit of Gross National Product declined 23.4 percent between 1991 and 2005, outperforming the European Union and other signers of the Kyoto protocol. Why wouldn’t we want to be able to document comparable trends in Virginia?

Weakened LEED standards for public buildings. There are two sets of standards: One is LEED, Leadership in Energy and Design, and the other is Green Globes, which environmentalists perceive to be weaker. The governor’s amendment to adopt the LEED standard was defeated in the House. Frankly, I don’t know enough to make an informed judgment on the relative merits of the two standards.

Codified goal for energy conservation. I have consistently preached the virtues of conservation. I believe the commonwealth should practice conservation, preach conservation and create the conditions for others to conserve. The commonwealth should even measure CO2 emissions to track conservation. Setting goals is fine — as long as they are non-binding and not used to browbeat manufacturers or utilities into making uneconomic investments.

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  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    re: “Weakened LEED standards for public buildings.”

    think about this…

    If the State is not going to implement LEED… then what will all the businesses do when the state urges THEM to implement LEED?

    What would happen if the State gave a business credit for implemented LEED?

    There is a WHOLE BUNCH of stuff .. meaningful, cost-effective stuff that the State could pursue that they are not.. including Kaine but compared to what the others are not doing.. Kaine looks downright enlightened… but Kaine compared to .. say.. California’s REPUBLICAN Gov.. looks more like a knuckle dragger.

    The question at hand.. is …

    is the Virginia General Assembly and the Republican Party in Virginia demonstrating LEADERSHIP on common-sense conservation and energy efficiency – with or without Kaine’s involvement?

    What say you Bill Howell?

  2. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    I post this email note with the permission of the author, who wishes to be identified as “A Richmond Observer”:

    A Richmond Observer: I would have to agree with Jim. Kaine stars in pro-conservation TV ads, campaigns as anti-sprawl, and lectures on controlling greenhouse gases. Yet, as Governor, he tries to abolish the citizen environmental boards, punts on sprawl issues, and lets Dominion dictate policy. The story in the Winchester Star demonstrates what everybody in Richmond knows: Kaine bends over backward to prove to industry that he isn’t “too environmental”. I’ve got news for him — he isn’t running for re-election. He is blowing a perfectly good chance to stand for something and do something, anything, that is remotely progressive.

    The comments of this well informed observer are consistent with what I’ve been picking up from other sources. The list of Kaine disappointments in the environmental community is pretty long. As we’ve noted repeatedly in past blog posts, the governor has abandoned land use reform as an issue. Outside the provisions of HB 3202, which would create urban planning districts for fast-growth counties, land use is a dead issue. Ironically, it was the promise of land use reform that put Kaine over the top in Northern Virginia during his election campaign.

    Among its other environmental sins, the Kaine administration also lobbied to abolish the citizen air and water board pollution control boards. And behind the scenes the Kaniacs also worked to put pro-uranium mining wording in the state energy plan.

    Environmentalists credit Kaine for his work on land conservation and elevating the visibility of Climate Change but not much else.

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