Whether or not politicians care to admit it, climate change is real, and Ralph has been fighting to address its effects for years. As a state senator, Ralph brought legislation to create a coastal flooding working group to study how Virginia’s coastal communities can prepare for the effects of climate change. Today, Ralph serves on the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission, which is tasked with recommending ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Presently, the environmental community and government officials in Virginia are working to launch the Governor’s Executive Directive 11 (ED11), which will help reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, the directive will allow Virginia to become trading-ready and link us to a multi-state carbon allowance trading program based on the market. He’ll build on ED11 and work to ensure clean energy job growth continues in the commonwealth. To pick up slack created by the Trump administration’s EPA budget cuts, Ralph will build a Virginia “conservation cabinet” led by the secretary of natural resources to provide guidance in addressing the current impacts of climate change and the policy advancements we can implement now to help solve the problem and reduce carbon pollution in the future.
Protecting the Chesapeake Bay and clean water
Virginia needs a champion to defend the Chesapeake Bay from the Trump administration’s threats to the agencies that protect it. Ralph is a strong advocate for the Chesapeake Bay and led the charge to protect the bay from non-native oysters, as well as to ban the winter dredging of blue crabs. Ralph knows protecting the Bay requires attention to the quality of its water, which is why he will support funding for water quality initiatives that help restore it. As a state senator, Ralph carried legislation to remove phosphorus from home fertilizers in order to reduce chemical runoff into the Bay. He’s also supported efforts to provide state funding for oyster restoration. Ralph has long opposed offshore drilling in Virginia and in 2016, helped lead the resistance to Virginia’s involvement in federal oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic coast. Additionally, he opposes oil and gas industry efforts that attempt to hide fracking chemicals from trusted state agencies, localities, and experts who need information in order to protect public health. Ralph will support localities to regulate or ban fracking and will ensure a thorough permitting process for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipeline as permitted under state and federal law. Ralph opposes lifting the 35 year ban on uranium mining and will stick with Virginia’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) pollution diet and increase oyster, wetland, and shoreline restoration projects.
Renewable energy production and energy efficiency
Ralph believes in prioritizing clean energy innovation. In the state senate, Ralph voted for policies to promote investment in energy generation in the commonwealth to help keep energy costs low for all Virginians. He also voted in favor of solar power and wind energy legislation, diversifying Virginia’s energy economy, and reducing the state’s carbon footprint. Ralph will remove barriers to the development and use of clean energy by encouraging competition and energy choice while making it easier to decentralize generation and build an electric and clean vehicle infrastructure. By building on the McAuliffe administration’s progress making clean energy jobs, Ralph will increase jobs by incentivizing innovation and growth in the renewable energy market.
Dr. Northam, as a scientist, understands the importance of energy efficiency. As a state senator, Northam supported stricter energy efficiency standards, including incentivizing companies to invest in energy efficient programs. He believes energy efficiency not only helps to combat environmental damage and climate change, but also makes business sense by saving homeowners and businesses energy costs.
Air pollution threatens public health across the commonwealth and is exacerbating respiratory illnesses and chronic lung conditions, like childhood asthma, and allergies. As a member of the Governor’s Climate Change and Resiliency Update Commission, Ralph developed recommendations for how Virginia can reduce its carbon footprint, which will help relieve the 700,000 Virginians suffering from asthma and other chronic lung diseases. The highest concentration of those suffering are in Northern Virginia, Richmond, and Hampton Roads—also the areas in Virginia with the highest concentration of minority communities. People in those communities are also often those living without adequate health care, creating a vicious cycle of illness and costly medical treatments. As governor, Ralph will continue his work fighting air pollution and its health effects and will give local communities a bigger role in local permitting by forming an environmental justice task force to address environmental threats in vulnerable communities, particularly in the areas of urban air quality, energy infrastructure siting, and drinking water.
Ralph has a long history of fighting for property rights and land conservation efforts. As a state senator, Northam voted to create the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund to make funds available for the sole purpose of preserving farmland in the commonwealth of Virginia. He also voted to remove the cap on fees for land conservation tax credits which increased funding for land conservation efforts. Additionally, he helped block legislation to override the ability of localities to write their own zoning laws.