Op-Ed: Virginia leads the U.S. in resilient economic development

August 6, 2017
In The News

WHEN TERRY McAULIFFE became the governor of Virginia, he inherited leadership of a state that had fallen behind in responding to the effects of global climate change and realizing the economy opportunities presented by the new energy economy.

From the beginning of his term, McAuliffe and his team committed themselves to making the commonwealth more resilient and promoting clean-energy technologies that cut carbon emissions and create new jobs.

In fact, McAuliffe and our congressional delegation secured a $120.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund innovative resilience projects in Norfolk. Earlier this year, U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner and I introduced the Building Up Infrastructure and Limiting Disasters through Resilience (BUILD Resilience) Act, which is modeled after the National Disaster Resilience Competition that provided the HUD grant.

This competitive grant program will help communities such as Hampton Roads implement economic development solutions to combat the threat of climate change through innovation and mitigation. This is not just a one-time grant. Our bill highlights the need for sustained federal support for resiliency.

The Hampton Roads region is in the heart of an area particularly vulnerable to the effects of sea-level rise. As the second-most vulnerable region in the nation to the effects of climate change, our economy and our way of life will depend on the response of the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

McAuliffe understands the stakes for Hampton Roads and the commonwealth. He has taken steps to make sure Virginia can set an example for the entire nation on resiliency and clean energy.

In the renewable energy sector, the governor has worked with private partners to increase solar deployment across the commonwealth. Virginia is now the second fastest-growing solar jobs market in the Southeast and ninth fastest in the country. Last year alone, solar jobs in Virginia grew by 65 percent.

Clean-energy industries provide economic growth and environmental security while improving growth in other industries. For example, Amazon has entered into agreements with Dominion to build 240 megawatts of solar power in Virginia to power data centers and other operations.

While promoting clean-energy activity in the short-term is important, the governor and his administration have created a foundation for continued growth in this area. In signing his Clean Energy Virginia directive, the governor began a process that will reduce carbon emissions and allow innovation. Virginia is an example to other states in an era where the federal government no longer leads on climate and resiliency.

Recently, state officials have begun exploring offshore wind power, and the economic and environmental potential it holds. Two years ago, Virginia signed the nation’s first research lease with the federal government to secure the area necessary to install turbines. Last month, McAuliffe, Dominion Energy, and Dong Energy announced a plan to build two six-megawatt wind turbines offshore.

The project will serve as a showcase for the Virginia Wind Energy Area. By fully harnessing this resource, we can join other East Coast states to unleash wind power and build a new supply chain that could create thousands of jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in investment for Hampton Roads.

The two wind turbines that were recently announced may not meet our energy needs themselves, but they are a symbol of the progress Virginia has made. As a Hampton Roads resident and a legislator who works on climate and resiliency issues every day, I look forward to Virginia’s continuing leadership in the clean-energy economy.

U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott represents Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District.