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Governor issues executive order on environment

Gov. Terry McAuliffe signaled June 28 that he won’t wait for a federal court or­der or support from state GOP lawmak­ers before taking action to lower carbon emissions from Virginia’s power plants.

In the governor’s latest effort to exert executive power, McAuliffe signed an or­der directing his administration to form a workgroup to come up with specific ac­tions he can take under his existing au­thority to limit the greenhouse gas emis­sions before his term ends in 18 months.

The order appears symbolic — it large­ly continues existing efforts — but it also serves to rebuff the efforts of a hostile General Assembly to limit the Democrat­ic governor’s authority on climate change issues.

“Some of our legislators have trouble keeping up with the times on this top­ic,” McAuliffe said, noting that Virginia’s coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and rising sea levels.

“While these legislators are trying to shut down conversations that are cru­cial to our future, we are redoubling our energies to move forward so that we can ensure that Virginia is a national leader on this issue,” he said.

Republican language in the state bud­get prohibits any spending toward im­plementing the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan while the plan is under legal review. The U.S. Supreme Court has halted enforcement of the restrictions un­til legal challenges are resolved.

Republican lawmakers, particularly from coal-rich Southwest Virginia, have decried the federal plan as a job-killing attack on coal workers.

GOP House Speaker William J. Howell said the governor is making “another de­liberate attempt to circumvent the legis­lature and the will of Virginia voters.”

“The governor is developing a troubling tendency to prefer Washington-style ex­ecutive action instead of the dialogue and collaboration that Virginians expect and deserve,” Howell said.

McAuliffe has been soundly criticized by Republicans for other recent execu­tive actions, including the blanket resto­ration of voting and other rights to about 200,000 ex-felons and a ban on firearms in state buildings.