Virginia is blessed with natural resources, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. We are fortunate here in the Mount Vernon/U.S. 1 area to live near the “nation’s river” and have wonderful parks like the George Washington Parkway, Fort Hunt Park, Grist Mill Park, the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Huntley Meadows Park and a state park and national wildlife refuge on Mason Neck.
Every society depends on clean air and clean water and our country has some of the strongest public health measures in the world.
Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide from coal-fired plants, threaten not only our state, but the entire planet. While the solutions are multiple and require action across the globe, Virginia has a role. In terms of energy efficiency, for example, Virginia ranks 38th among states. We could meet 20 percent of our energy needs through measures like tougher building codes and more conserving commercial lighting and heating.
Neighboring jurisdictions help pay for the cost of energy saving improvements such as solar panels, geothermal heat pumps, and other improvements. Other jurisdictions also require a home energy audit before the transfer of dwellings so that energy upgrades can be negotiated by the buyer and seller during the sale process if they choose to consider it. Virginians deserve the same benefits.
Virginia’s environment faces several challenges today:
- Northern Virginia does not meet federal air quality standards. The parent of every asthmatic child understands how serious this is on “bad air” days.
- At least 80 percent of Fairfax County’s streams are in fair to poor condition.
- The Potomac River got a grade of D for its health.
- The county’s tree cover has plummeted from 75 percent in the 1970s to 40 percent today.
- Greenhouse gas emissions from our vehicles, buildings, electricity use and manufacturing facilities are leading to sea level rise, more respiratory and vector-borne diseases and more extreme weather events.
We must –
- Focus development around public transit stations and on walkable communities.
- Give local government the authority to adopt meaningful tree ordinances.
- Mandate energy and water-conserving and low-impact development techniques.
- Continue incentives for consumers to purchase energy efficient appliances.
- Provide state tax credits for installation of solar panels, geothermal heat pump systems, and other energy saving home improvements.
- Encourage informational home energy audits (similar to a home inspection) upon the transfer of a dwellings between parties;
- Implement the recommendations of the Governor’s Commission on Climate Change, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Expand the use of public transit and alternate modes of transportation.
- Create incentives to transition to a clean energy economy and use more of Virginia’s resources such as offshore wind and solar.
- Explore more natural landscaping and native plants along Virginia’s roads to reduce taxpayers’ mowing and maintenance expenses.