Fairfax County Legislative Program and FACS Advocacy Priorities
The Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions (FACS) Advocacy Team had a busy November! Thanks to their hard work, several of our advocacy priorities are now included in the 2021 Fairfax County Legislative Program, which was adopted by the Board of Supervisors on December 1. Efforts included:
Each level of government has unique strengths. However, because Virginia is a Dillon Rule state, local governments are significantly restricted in their authority, which impedes their ability to react quickly and efficiently to emerging problems. In many instances, an overemphasis on statewide uniformity does not adequately consider the particular issues experienced in growing and urbanizing localities in Northern Virginia, limiting the ability of local governments to respond to community standards and priorities. Consumer protection is an example of an area in which local government is often better equipped to address local concerns. Further, providing localities with increased flexibility to explore initiatives that promote clean air, energy efficiency, Draft as of November 23, 2020 7 conservation, new investment in green construction, the establishment of green banks, tree preservation, reduced waste, recycling management and other critical measures could spur the development of innovative approaches that address the impact of global climate change on health and the environment and increase sustainability throughout the Commonwealth. Fairfax County has made considerable progress through existing local initiatives that could be significantly bolstered through enhanced local authority in this vital area.
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Environment – Green Banks Initiate legislation to provide localities authority to establish green banks to promote investment and financing for clean energy technologies, including renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. Green banks are important tools that can help leverage financing for clean energy, increase investments and resource support for green technologies, and address increasing consumer demand for sustainable initiatives. There are numerous models for such projects throughout the United States, with each responding to the opportunities and interests of individual communities. The ability to establish green banks will allow localities to create opportunities to support businesses and residents by leveraging local resources to attract capital to incentivize clean energy investments in the community. Such banks can also help advance environmental, energy and economic priorities, as well as achieve other economic objectives, including incentivizing the establishment and growth of local businesses that provide clean energy products and services. Fairfax County has long been committed to environmental sustainability and addressing the impacts of global climate change, and the formation of a green bank would be an innovative step for the County and the Commonwealth.
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State Tax Incentives – State income tax incentives for businesses or residents should defray a portion of the cost of new construction, building improvements, or vehicle purchases, which save energy and mitigate adverse environmental impacts.
Building Code – Modernize state building code to increase energy efficiency and improve resilience to climate change impacts.
Virginia General Assembly
On the state level, there are five important advocacy priorities that FACS is promoting for the 2021 Virginia General Assembly. These are the updates and actions we’d like to see:
Prohibit the dispensing by food vendors of take-out, prepared food in a single use polystyrene and Styrofoam food containers.
Delegate Betsy Carr’s HB533 passed both houses of the state legislature in the 2020 session. To become law, it must be reauthorized by the 2021 Session of the General Assembly. Just like tin foil, Styrofoam does not biodegrade, meaning it just takes up space in landfills. Dozens of jurisdictions nationwide have banned single-use Styrofoam food containers.
Increase the mandatory recycling rate from 25% to 80% by 2030 in large metro areas.
An aspirational goal of 80% will inspire new programs and could reduce solid waste by an estimated 10 million tons in ten years. Recycling seems to have been specifically exempted from criminal fines for violating State and County laws; however, each municipality needs to be able to charge persistent violators.
Automatically update Virginia’s Uniform Statewide Building Code (USBC) to meet international standards in order to increase energy efficiency of residential and commercial buildings.
Virginia’s USBC lags far behind international standards and those of a majority of other states. To limit greenhouse gases (GHGs) and address energy poverty, Virginia needs to update its process by which the USBC is adopted. This is a consequential issue, because commercial and residential buildings consume 52% of Virginia’s energy, as reported by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Incentivize the preservation of large, mature trees in all types of development projects.
Trees remove carbon from the air, improve air quality, reduce stormwater run-off, and moderate summer heat. A healthy, extensive tree canopy can help mitigate the climate crisis and improve the quality of life. Broad swaths of concrete with little tree cover (e.g. transportation corridors, large parking lots near affordable housing) lead to health risks from heat islands, more stormwater flooding, and increased pollution. Increasing the tree canopy can address environmental injustices in affected neighborhoods – and a healthy tree canopy will help energy efficiency, a big part of any climate resiliency plan.
Support a rapid transition to clean and equitable transportation.
Virginia currently ranks only 23rd in electric vehicle (EV) adoption; it should promote EV use to improve public health and address the climate crisis. Per mile, the electricity to charge electric vehicles (EVs) generates only a third of a typical vehicle’s pollution – and will decrease as the grid gets greener. They do not pollute the air of those living near major roads, their fuel costs per mile are less than half of a typical vehicle’s, and they cost much less to maintain.
FACS will continue to promote its advocacy priorities through its advocacy teams, faith communities, and leadership. If you’re interested in learning more and getting equipped for action, then sign up for our free 2021 Virtual Advocacy Workshop and Training, which will be held on Thursday, January 7 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Eastern time.