Now that he is safely elected and about to take office as Governor of Virginia, Glenn Youngkin is showing what his real policies are going to be. As he infamously said to his base voters in a video released before the election, he had to be moderate in his campaign to ensure support from independents, but once elected, “I won’t go squishy on you.” A recent editorial in The Washington Post, showed that with regard to environmental policies, he is at heart a Trumpist. According to the Post’s editorial, Youngkin has already announced that he will “pull Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an emissions-cutting pact among Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states, in defiance of common sense, and perhaps state law.” Sounds a lot like the former president when he pulled America out of the Paris Climate Accords.
Worse, his nomination for Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources is Andrew Wheeler, who was the former president’s EPA Administrator. Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist and was a staffer for Sen. James Inhofe, notorious climate change denier. As EPA Administrator, Wheeler did the former president’s bidding by rolling back “about 100 environmental rules addressing an astonishing number of problems…” This included relaxing standards on handling toxic coal ash, which has leaked toxins like arsenic and mercury into public water systems at least three times (the Earth and Environment Task Force has published several Political Dispatches on this danger, the latest appearing on September 21, 2018).
Now that Youngkin’s true right-wing policies are being revealed, it is urgent that Virginia voters—and all of us who support good environmental and other policies in Virginia—take action. Wheeler’s nomination has yet to be voted on by the Virginia Senate. If you are a Virginia voter, please contact your Senator and press for rejection of Wheeler’s nomination. We who are concerned about environmental safeguards, and progress on cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the face of the climate crisis, need to keep a close eye on the new Governor. He appears to be intent on rolling back all the positive environmental laws, regulations, and programs in Virginia put in place under the leadership of Governor Northam. Youngkin should be publicly called out on every attempt he makes to destroy programs to improve Virginia’s public health, to slow emissions of greenhouse gases, and to respond to public safety threats from, for example flooding, generated by a warming climate.
This looming threat to Virginia’s environment from the incoming governor shows clearly how important it is to ensure that all eligible voters have access to the polls and that their votes will be counted fairly, in Virginia and in every state where voting rights are being threatened. We all need to be strong advocates for safeguarding the franchise so that politicians who want to undo good and positive programs and policies will be held accountable.
—Jean Stewart, Chair, Earth and Environment Task Force