Virginia’s Democratic governor Tim Kaine, often mentioned as a possible vice presidential nominee, seems to be flushing his ambitions for national office down the toilet by actively working to build yet another coal-fired power plant for one of his biggest campaign donors.
Kaine has tried to present himself as a green, forward-thinking governor by proposing a “Virginia Energy Plan” he claimed would reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 30 percent. True, Kaine is going ahead with plans to purchase 27,000 compact fluorescent bulbs (which will save the amount of electricity used by — wait for it — 1300 [!] homes). But when it comes to things that actually matter — like where Virginia gets its energy — he’s actively backing the construction of a new greenhouse-gas- and toxic-pollution-belching coal-fired power plant in Virginia’s Wise County.
Behind this coal plant is Dominion Power, which has contributed over $135,000 directly to Kaine’s campaign and inaugural funds. Is the governor acting on behalf of Virginia or the country’s well-being, or is he offering quid pro quo for financial support? As it is, Kaine is looking a lot like a dinosaur pol, practicing a kind of politics eerily similar to the Republican culture of corruption.
He’s also increasingly out of step with his fellow governors. Kansas’s Kathleen Sebelius, from a red state, has so far stood up against proposals to build coal plants in her backyard.
Kaine’s position is terrible for the planet and for Virginians’ health. Pollution from coal-fired power plants already cuts short the lives of 900 Virginians every year. And the climate crisis, well, it’s driving polar bears (and thousands of other creatures) extinct, increasing weather disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and spreading exotic diseases around the globe. There will be even worse impacts in Virginia near the plant — more than 25 percent of Wise County’s land has already been destroyed by mountaintop removal mining.
These impacts are why Democratic primary voters have demanded that their candidates put together ambitious plans to tackle the climate crisis. It’s why all the major candidates offer plans to reduce global warming pollution by at least 80 percent — a target that’s impossible to achieve if the type of coal plant Kaine is fast-tracking is allowed to go ahead.
It’s unlikely Democrats will be particularly excited about Tim Kaine as a vice presidential nominee. Not only is he showing himself to be just another polluter crony, but his cronyism seems to come from pure fear — his actions fall so far short of his professed ideals. I admit Kaine’s cronyism rankles particularly hard with me. Like many other environmentalists, I volunteered on his campaign in hopes that he’d put Virginia on a true green path.
Kaine still has two months before construction starts to deny the permits Dominion needs to go ahead with its monstrosity. Chesapeake Climate Action Network and others are organizing a variety of events and actions to step up the pressure on the governor.
It’s time for him to show some courage — and restore not only his political future, but also Virginia and the world’s.