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Virginia Representatives have Roles in Climate Committee

Rog Cogswell / Creative Commons

One of the first things Democrats did after taking control of the House of Representatives was to create a new Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

The committee has Virginia Congressmen on opposite sides of a debate over coal.

Virginia’s coal industry has been on the decline for years. Since the recession hit a decade ago, the number of coal jobs in Virginia has been slashed in half.

But Southwest Virginia Congressman Morgan Griffith says coal from his district is needed to make steel. “And so we’re going to continue to mine that high-quality coal, and we have to find ways to make sure that the American public understands that not every coal is equal to other coal and that a lot of the coal around the world is dirtier than our coal.”

Griffith made his case for the future of Virginia coal during a meeting of the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which was examining ways to draw down carbon and build up the economy.

On the other side of the aisle from Griffith is Congressman Donald McEachin of Richmond. He says resistance to wind energy has been a stumbling block for investing in sustainable energy. “I experienced that problem in Virginia with local governments where a particular area loses its coal industry but when we try to put up a wind farm they are concerned about their viewshed.”

One potential solution Congress will consider in the upcoming infrastructure debate: pre-zoning. If a transmission line or a wind farm meets all the standards, it gets a permit in 90 days, even if there’s resistance on the local zoning board.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.