Why I Voted Against Andrew Wheeler
In the past two years, Virginia has become an emerging leader on clean energy — due in large part to the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA), which I carried with Delegate Rip Sullivan. The VCEA made Virginia the first state in the south with a 100 percent clean energy standard. It passed with bipartisan support less than two years ago, and we are already seeing the immense benefits of a clean energy economy.
The VCEA immediately moved Virginia from the bottom-of-the-pack to become a national leader in clean energy. Already, we’ve seen thousands of jobs created in Virginia — including 300 offshore wind turbine blade manufacturing jobs coming to Portsmouth — as a direct result of the VCEA.
Yet, Governor Glenn Youngkin chose a nominee for Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, Andrew Wheeler, who has a long record of opposing clean energy investments and gutting environmental protections.
Virginia must continue to lead on creating clean energy jobs and protecting our climate. That’s why I voted today against Andrew Wheeler’s nomination.
When asked about the VCEA by a national reporter, Wheeler refused to acknowledge Virginia’s clean energy progress — and instead trotted out disproven talking points about examining the “negative consequences of renewables.”
Trotting out anti-clean energy conspiracy theories is exactly the wrong message to send at a time when Virginia is working to beat other states to bring clean energy jobs to the Commonwealth. And picking a nominee with a track record of repealing environmental protections is the wrong message to send to Virginia communities facing major health and economic costs due to the impact of climate change. When Virginia Beach is preparing for $300 million a year in costs from sea level rise, we need a Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources prepared to take action on climate change. We know that Virginia coastal communities and communities of color are dealing with the first and worst impacts of climate change and pollution, and we must not turn over the reins of the agencies addressing climate change to someone with a record of undermining climate progress.
The appointment of Wheeler threatened to unravel all of the hard work that we have done in the past two years. I’m proud that Virginia’s Senate remains a brick wall against efforts to undermine our climate progress.
Virginia has too much to gain to go back now. According to Advanced Energy Economy, Virginia has more than 93,000 clean energy jobs and is expected to see up to an 8 percent job growth in the sector. And Virginia is now ranked in the top 5 states for solar energy installation — due in large part to the VCEA.
Whomever Governor Youngkin nominates to be Secretary of Natural Resources should be prepared to help our Commonwealth build on its growth in clean energy, not turn back the clock.
Virginia is finally moving in the right direction on clean energy and climate change. We must continue to build on that progress.