Thursday, May 7, 2009

Kaine predicts wave of environmental action on horizon

It's so apparent to me that this man has no interest in Virginia. His heart is elsewhere...maybe from whence he came...but it's certainly not in Virginia.


About 10 minutes into his speech Wednesday night, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine stripped off his suit jacket, rolled up his white sleeves and jumped squarely from his prepared remarks.

"I'm getting warmed up," he told a crowd of about 300 people inside Old Dominion University's Webb Center. "I always do when I talk about this subject."

That subject is the environment, an issue he has put a focus on this year, his final year in office.

The environmental and energy initiative has its own name - Renew Virginia - and despite a cash crunc h in Richmond and an economic crisis nationwide, the governor said he still has big plans for going green in 2009.

Kaine hinted at some major changes coming to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, steps that he and other mid-Atlantic governors will announce next week at a summit at Mount Vernon.

That suggestion brought a smile to the face of Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Baker has been pressing Kaine and the Obama administration to make the Bay a national priority and speed up its restoration, which began in 1983 and still is struggling.

The Bay Foundation co-sponsored Wednesday night's lecture as part of its Blue Planet Forum on environmental issues facing Virginia.

Kaine ticked off a list of state programs that soon will receive federal stimulus money - $75 million for energy efficiencies and green buildings; $39 million in incentives for solar, thermal and small wind projects; $5 million for alternative energy research - all dedicated to environmental progress.

He predicted that, as money trickles out of Washington over the next two years, Virginia and other states will experience "one of the greatest unleashings of American ingenuity" on new energy technology since the dawn of the combustion engine.

The governor said he intends to push ahead against two big pollutants affecting the Bay and impairing hundreds of Virginia streams - farm runoff and urb an stormwater.

The state is rewriting its stormwater regulations and hopes to complete this year these "extremely innovative" rules against tainted rainwaters that wash off parking lots, roofs, lawns, streets and gardens and pass oil, fertilizers and chemicals into the Bay.

In response to questions, Kaine said developing an offshore wind farm off Virginia Beach "is a spectacular idea."

Oil and gas drilling in those same waters should be confined to exploration only, "to see what resources are really out there," he said.

He urged expansion of nuclear energy in Virginia and defended his position to support a new, major coal-fired power plant in southwestern Virginia over objections from environmentalists.

The governor also said that if a study shows that uranium mining cannot be done safely in Virginia's wet climate, "maybe we ought to keep the ban in place and move on."

Scott Harper, (757) 446-2340,

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