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Young Virginians Rally Lawmakers to Pass State 'Green New Deal'

Members of the Sunrise Movement Virginia are pressing lawmakers to pass the state's Green New Deal Act. (Sunrise Movement Virginia)
Members of the Sunrise Movement Virginia are pressing lawmakers to pass the state's Green New Deal Act. (Sunrise Movement Virginia)

January 10, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. - Young climate activists from the national Sunrise Movement will travel from all over Virginia for a climate rally in Richmond on Monday, to urge lawmakers to pass the state's Green New Deal Act.

The bill, first announced in December by Del. Sam Rasoul - D-Roanoke - mandates the state completely end its dependence on fossil fuels by 2036. Metra Kashani, a college student and member of Sunrise, says it also puts a moratorium on new major fossil-fuel projects starting in 2021.

She thinks the bill is long overdue.

"Young people are just really fed up at this point, and I think we've waited for so long for politicians to take the lead and take the charge on these issues," says Kashani. "Not just the climate crisis, but so many other intersectional social justice issues. And we've waited and waited, and nothing has happened."

Opponents of the bill, including Del. Wendell Walker - R-Lynchburg - say Virginians should act on climate change, but warn this legislation could create new regulatory burdens on businesses that would then pass down the added costs to customers.

But Kashani is convinced the bill would help the economy by creating new jobs and labor protections for workers in the clean-energy industry.

She notes the act also includes developing job training programs to transition workers from fossil-fuel jobs, as well as environmental-justice protections for communities that historically have borne the brunt of environmental hazards.

"It's not letting marginalized communities or workers in the fossil fuel industries - it doesn't leave anyone behind," says Kashani. "So, it's making systemic changes and economic changes that'll address the climate crisis and the social justice issues, that go hand in hand."

The bill is part of a suite of legislation developed by Green New Deal Virginia, a broad coalition of more than 60 grassroots organizations co-founded in December 2018 by Del. Sam Rasoul and Del. Elizabeth Guzman - D-Prince William and Fauquier Counties.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA