Three Advocacy Priorities That Need Your Attention

The following text was sent out via email on Jan. 30, 2024. Sign up for PEC email alerts →

Dear Supporter,

Since the General Assembly began its 2024 session, the newly-opened General Assembly office building and the Capitol have seen frenetic activity, day in and day out. Many bills that were introduced in January have now seen numerous amendments and text changes, with some being passed over and others being voted out of committee and onto the House or Senate floor for action.

This process will continue until crossover on February 13, when bills that survive a full floor vote in their chamber of origin will head to the opposing chamber for that body’s action. The Senate will review House bills, and the House will review Senate bills, with the governor awaiting final action before he signs off in support or wields his pen to veto.

The Piedmont Environmental Council has been working closely with our Virginia Conservation Network partners, lobbyists, grassroots community members and state lawmakers to get important pieces of legislation passed through their respective chambers and offer amendments to the governor’s budget. We have met with legislators and their staffers, testified before committees and worked to advance priorities set in Our Common Agenda and PEC’s Strategic Plan. Now we need your help!

Support Virginia’s Great Outdoors Act

Programs in Virginia that protect our great outdoors are chronically underfunded. With only around 1% of the Commonwealth’s budget directed towards conservation, Virginia lags near the bottom of all 50 states in prioritizing this critical investment in our future. We have helped put together a coalition of organizations to bring attention to this priority and garner support from legislators. This coalition, Our Virginia Outdoors, is now fighting to bring $200 million per year in resources to conservation programs across the state.

Ask your state elected officials to support Virginia’s Great Outdoors Act (HB 1297) and budget amendments that increase funding for programs such as the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation (VLCF), Get Outdoors Fund, Virginia Black, Indigenous, and People of Color Historic Preservation Fund, Virginia Battlefield Preservation Fund and Farmland Preservation Fund.

Parking Lot Solar Pilot Program

Q: How much energy could be generated if we covered parking lots in Virginia with solar canopies? A: 64 Terawatt hours, or half of the state’s energy usage! 

Parking lot solar is a practical and effective way to utilize already developed land toward the collective goal of generating more renewable energy to meet the state’s growing demand. It also mitigates transmission impacts and gets energy on the grid quickly.

Bills SB234 (Hashmi) and HB367 (Reid) establish Virginia’s first-ever parking lot solar pilot program and provide dedicated funding to incentivize further implementation of such projects across the state. The bill was passed by Senate Commerce and Labor on Monday and has been re-referred to Finance and Appropriations.

Support Data Center Reform

Virginia is home to the largest concentration of data centers in the world. This massive industry is continuing to grow extremely fast, requiring huge amounts of energy (often from fossil fuel generation), land, and water to operate, resulting in widespread community impacts. Yet, the Commonwealth does not currently have any regulatory oversight of data center development or how it is being served by utilities at the cost of Virginia ratepayers.

Prior to session, the General Assembly directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission to conduct a study on the impacts and benefits of data center development in the state. Although this is a necessary and important first step, more action is needed now to address the severe impacts already starting to be felt by Virginians.

A number of bills were proposed to help address these impacts and several are still active and could use your support: HB116, HB337, HB338, HB340, HB1010, HB1288 in the House and SB191, SB192, SB284, SB285, SB664, SB667 and SB708 in the Senate.

If you have any questions about these or other priorities, please don’t hesitate to reach out and I’ll be sure to direct you to the right person on our legislative team.

As this session continues, I encourage you to regularly check Virginia Conservation Network’s bill tracker and follow the organization on social media for other opportunities to support specific pieces of legislation.


John McCarthy
Senior Advisor & Director of Strategic Partnerships
(540) 347-2334 x7043