The 2017 news cycle has whiplashed all of us. Just as we think it can’t get any weirder, bingo, it does. One result of being glued to news-of-the-weird is that it is easy to get distracted from important matters we face, like clean air and water. The Trump administration is living up to its campaign promise to decimate environmental protections.
They’ve nearly ceased enforcement for industrial polluters and crowed with pride about rolling back regulations that took years of science and public comment to develop. None of this should surprise anyone — they ran on a platform of rolling back rules and regulations that protect public health, and they won.
This puts an even bigger responsibility on the states. Entering the new year and a new administration in the Commonwealth, the question is: Will the governor and legislature step up? Or will they step aside?
Other questions abound. How will our landscape, air and water be protected from the impacts of natural gas extraction? How can rivers and streams be spared the negative impacts of mammoth gas pipelines? When will Virginia do a better job of enforcing its own laws with regard to rivers and streams that are, or should be, classified as impaired? Will local land use authority be maintained with respect to oil and gas development? Will the Commonwealth actually put stronger commonsense protections in place to protect the people, environment, and natural resources of Virginia?
So much remains to be seen. Virginia is fortunate to have a strong community of conservation organizations who work in the trenches, who bring the science and data — they present them in terms that even a legislator could understand should he or she have an interest in science. If you care about the Virginia landscape, clean air and safe water, you might consider supporting one of these organizations in your year-end giving.
On the subject of the new year, we think it’s time for a fresh face at the helm of the Department of Environmental Quality. Director David Paylor has served three governors: McAuliffe, McDonnell, and Kaine. Three is enough.
We have elections to bring in new ideas and to ensure our Commonwealth does not become a mirror reflection of a single point of view. If three governors thought enough of Paylor to appoint him, so be it. But the leadership of a critical agency should not be a lifetime appointment.
The issues we face today are vastly different than those of 2006. Virginia needs some new
energy and new ideas.