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Lawmakers Seek Investment in Clean Energy, Broadband Access

Overview of James River
An overview of the James River running through Richmond. (Photo: Alex Scribner/VPM News)

Lawmakers on a House Labor and Commerce subcommittee considered a slew of bills on electric utility regulation today, covering clean energy, broadband connectivity and transportation.

Among the bills that were recommended is HB 1834 from Del. Suhas Subramanyam (D-Loudoun). It would give workers at fossil fuel facilities across the state advanced warning when their employers are preparing to close their workplaces. Fossil fuel infrastructure is being retired as global demand drops, and the commonwealth shifts to all renewable energy, through a process laid out in Virginia’s Clean Economy Act. Every present subcommittee member voted for the measure.

Also unanimously recommended was HB 2304,  introduced by Del. Roslyn Tyler (D-Emporia). Utilities and organizations like the Coalition of Small and Rural Schools of Virginia support the bill, saying it would help bring high speed internet - made essential by the COVID-19 pandemic - to rural areas. 

Lawmakers also supported a bill that would move the commonwealth towards electric transportation. HB 2282, brought by Del. Rip Sullivan (D-Arlington), calls on the State Corporation Commission to study a statewide transition to clean transportation. If the bill passes into law, the regulatory agency would look into costs associated with installing charging stations, electrifying school bus fleets, and more - and would make policy recommendations to lawmakers next year.

HB 2281, introduced by Del. Lee Ware (R-Chesterfield), was “gently laid on the table.” Essentially, that means it was rejected. That bill would have carved out some exceptions in the Clean Economy Act for companies that compete internationally, potentially against firms that don’t face similar restrictions. Environmental advocates said it would defeat the point of the clean energy law.

All of the bills approved will now move onto the full Labor and Commerce subcommittee, where lawmakers will decide if they’ll get a hearing in the full House of Delegates.

Patrick Larsen is VPM News' environment and energy reporter, and fill-in host.
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