Tim Kaine: Obama's Potential VP on the Environment

Its been widely reported over the past day that Barack Obama has placed Virginia governor Tim Kaine at the top of his short list of possible running mates. Usually this means that the Presidential candidate is trying to gauge the possible public reaction before making a final decision. That means its important to learn a lot about Kaine now and express support or opposition to his nomination before its too late.

I scanned Kaine's biography and found that he and Obama have a lot in common. Both of them have 1) worked to improve housing opportunities for low-income families, 2) have a mother from El Dorado, Kansas, 3) graduated from Harvard Law and 4) appeal to both Republicans and Democrats.

Unfortunately, both Kaine and Obama also share a belief that coal is still a viable source of energy. Obama had made several comments in the past about the benefits of "clean coal" and had even advertised his support for coal during the West Virginia primaries. Kaine has approved a coal power plant in Virginia as Governor. While other states like Florida and Kansas have completely blocked construction of any new coal power plants, Kaine approved the new Virginia plant relatively quickly. Some suspect his support for the plant was due to the hundreds of thousands in campaign contributions he received from Dominion Energy during his run for Governor.

There are many reasons why coal should be an energy source of last resort. Obtaining coal requires explosively removing the tops of mountains to expose the coal inside. The result is permanently destroyed habitat and dangerous materials dropping into the water and land of surrounding communities. Coal contributes greatly to global warming and releases toxic chemicals like mercury into the air. Fortunately, the agency responsible for approving the new coal plant in Virginia required a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions before the permit was issued. This will help alleviate some of the consequences of the plant, but does not solve the other problems.

Tim Kaine redeems himself slightly on environmental issues through his support for expanded land protection in Virginia. In 2006, Kaine rolled out a plan to conserve 400,000 acres of land. This is significant because compared to other states, Virginia's per capita expenditures on land conservation are very low. The overall proportion of total land under protection is, however, relatively high.

Kaine has also been active in protecting Virginia's water ways. In 2006, Kaine stepped-in to block proposed offshore drilling. Unfortunately, he now supports oil exploration off the coast but will not endorse drilling until the results of the exploration are released. He has supported the funding of the Chesapeake Bay recovery. Kaine worked with the Virginia legislature to secure $250 million in bonds for the Bay's clean-up. He has urged water conservation and is looking for ways to increase knowledge of Virginia's oceans and the Chesapeake Bay through eco-tourism outreach.

Tim Kaine has had a rocky relationship with environmentalists since he approved the new Dominion Energy coal power plant. He has tried to repair that relationship since by supporting progressive conservation measures like energy efficient building standards for state buildings and expanded alternative energy usage.

You can read some of Tim Kaine's remarks from an environmental symposium back in 2006 by clicking HERE. Unfortunately there is not a section of the Governor's website that directly addresses environmental issues.

1 comment:

  1. Another short-lister who hasn't been as vocal about the veepstakes is KS Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. She's actually governed as a progressive on many issues, including energy, where she has strongly opposed coal-fired plants in Kansas. (http://tinyurl.com/57j4l2 and http://tinyurl.com/5ojr2d for more info)