While the Senate is debating whether or not to give people cash in exchange for buying a Hummer, the State of Virginia could be poised to take significant action to bolster the economy and help the climate by passing an energy efficiency bill introduced by State Senator Donald McEachin.
Here's the catch. Doing smart, easy things like energy efficiency that create jobs and prosperity isn't so easy in Virginia, where Dominion Power runs the statehouse. Dominion Power operates several coal-fired power plants in the state and uses the proceeds to hand out campaign donations almost as fast as it hands out asthma attacks.
The biggest single recipient of Dominion's largesse? State Senate Majority Leader Richard Saslaw of Springfield (in the DC suburbs), who received a whopping $85,000 in campaign contributions between 2004 and 2009, more than any other legislator. So what's that money getting Dominion? Seemingly, a whole lot.
Saslaw could be the poster boy for the Commonwealth's culture of coal-fired corruption. Even though Northern Virginia is one of the most polluted areas in the country, and Saslaw's constituents are very pro-environment, it's unknown whether or not Saslaw will support the efficiency bill or continue to carry Dominion's toxic ash-laden water around Richmond.
Perhaps if these were normal times, this would be just another story of polluter influence. But in these extraordinary -- and extraordinarily tough -- times, it's something more. Article XI, a great new Virginia blog, reports that the bill would "save Virginians approximately $15 billion on electric bills by the year 2025," creating thousands of jobs. Investing in energy efficiency produces more than two and a half times the number of jobs as investments in coal.
Opposing energy efficiency means killing jobs -- something that Saslaw will have to take home to his constituents if he opposes this bill. The good news is, however, that this bill has a chance of passing this crucial subcomittee vote today, Thursday, February 5th, if another Dominion campaign cash recipient, Todday Puller of Mount Vernon ($5,000) finds the strength to defy Dominion and vote for a clean environment and good jobs. You can contact Puller at (804) 698-7536.