The Virginia Constitution states that "it shall be the Commonwealth's policy to protect its atmosphere, lands and waters from pollution, impairment, or destruction " and I believe it is important to live up to this promise. I am happy to have been named a "Legislative Hero" by the Virginia League of Conservation Voters (VALCV) for four consecutive years beginning in 2008.
The Commonwealth has much to do to improve our water and air. Virginia ranks at the bottom among the states in spending on conservation and environmental protection. Virginia is the second largest importer of solid waste in the country. Shenandoah National Park has been ranked as the third most air-polluted park in the nation. As of 2010, 23% percent of Virginia rivers are impaired or threatened, as well as over 83 percent of Virginia lakes and nearly 94 percent of Virginia estuaries. Impaired river miles have increased from 2,611 in 1998 to 12,100 miles in 2010.
Our natural resources not only enhance our quality of life but are essential to certain industries such as agriculture, forestry, sea food, and tourism. I support the following initiatives to improve our water and air quality and to preserve the natural resources and assets that are so important to our quality of life in this region:
* Increase funding for open space and preservation programs like Albemarle County's Conservation Easements program (ACE) and land conservation;
* Reinvest funds from sale of pollution allocations into improved air quality initiatives;
* Strengthen water pollution laws and their enforcement;
* Purchase of hybrid vehicles as part of the Commonwealth's fleet of automobiles for government transportation;
* Develop ways to ensure public buildings meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Standards; and
* Increase support for energy conservation and use of renewable energy sources.
Expanding Renewable Energy
With the threat of climate change, rising fuel costs, and all the other social and economic hazards of conventional fuel sources, building a renewable energy system in Virginia is becoming more and more important. Investing in infrastructure and renewable energy generation can help spur economic growth while addressing our long-term energy and environmental needs. I have taken the lead in the House of Delegates to promote small-scale renewable energy growth through "net metering" and "distributed generation" incentives. Net metering and distributed generation gives individuals the power to self-generate to meet their energy needs while allowing them to sell excess energy back to the grid.