The Virginia General Assembly is scheduled to be in session from January 11 to February 25, 2023. During these 45 days, the General Assembly will consider nearly 3,000 pieces of legislation, with The Nature Conservancy weighing in on a select group of impactful policies. Keep an eye on this space for updates on some of our top land, water, energy and climate priorities.
Energy and Climate
Climate change is one of the world’s most urgent challenges and an immediate risk to our communities, our economies and our conservation mission. We are addressing this challenge with innovative scientific models, pilot projects and financing mechanisms, as well as by working with policymakers and business leaders to scale up these solutions.
The largest source of carbon dioxide in Virginia is our personal vehicles—cars, pick-up trucks and SUVs. Starting in 2024, Virginia will be on a path to lower our vehicle pollution, thanks to the Clean Car Standards that the Virginia General Assembly passed in 2021.
The Clean Car Standards requires new gas-powered cars to emit less pollution. It also requires auto manufacturers to provide a minimum number of new electric vehicles for sale in Virginia. Every year, that minimum number of new electric vehicles for sale increases. But the Clean Car Standards is in danger of being repealed before it even goes into effect.
TNC advocated for the passage of the Clean Car Standards in 2021, and we are working hard to protect it in 2023.
Virginia also needs to rapidly build up its solar capacity to meet the goals of the Clean Economy Act and to reach net zero emissions by 2045. At the same time, we need to minimize the extent to which new solar installations are eliminating forests and farmland from the landscape.
One solution to this concern is the legislation that the General Assembly adopted last year to require mitigation for impacts of solar to prime agricultural soils and forest land. Another is to increase the number of solar installations sited on already-impacted lands such as brownfields and old mine sites. In fact, TNC is working to locate solar on some of our own such lands. But solar projects on mine lands can be more expensive to construct. Two years ago, the General Assembly established a fund to incentivize such projects but has not yet funded the program.
TNC will be advocating for $10 million for the Virginia Brightfields Fund.
Virginia’s natural and working lands are a treasured and valuable resource. They support job-creating industries and recreation; generate food, timber and other commodities; protect clean water; mitigate climate change; and provide habitat for diverse plants and wildlife.
But increasing development pressures and climate change threaten these lands.
We’re collaborating with communities, landowners and state agencies to strategically protect and conserve valuable lands and utilize best management practices to improve carbon storage, soil health, wildlife habitat, forestlands, agricultural lands and wetlands for the benefit of people and nature.
Many of Virginia’s conservation finance programs were established with TNC’s leadership. We pushed legislation to establish the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF) and Land Preservation Tax Credit. We have supported successful legislation establishing minimum funding for VLCF and allowing the state’s Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund to be used for land conservation projects. We support
- Strong, sustained levels of conservation funding for the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation and the Land Preservation Tax Credit
- Increased funding for state agencies so that they can better and more efficiently protect and manage Virginia’s lands
- Protecting and enhancing wildlife habitat connectivity across the commonwealth, with mitigation for impacts of large infrastructure projects
Water enriches habitats, grows our food and drives our economy. Restoring natural filters such as forests and oyster reefs helps clean our water and provide for more sustainable forests and fisheries.
We work with industry, farmers, watermen and local governments across the commonwealth to ensure an adequate water supply, improve our water quality, increase sustainable management of fisheries and build strong, resilient communities.
TNC was instrumental in establishing VirginiaForever, a unique, diverse coalition of businesses, environmental organizations and outdoor enthusiasts that advocates for increased government funding for water quality improvements and land conservation across the commonwealth. We support
- Accelerating the pace and scale of oyster restoration
- Equipping farmers with practical ways to protect our waters by funding agricultural best management practices
- Scientific management of menhaden and complying with Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission decisions