Ralph Northam's plan for

Stronger environmental protections

As governor, Ralph Northam will fight Donald Trump’s attempts to weaken environmental protections and make Virginia a leader in state-driven conservation solutions.

The Trump administration has already begun its all-out assault on the environmental protections that keep Virginians healthy and make our communities great places to live. To continue making progress in fighting climate change, reducing harmful pollution, and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia has to take the lead and hold Trump accountable when he fails to enforce conservation laws. Here’s how:

Fight climate change and sea level rise, even if Trump won’t

  • Alongside environmental community and government officials, Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam will continue to work to fully execute the Governor’s Executive Directive 11 (ED11), which will help reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, it will allow Virginia to become trading-ready and link us to a multi-state carbon allowance trading program based on the market.
  • Continue to oppose offshore drilling. Lieutenant Governor Northam has consistently opposed drilling off Virginia’s coast, citing concerns related to the operations of the Department of Defense and NASA, Virginia’s thriving tourism and aquaculture businesses, and the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. As the only candidate for governor who has opposed offshore drilling, a Northam administration will continue to lead in protecting Virginia’s coast and oppose any efforts to endanger it.
  • Continue to work with our partners in Hampton Roads to build coastal resilience to sea level rise and strengthen vulnerable communities through the $120 million sea level grant Virginia received working with Old Dominion University and stakeholders under the McAuliffe-Northam administration.

Build on Chesapeake Bay progress

  • Virginia must continue to adhere to its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) under the U.S. Clean Water Act and ensure the other states in the Chesapeake Bay’s watershed do, too. Should the Trump administration change or do away with the TDML, Virginia must work with its watershed partners through the Chesapeake Bay Commission and otherwise to continue to build on the progress we have made restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay and support funding to continue cleaning it up.
  • Increase oyster, wetland, and shoreline restoration projects and integrate with climate resiliency efforts. Keeping with the spirit of previous governors who have pledged open space conservation goals, a Northam administration will commit to an acreage goal of preserving and expanding wetlands, submerged aquatic vegetation, and oyster beds.

Remove barriers to the development and use of clean energy

  • Promote competition and energy choice while facilitating distributed generation, like rooftop solar. Policies that promote these advanced technologies protect landowners’ property rights, allow them to reduce their electric bills, and provide statewide benefits by reducing strain on the energy grid. Deploying these resources will bring strong job growth while reducing harmful emissions. In addition, a Northam administration will work with localities across the commonwealth by providing guidance on zoning issues as it relates to promoting and encouraging solar and wind development.
  • Utilize existing funding, specifically the $87M Volkswagen settlement funds, to build electric and clean vehicle infrastructure and support programs to decrease vehicle emissions.

Give all Virginians a voice to help protect the places they live, work, and play in

  • Direct the secretary of natural resources, secretary of health and human resources, and the attorney general to form 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.
  • Lieutenant Governor Northam supports Governor McAuliffe’s decision to amend legislation related to the closure of coal ash sites. Upon receiving an assessment of coal ash sites, he supports closing the coal ash sites in the safest way possible in order to protect community health. Specifically, for the Chesapeake Energy Center, a task force should be convened with all stakeholders to establish the most environmentally responsible path forward for closing that site. As part of this effort in Chesapeake, there should be a renewed call to revitalize the entirety of the Elizabeth River; utilizing existing vehicles like the Elizabeth River Project, we must work with all associated businesses and government entities to clean up this important tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.
  • A Northam administration will oppose lifting the 35 year ban on uranium mining. As a state senator and lieutenant governor, Northam has consistently opposed lifting the ban, citing environmental and economic risks.
  • A Northam administration will support localities’ ability to regulate or ban fracking. Northam is not convinced fracking can be done safely and without contaminating sources of waters. Northam opposes fracking in Taylorsville Basin, especially given that it sits on top of a freshwater aquifer. He opposes the industry’s efforts to keep the fracking chemicals and ingredients secret. He believes that experts and state agencies need the information in order to protect drinking water and keep communities safe through emergency preparedness and local planning.
  • As a native of the Eastern Shore and having grown up on a small farm, Lieutenant Governor Northam is very sensitive to property rights, clean water, and keeping Virginia’s environment pristine. Lieutenant Governor Northam has recommended to Governor McAuliffe and the Department of Environmental Quality that the permitting processes for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipeline projects be as thorough and environmentally responsible as permitted under state and federal law. Lieutenant Governor Northam has worked with Governor McAuliffe and the Department of Environmental Quality to ensure the highest environmental standards be written into the permitting process. Ultimately, the Federal Environmental Regulatory Commission controls this process. However, he believes the state needs to make sure that our waterways, wetlands, and streams are protected, and this project meets the highest standards. This has always been his position and continues to be. Lieutenant Governor Northam believes in science and will let the science make the decision on these pipelines.

Ensure that state agencies are working together and have the tools they need to protect Virginia’s environment

  • Conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the permitting, compliance, and enforcement programs of all natural resources and environment related agencies to identify opportunities for improvement and ensure they have the resources to pick up the slack for a weakened EPA. Specifically, 2018 is the 25th anniversary of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Over the years when there have been cuts to state government, DEQ’s cuts have not been restored. A Northam administration will commit to a fully functioning and funded DEQ that is able to fulfill its mission, especially in monitoring and enforcement. DEQ’s permitting process needs to be reevaluated to ensure that it is consistent across its boards, and a Northam administration will hold the DEQ accountable and ensure transparency in its every-day actions as well as its permitting.
  • Create a “conservation cabinet” let by the secretary of natural resources that will ensure coordination across all agencies that can bring resources to bear to address environmental issues, including encouraging the use of clean energy, utilizing energy efficiency, mitigating climate change impacts, and ensuring environmental best practices are standard across the entirety of state government.

As lieutenant governor and state senator, Ralph Northam has a long and accomplished track record protecting Virginia’s environment:

Northam fought oil and gas drilling off Virginia’s coasts

As state senator and lieutenant governor, Ralph Northam fought efforts by Republicans and Democrats to open Virginia’s coast to offshore oil and gas drilling. He has also urged Congress to lift the liability cap that limits what energy companies must pay when they cause oil spills that damage our coastal communities.

Northam championed efforts to preserve and revitalize the Chesapeake Bay

Ralph Northam led efforts to stop the introduction of non-native oysters to the Chesapeake Bay and to end winter dredging of blue crabs. He supported working with farmers on best practices to restore the water quality of the Bay and its tributaries, and helped write a law banning the use of phosphorous in home fertilizers to reduce chemical runoff. Northam has also championed efforts to jumpstart Virginia’s aquaculture industry, especially crabs and oysters.

Northam fought for renewable energy development in Virginia

Ralph Northam has consistently supported the expansion of Virginia’s renewable energy industries, and he carried legislation directing the state to study the creation of a mandatory renewable energy portfolio standard. He also voted for net metering in Virginia, and supported cracking down on utilities that game the renewable energy portfolio system.

Northam championed efforts to combat the effects of climate change

Ralph Northam secured funding to study strategies to address rising sea levels in Virginia, and has served on climate change advisory commissions for Governors Kaine and McAuliffe. He also worked with state and federal officials to address the effects of rising sea levels on Tangier Island, where Ralph worked as a child.

Northam fought against Uranium mining and for tougher enforcement of environmental quality laws

Ralph Northam supported expanding the ability for Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality to fine polluters. He also helped block efforts to weaken wetlands protection, reduce transparency in water quality decisions, and he’s fought against lifting Virginia’s ban on uranium mining.

Northam supported preserving Virginia’s natural heritage

Ralph Northam supported expanding funds for conservation easements and farmland preservation. As a state senator, he voted to create the Virginia Farmland Preservation Fund which funded farmland preservation in the commonwealth of Virginia. Ralph Northam also supported improving Virginia’s land preservation tax credit program and voted to remove the cap on fees for land conservation tax credits.  Additionally, he helped block legislation to override the ability of localities to write their own zoning laws.

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