RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Virginia lawmakers gave final passage Friday to a sweeping energy bill that would overhaul how the state's utilities generate electricity, a measure environmental groups and other renewable energy advocates considered a historic step toward addressing climate change.
The state Senate advanced the Virginia Clean Economy Act on a vote of 22-17, sending the bill to Gov. Ralph Northam a day after the House passed it. The measure was a top priority of leaders of the new Democratic majority that took control of the General Assembly in last fall's elections.
"Today, the Virginia Senate finalized what would have been impossible just a year ago: comprehensive legislation that gets us to 100 percent clean electricity and zero carbon emissions," Michael Town, executive director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, said in a statement. "Voters demanded climate action in November and the legislature just delivered in a big way. This is a true turning point in the climate fight here in Virginia, as we take our place among the top states in the nation working to cut emissions and move away from dirty fossil fuels."
The bill passed over the objections of many Republicans, who raised concerns about impacts on ratepayers.
Others, including the office of Attorney General Mark Herring, questioned whether state regulators had adequate oversight of the bill's massive price tag. The State Corporation Commission has said Dominion Energy, which owns the state's largest electric utility, will collect tens of billions of dollars from Virginia ratepayers to meet the bill's requirements.
One of the measure's sponsors, Del. Rip Sullivan, said a number of provisions had also been added to strengthen the SCC's oversight of enacting the measure.