Why I’m saying no to a pair of pipelines — and yes to Virginia’s renewable energy future.

Today, I join the bipartisan coalition of Virginians opposed to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines. I promise, if elected Governor, to use all available powers to prevent these projects from proceeding. After careful consideration of all publicly available information, I believe Virginians deserve better than outdated policies that waste $8.6 billion on an unproven need and transport fracked gas across breathtaking streams and landscapes, imposing the risks on Virginia landowners and ratepayers. Industry experts agree that we could create far more Virginia jobs at lower expense through investments in weatherization, clean energy and modernizing existing infrastructure — all while doing far more to help reduce the threat of climate change. I challenge Dominion Power and other stakeholders to present a better way to meet our energy needs, create Virginia jobs (including many more in the building trades), and protect our ratepayers and our environment.

“Today, I join the bipartisan coalition of Virginians opposed to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines.”

These pipelines pose immediate harm as well as serious risks to communities across Virginia. The construction process will require seizing private property through eminent domain for corporate gain, and the pipeline will leave 21 counties vulnerable to devastating leaks. That’s why, in dozens of communities along the proposed routes of the two pipelines, people from across the political spectrum have formed citizens’ groups asking for their voices of opposition to be heard. This isn’t a matter of left and right; it’s a matter of right and wrong.

“This isn’t a matter of left and right; it’s a matter of right and wrong.”

Pipeline backers ask Virginians to accept these risks while big companies get the benefits. The pipelines are ultimately designed to transport out-of-state fracked gas to destinations that are mostly out-of-state and overseas, using steel supplied from Asia, employing many out-of-state work crews. Even pipeline proponents admit that the $8.6 billion projects will produce fewer than 75 permanent jobs. When it comes to temporary jobs, well-documented alternatives could create more jobs in the building trades if spent on weatherizing building stock, scaling up wind and solar power, modernizing existing pipeline infrastructure, and decentralizing power production for our farmers and small business owners.

Pipeline proponents also argue that these are necessary to meet Virginia’s natural gas demands. But independent studies show that upgrades to existing pipelines and in-progress projects such as the Atlantic Sunrise are already sufficient to meet that demand fully. Wasting billions on capital investments in pipelines will just lock us into the use of outdated fossil plant technology and limit our energy options for decades. In an era when climate change is a real and very present threat, it makes no sense to sign up for another generation of dirty fuel instead of looking for real solutions. In a state that benefits economically from our great bays and harbors, it makes even less sense to contribute to their demise.

I am pledging not to take one dime from publicly-regulated monopolies. Let’s let the next generation of solutions be determined not by the size of the campaign contributions but the quality of the ideas.”

The fact that we are focusing on pipelines at all reflects a deeper problem. For decades, efforts to foster renewable energy, energy efficiency, and decentralized energy production in Virginia have been blocked by corporate utilities who profit off the status quo and regulators stuck in the past. That’s part of why Virginia is routinely at the back of the national pack when it comes to solar and wind energy — North Carolina, for example, has 100 times as much solar capacity than Virginia with an industry strong enough to survive even the recent far-right onslaught in the state. When representing Central and Southside Virginia in Congress, I consistently witnessed farmers and small business owners who wanted to create jobs producing their own power blocked at every turn by regulators and utilities scared of change. All of this is why I am pledging not to take one dime from publicly-regulated monopolies. Let’s let the next generation of solutions be determined not by the size of the campaign contributions but the quality of the ideas.

Virginia is blessed with natural beauty and innovative companies. We can meet much of our future energy needs through greater efficiency and renewable sources. But this requires unrigging the system for real entrepreneurs and putting our great trade unions to work fixing our building stock. If we invest in maintaining and upgrading our existing energy infrastructure, and promoting weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades, we can create good, local, and permanent jobs at a fraction of the cost of the projected pipelines. If we were to invest in meeting the standards set out under the federal Clean Power Plan through renewables and energy efficiency upgrades, we would create more than 12,600 jobs in the next decade — 200 times more permanent jobs than the pipelines offer.

I want our state to invest in renewables because the data shows it will create more jobs than investing in fossil fuels. One study found that, on average, a million dollars invested in renewables creates 7.5 jobs, while a million spent on fossil fuels creates just 2.6 jobs. In other words, each million dollars that goes from fossil fuels into renewable energy adds a net of 5 jobs. We know that in Virginia, with our state’s untapped natural resources, we could produce more jobs in renewables than in fossil fuels. If the $5 billion Dominion expects to spend on the Atlantic Coast Pipeline went instead into wind energy production, it would create more than 7,000 temporary construction jobs, and 1,750 permanent jobs annually. If the same money were invested in solar, we could create 2,500 temporary construction jobs and support 216 permanent jobs, and take Virginia from 31st in the nation in solar production to number two. We are brimming with untapped potential, and I believe we can meet it if we look to the future.

My first obligation as Governor is to guarantee the long-term safety, economic security, health, and individual rights of Virginians. These interests are not served by these pipelines. It’s time to move beyond lazy, last-generation ideas and let Virginians create the clean energy jobs and businesses of tomorrow. For a fraction of the cost, we can create a cleaner, more efficient, more job-rich Virginia for all and make our Commonwealth greater than it’s ever been.

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