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Del. Sam Rasoul: Green New Deal “A Different Type of Politics”

Dr. Sam Rasoul, wearing a pink button down shirt, speaking at a podium.
Del. Sam Rasoul speaks at an Equal Rights Amendment press conference last month. Image: Patrick Larsen/VPM

VPM Intern Patrick Larsen

Delegate Sam Rasoul (D-Roanoke) says his Green New Deal Act, which he will introduce in the upcoming General Assembly session, is what Virginia needs to tackle climate change.

Rasoul is sponsoring the act alongside four other Democratic delegates in the Green New Deal Virginia Coalition.

He said that fighting climate change doesn’t just mean lowering emissions - it means addressing environmental inequality.

“For me, the biggest thing is not about an individual policy, but a different type of politics that’s very intersectional,” Rasoul said.

The Roanoke Democrat says that intersectionality is found in the Act’s commitment to providing energy and job opportunities to the communities most impacted by climate change.

“We talk about economic, social and environmental justice coming together,” he said.

The bill calls for 100% renewable energy production by 2036, which is well before the date of 2050 that Governor Ralph Northam set for the state in an executive order this year.

That’s the same number used by another coalition of lawmakers who are introducing a different piece of comprehensive environmental legislation this month, called the Clean Economy Act. 

The Clean Economy Act’s actual text hasn’t been released yet. Advocates say its priorities are more in line with Northam’s plan in that they include plans for Virginia to participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. That’s an agreement of mostly Northeastern states to use economic incentives to gradually scale down greenhouse gas emissions.

Both bills have broad coalitions of support and endorsements, but the Green New Deal Act is considered the more progressive of the two, at least in terms of timeframe. 

Rasoul said he’s glad to see more concern for environmental issues among lawmakers, but also thinks that the Clean Energy Act isn’t aggressive enough.

“Proposals that are going to be bold and moving forward must have a moratorium on fossil fuel infrastructure,” Rasoul said.

The Green New Deal Act would place such a ban on new developments in 2021.

With it being such progressive legislation, it may be difficult to get support from lawmakers and stakeholders. But Rasoul says he thinks lawmakers are becoming less beholden to powerful corporate interests, like Dominion Energy.

Dominion says they share Governor Ralph Northam’s priorities for clean energy.

Lawmakers will take up both bills when they return to Richmond on January 8th.