Yesterday Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed Senate Bill 21, which would bar the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality from submitting a Virginia-specific plan to comply with the federal Clean Power Plan without the approval of the General Assembly.
The Governor, who supports the CPP as a necessary response to climate change and an opportunity for Virginia to become a leader in clean energy, opposed the bill as an unacceptable breach of Virginia’s constitutional separation of powers. The Governor’s full veto statement is below:
March 1, 2016
Pursuant to Article V, Section 6, of the Constitution of Virginia, I veto Senate Bill 21, which would prohibit the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality from submitting a Virginia-specific plan to comply with the federal Clean Power Plan until a majority of legislators in both the Senate and the House of Delegates adopt resolutions approving the state plan.
The interjection of required legislative approval into the Clean Power Plan process is an impermissible breach of Virginia’s constitutional separation of powers. Federal law provides that it falls to the Governor to submit required plans and submissions under the Clean Air Act, including plans to comply with the Clean Power Plan. The Governor is authorized to delegate that authority to the appropriate state environmental agencies. In Virginia, that authority has been delegated to the Director of the Department of Environmental Quality. This process rests squarely in the executive branch of state government.
Under Article III of the Constitution of Virginia, the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government must remain separate and distinct, such that none may exercise the powers properly belonging to the others. Requiring DEQ to obtain the approval of each chamber of the legislature before submitting a plan to comply with the Clean Power Plan constitutes legislative participation in a purely executive process. As such, Senate Bill 21 violates Virginia’s constitutional separation of powers under Article III.
I cannot, in good conscience, sign a bill that would violate the Constitution of Virginia.
Accordingly, I veto this bill.