Virginia General Assembly 2022

Virginia has made significant progress in recent years to transition to a just, affordable and equitable clean energy future. However, there’s more work to be done and much of the progress that has been made in recent years is under threat. In 2022, the Virginia General Assembly is considering a wide variety of bills impacting our priority issues of environmental justice, solar energy, fracked-gas pipelines, just transition and fairness for electricity ratepayers.

The session started January 12. Below are issues being addressed this session. Watch this space for updates such as bill numbers and action opportunities throughout the session! (You can also check the official General Assembly website.)



Defending Progress on Climate Change

In recent years, Virginia has passed major legislation to reduce carbon emissions and shift to a 100% clean energy economy. However, powerful fossil fuel interest groups are working to roll back much of the progress that has been made. This session, we will work to defend the laws in place to address the climate crisis.



Consumer Protection

For years, Dominion Energy has convinced state legislators to allow the utility to write its own rules and escape standard regulation of an electric monopoly. As a result, Dominion has “legally” overcharged its customers more than $1.2 billion since 2015.

This is an outrage — especially now, as families continue to struggle to make ends meet during the Covid crisis. Help us convince lawmakers to stop this ratepayer ripoff by restoring full oversight of all electric utilities and their ratemaking process in the commonwealth.



Electric Cooperative Reform

More than one in six Virginians receive their electricity from electric cooperatives, yet many co-ops still do not practice good governance such as allowing member-owners to attend board meetings or hold fair elections. We are working with our partners on legislation to ensure that electric co-ops put their members’ needs first by adhering to principles of good governance and democratic member-control.

Learn about these electric co-op reforms and ask your representatives to support them!

Learn about these electric co-op reforms

Actions

Oppose Electric cooperatives; net energy metering, power purchase agreements, etc. (SB505) — Would further reduce transparency by giving even more authority to co-op boards. This bill would allow co-op boards to fast-track rate programs that could harm member-owner efforts to go green with solar, EVs or energy efficiency. This bill is up for a key committee vote on Monday, Jan. 24! (Del. Lewis)

Tell your Senator NO on SB505!

Support – Electric cooperative transparency and governance (HB 723) — This bill requires electric cooperatives to open board meetings to co-op member owners, reforms current election practices used by some co-ops to favor incumbent boards of directors, and requires cooperatives to disclose lobbying activities to their member-owners. (Del. Gooditis)

TAKE ACTION: Ask your reps to support electric co-op reform






Justice for Virginia Communities

Far too many communities are impacted by industrial pollution or the threat of proposed projects, including fracked-gas and coal facilities. Others are at risk of economic loss from the ongoing shift to cleaner energy. We are working on legislation to ensure these communities — far too often low-income, Black, Indigenous, and communities of color — have fair and equal opportunity to be involved in the decisions that impact them, and that no community is left behind in the clean energy transition.

We’ll also be working to defend the progress made in recent years to enact crucial environmental justice laws that are already working to protect Virginians.



Metals Mining

Drinking water resources are imperiled for many communities across the commonwealth, and a new extractive industry – large-scale metals mining – is trying to move forward without a comprehensive regulatory framework. This puts public health and the environment at risk. With the news that prospecting companies are pursuing metals mining such as copper, zinc and lead, we support analysis of existing regulations and a pause in permitting while the potential impacts are studied. We’re working on:

  • Support – Study on the impacts of copper, zinc, and lead mining and pause on permitting (HB 250). This bill convenes a work group to study the mining and processing of copper, zinc, and lead in the Commonwealth, and places a pause on permitting until July 1, 2024. (Del. Simonds)
If your delegate is on the House Rules committee [Gilbert (HD15); Kilgore (HD1); Orrock (HD54); Knight (HD81); Austin (HD19); Byron (HD22); Wilt (HD26); Webert (HD18); Ransone (HD99); O’Quinn (HD5); Head (HD17); Batten (HD96); Bagby (HD74); Filler-Corn (HD41); Watts (HD39); Sickles (HD43); Herring (HD46)], take action!

TAKE ACTION: Ask your reps to support HB 250



Pipelines

Virginians know all too well how fracked-gas pipeline projects can wreak havoc on water quality in our streams, rivers, wetlands and drinking water sources. We’re supporting bills that would strengthen the state’s oversight and enforcement of water quality standards, and defending against any attempts to roll back community input and water quality protections.

Here’s what we’re working on:

  • Support: Economic or social impacts related to water quality (HB 393). This bill requires the State Water Control Board to analyze the economic or social impact on communities that have historically been disadvantaged when considering projects that would produce a discharge into high quality water. (Del. Willett)
  • Oppose: Weakening the powers of the Air Pollution Control Board (SB 81): The Air Pollution Control Board provides important oversight of permitting facilities that produce emissions and develops related regulations. This bill weakens the Board’s crucial authority. (Sen. Stanley)



Solar Energy

Solar energy employs more than 4,000 people in Virginia, and the passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act in 2020 is projected to add up to 29,000 new jobs. But some of Virginia’s solar policies still stifle jobs and economic opportunities. This session, we are working to expand access to shared solar (also known as community solar) across the state, and promote development of solar energy on brownfields and coal mine land. Delegate Wilt, Senator Hanger, and Senator Edwards are sponsoring bills to expand Virginia’s shared solar program to more people including Southwest Virginians.

  • Support: Shared Solar Access for SWVA (HB 832): Expands the existing shared solar program to customers of Appalachian Power and Old Dominion Power utilities, and makes other improvements to the shared solar program. (Del. Wilt)



Utility Disconnection Protection

The Covid crisis has revealed how vulnerable Virginians are at risk of losing access to vital services such as electricity and water when they can’t afford to pay. We are working with our partners to pass laws that will prohibit utility disconnections during a state of emergency, expand medical coverage exemptions to include utilities that don’t currently offer it, provide more protections for households that include infants, seniors or people with disabilities, as well as prohibit disconnections during very hot and very cold times of the year. Here are the bills we’re working on:

  • Support: Shut off delays for vulnerable households (HB 664). This bill requires all electric, gas and water utilities to offer a 60-day delay from disconnection for non-payment to medically compromised customers and to households that include seniors, infants & people with disabilities. (Del. Kory)
  • Support: Shut off bans during crises and extreme weather (HB 1040). This bill bans gas, electric & water utilities from disconnecting customers over unpaid bills during crises and during very hot, cold, or extreme weather. It also prompts utilities to establish payment plans with struggling customers, and prohibits fees for disconnecting or reconnecting customers to their power and water service. (Del. Shin)

Listen to our conversation with Virginia Interfaith Power & Light for more on this critical issue, and send a letter to your legislator to ask for their support!

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