Audubon in Action

Grassroots Advocates Help Push Passage of the Virginia Clean Economy Act

The new law will accelerate the adoption of clean-energy innovation and help Virginia go carbon-free by 2050.

This spring, Audubon members and a broad coalition of environmental groups, clean energy organizations, and businesses worked together to support the Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA). The legislation was created to accelerate the adoption of clean energy innovation with consumer protections, job creation and economic growth.  The four key components include reducing energy waste through efficiency standards, harnessing the power of the wind and sun, expanding consumer ownership through rooftop solar, and reducing carbon emissions over time to make Virginia’s electricity sector free of carbon pollution by 2050.

“This bill was years in the making and Audubon was thrilled to join the coalition to make sure the voices of bird lovers were heard said Claire Douglass, Audubon’s national campaigns senior director. The Virginia Clean Economy Act sets a roadmap for Virginia to provide 100 percent of its electricity from carbon free sources by 2050 by increasing investments in energy efficiency and giving homeowners and businesses the ability to generate their own power through wind and solar. The bill will significantly increase battery storage capabilities to lower costs and ensure consumers have the freedom of choice in clean energy.

“The VCEA is a big step forward on comprehensive climate action not only for Virginia but as a model for other states to embrace,” said Gary Moody, Audubon’s director of state and local climate strategy.

The key to the successful passage of the bill hinged upon the grassroots organizing power of the coalition that Audubon joined which included the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club, Virginia Conservation Network, and Virginia League of Conservation Voters to name a few. Together, we managed phone banking sessions, rallies, and a series of lobby meetings at the Virginia Capitol building.

On the final day, March 6, 2020, Audubon members, staff, and volunteers joined coalition partners at the capitol in Richmond to urge legislators to pass the historic bill.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm behind this critical piece of legislation, so I’m here to make sure it crosses over the finish line,” said Charlene Mosher, an Audubon member from Alexandria who drove nearly two hours to mark the occasion.

Following the final vote, advocates joined state senator Jennifer McClellan and house delegate Rip Sullivan, to celebrate. They said that without the grassroots, this would not have been possible. “For every person who is in this room, there are hundreds of people who spent hundreds of hours to get us where we are. This is not just our victory, this is your victory,” said Senator McClellan.

Throughout Virginia, Audubon members and coalition partners made hundreds of phone calls and wrote letters to legislators in support of the bill. “Our grassroots presence today demonstrated that we can make a difference,” said Nikka De Mesa, Audubon’s climate and outreach intern, who hails from Springfield, Virginia.

“I can’t wait to visit my legislators’ offices later today to express my excitement and gratitude for taking bold decisive climate action,” said Eden Brown of Arlington, Virginia who, as part of the Clean Energy VA Grassroots Coalition, joined Audubon for the first time to volunteer for the Clean Energy Lobby Day.

On April 12, 2020, Virginia Governor Northam officially signed the landmark VCEA into law. “I’m glad to see Audubon advocates were here in Richmond advocating for this important legislation,” said Mary Elfner, vice president of the Richmond Audubon Society.

“Governor Northam and the state legislature have demonstrated a commitment to a clean energy future for the Commonwealth. The VCEA shows that common sense climate leadership is taking root in the Southeast and strengthening throughout the U.S.,” said Moody. “Even in this time of uncertainty, both threatened communities and vulnerable birds like Cerulean Warblers and Saltmarsh Sparrows will have a fighting chance against climate change.”

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