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Should Northam Reconsider Renewable Energy Legislation in Light of Pandemic?

Governor Ralph Northam is now considering hundreds of bills that were passed by lawmakers before the health and economic crisis.

One of the signature pieces of legislation to come out of the General Assembly this year was the Virginia Clean Economy Act, an effort to shift toward renewable energy. Now the economic crisis is raising new concerns about the expense of wind and solar projects.

Delegate Rip Sullivan is a Democrat from Arlington who introduced the bill, and he says now is not the time to back down. 

“The current economic crisis may well affect the timeline in some ways," Sullivan says. "We’ll have to see how that plays out. But there’s no reason to get off that path. This was important before this economic crisis, and just as important now.”

Critics say the need for energy is likely to be reduced as businesses and schools remain closed. Stephen Haner at the Thomas Jefferson Institute says the governor should consider giving regulators at the State Corporation Commission more authority to slow down the timeline. 

“We’re going to have to stretch this out further. If they really want to do it, they can’t do it as quickly as they were planning on doing it," he says. "It’s going to be hard for Dominion to raise the capital. They should give the SCC more authority over the timing, the pacing and the financing of these proposals.”

Governor Ralph Northam has wide latitude to change the bill almost any way he wants, although he’ll need lawmakers’ approval when they reconvene. The governor’s deadline to take action is April the 11th.

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.