As a Senator serving in Virginia’s General Assembly and member of the Transportation Committee, I couldn’t be prouder of the work that my colleagues and I have done this year to safeguard our climate. This session, we took decisive action and passed an incredible suite of bills to address pollution from the transportation sectors, which accounts for almost half of our state’s carbon pollution. While I’m heartened by the leaps and bounds our General Assembly made this year, I know that there is so much more to be done.
I’ve been a longtime advocate for investing in the clean energy future of our state because I know doing so will not only improve the health and safety of Virginians, but also bolster our economy and create new jobs. We need bold federal investments in electric vehicles (EVs) and EV infrastructure to fight the climate crisis and sustain Virginia’s families and communities. There’s simply no time to waste.
Every day, the health of Virginians suffers because of air pollution. In our state, over 135,000 children and 585,000 adults struggle with asthma, a respiratory illness both caused and exacerbated by air pollution. Dirty vehicles and trucks only make this pollution worse. A new study found that 485 premature deaths in Virginia were due to ozone and fine particulate matter emitted by cars, trucks, and buses within the region. If we make the necessary investments to accelerate the adoption of zero pollution vehicles in Virginia and across the country, we can save lives, while also improving our air quality and protecting public health in the long run.
We have also seen our state battered by extreme weather events made worse by climate change. Between 2010 and 2020, Virginia experienced 40 extreme weather events, costing our state up to $10 billion in damages. By 2050, the typical number of heat wave days in Virginia is projected to increase to nearly 60 days a year, threatening lives across the state. With our health, safety, and economy on the line, investments in EVs and EV infrastructure are necessary to reduce the carbon pollution that is driving climate change.
The good news is that investing in clean energy and clean transportation infrastructure can also put Virginians to work in family-sustaining, union jobs. As of 2019, 97,305 Virginians worked in the clean energy sector, 5,425 of whom were in the clean vehicle industry alone. With proper investments at the federal level, that number will grow, providing jobs to manufacturers, builders, and engineers as we produce EVs, install charging stations, and remake our public transit to pollute less and better accommodate our communities’ needs. While my fellow elected officials and I do everything in our power to continue moving the ball forward on the local level, with initiatives like our state’s new electric vehicle rebate program, school bus electrification fund, EV charging infrastructure planning, and zero pollution vehicle mandate, we need federal policy that works with us to bring jobs to Virginia.
Luckily, these investments are also popular. In total, 71 percent of Americans support bold federal investments in infrastructure that would help tackle the climate crisis. Without a livable climate, there is no way for the economy of Virginia or the United States to thrive. Virginians deserve investments in clean energy and infrastructure that will clean our air and water and help us live better, healthier lives.
Right now, Senator Mark Warner and the rest of our delegation in Congress have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to uplift the needs of Virginians and deliver a cleaner, brighter future for all. I hope our leaders in Congress will take charge and advocate for a budget this summer that includes bold investments in clean energy and clean transportation infrastructure, matching the progress we’ve made here in Virginia. When it comes to protecting public health and guaranteeing jobs that will sustain Virginia’s families and communities, the time is now to take action.
Jennifer B. Boysko (D) represents the 33rd district in the Virginia Senate.