Before we held the Supervisor Candidate Forums on the Environment earlier this month, we asked all the candidates to respond in writing to six questions on environmental and energy topics. Over the past two weeks we’ve been posting the candidates’ responses by district. You can find responses from Hunter Mill supervisor candidates here, from Providence supervisor candidates here, and from Braddock supervisor candidates here.
Today we hear from Lee candidates. Four Democratic candidates are running to fill the supervisor seat held by Jeff McKay, who is currently running for chairman of the Board of Supervisors. The four Dems will face off in a primary on June 11. They are Kelly Hebron, Larysa Kautz, Rodney Lusk, and James Migliaccio. Hebron, Kautz, and Lusk participated in our May 9 candidate forum (we hope to have video of the forum soon). Kautz, Lusk, and Migliaccio responded to the written questions.
Earlier this year the Board of Supervisors passed a board matter titled Fairfax Green Initiatives, which outlined several steps the county might take to address climate change. As a supervisor, what policies (either from Fairfax Green Initiatives or alternatives) would you advocate to make Fairfax County carbon neutral?
KAUTZ: All of my initiatives and goals have climate resiliency components, as should all of Fairfax County’s goals. Quality of life for our working families and other residents must include environmental protection and preservation. Development, economic growth, land use, transportation, infrastructure and public works are all inextricably linked to and affected by natural environment considerations. As part of each of these initiatives, we must seek to to reserve green space as neighborhoods get more congested and developed — both to combat climate change but also to protect plant and animal life.
Our environment is not indestructible and we are already seeing the effects of a lack of inaction for decades. This requires us on the local level to take immediate and aggressive action, especially when policies on the federal and state level are being unmade that would protect the environment. All of the other policies that we could enact at the local level when it comes to affordable housing, education, transportation, development, etc. are irrelevant if we are not also prioritizing climate and energy actions. We also know that environmental effects impact our most vulnerable community members first and, in Lee District, we must make protecting those residents a priority.
I like the first steps that the County has taken toward creating a joint environmental task force earlier this month. However, once we create a task force we must make sure that there are concrete goals, targets, and actions for the County to follow to become more sustainable in areas like water and energy use, vehicles, building construction, and waste management.
LUSK: I am extremely supportive of the Fairfax Green Initiatives, and have discussed it at length with the three sponsors of the matter, Supervisors Storck, McKay and Foust. In addition to the policy proposals in the board matter, I also support those put forward in the Sierra Clubs 12 Point Energy and Climate Action Plan, as well as the Faith Alliance for Climate Solution’s Fairfax to Zero plan. Beyond the recommendations in these plans, I support the reinvestment of cost savings from energy efficient county infrastructure upgrades, such as the widespread adoption of LED street lights, and reinvesting that money to support green initiatives and staff positions in the County.
MIGLIACCIO: Three items I would seek to either implement or achieve are 1) Develop and implement a Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP) 2) Implement and expand the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program. 3) Lobby for the Solar Freedom legislation and have the County ready to implement it as soon as it become effective.
The Virginia Green New Deal includes four objectives: (1) a just and equitable 100% renewables plan that leaves no workers or communities behind; (2) direct large investments and job-training programs in renewables, building an energy-efficient smart grid, residential and commercial energy efficiency, and more; (3) clean water and air for all Virginians; and (4) investments in local-scale agriculture in communities across Virginia. Do you support the Green New Deal? Why or why not?
KAUTZ: Yes. I was the first Fairfax County candidate to champion the Green New Deal VA, and I believe that Virginia’s existing goals in this area are much too modest. I am in favor of a more aggressive plan that catches up with other states and jurisdictions. Without aggressive goals, we’ll fail to act as quickly as is needed to avoid the worst-case scenarios predicted by climate scientists. I would advocate for a community-wide goal of 100% clean renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions no later than 2050 with an interim goal of 65% renewable energy by 2035.
LUSK: It’s my view that in Virginia, we cannot afford not to implement the Green New Deal. The cost of both ignoring climate change, or not taking steps to mitigate its current impacts is too steep to calculate. The Green New Deal lays out a set of policy aspirations that need to be the end points of any serious climate policy, either locally or nationally. However, in Fairfax County, we need to have a plan on how we are going to make those aspirations a reality. That means making concrete short term and long-term goals, supported by annual targets (such as a 2% reeducation in county-wide emission annually).
MIGLIACCIO: I support the goals of the Green New Deal because they will lead to equitable growth which is the path to sustained economic prosperity in Fairfax County for all residents and helps to fulfill our goal of One Fairfax.
As a supervisor, how would you work with the school board and the state legislature to advance climate-related issues?
KAUTZ: We must make significant progress towards increasing renewables as a percent of total energy consumption, to include an increase in grid-connected renewables. Renewable energy solutions for buildings and transportation is critical to ensuring energy security and increasing social benefits for all residents. Fortunately, successes are already being achieved and we can learn from the experience of other communities.
I propose using a combination of local policy tools – procurement, ordinances, mandates, and pilot projects – with a focus on ensuring reliable energy supply in the building and transportation sectors. For example, the Board should act at once to remove existing barriers to the deployment of small, distributed, solar energy projects. Zoning permits and other local use authorizations (including for residential developments) should require that solar panel installation be permitted. Every county facility that is physically deployable should be retail net-metered, with panels installed. The Board should do anything necessary to encourage state legislation and VSCC rule-making to terminate utility interference (such as excessive utility interconnection fees, non-bankable net metering, delays in net metering account opening, etc.) with net-meter solar installation and the further deployment of distributed solar panels throughout the County.
I also support the recent School Board and Board of Supervisors’ resolution and initiative that calls on state legislators to act boldly on climate change and to provide a regulatory framework. I believe that, in a lot of circumstances, the County fails to act because of the interpreted restrictions of the Dillon Rule. However, I think that, in certain circumstances, the Dillon Rule can and should be challenged. It is critical that we act expeditiously and urgently if we are to begin to stem the growth of greenhouse gasses, which are dramatically altering our environment, our world and the people, places and property in our communities.
LUSK: As outlined in the recent board matter, I am very supportive of the upcoming pilot program to begin to place solar panels on select public schools. I hope to that program expand not just to all our public schools, but all of our county facilities. In terms of working with the State Legislature, we have to recognize that our county assets are only responsible for 3% of all emissions in Fairfax County. That means that we have to work with our state legislators to create tax credit and incentive programs, as well as education programs, to motivate our residential base to achieve to 2% annual reeducation in their energy use.
MIGLIACCIO: The key to advancing climate related issues is twofold. First, we need to have an open and candid discussion with all elected officials to seek a plan that works for both school facilities and for county facilities as well as the private sector. Secondly, we need to partner with our state legislators to provide more flexibility to the county to achieve this plan. I would seek to convene monthly meetings with the Lee District school board member and a similar schedule (at least quarterly) with the state legislators that represent Lee District to discuss how we all can make Lee District a better place. Specifically, I would work with the state members to pursue a true Solar Freedom bill that would allow residents the chance to take advantage of solar power. I would also collaborate with the school board to set us on a path to using more renewable energy in our schools as well as other county facilities.
What will you do to protect Fairfax County’s green spaces and streams and to promote healthy habitats?
KAUTZ: Fairfax County has several good practices in place, such as protection of stream valleys, the successful Invasive Management Area program, and the varying designations of protection over parks with significant natural resources.
Standards for developments and developers should be kept as high as possible, so that natural habitats and tree cover are preserved. It is generally impossible to “go back” and fix things once irresponsible development has taken place. Care must be taken as development projects are presented to the Board, with acute attention to detail on how native habitats can be avoided or otherwise taken into consideration.
LUSK: Most practically, we prohibit development in Resource Protection Areas, limiting it only to extraordinary circumstance in order to protect human life, or in cases where habitats can actually benefit.
As Lee District Supervisor I will always take the protection of tree cover into account when making land use decisions, and am committed to working with the Fairfax County Tree Commission and County arborist in those instances. As we move to prioritize transit oriented development I will advocate for an approach that ensures that we are maintaining and expanding green and open spaces in our community.
Finally, I will give special focus to our storm water management policies, advocating for the requirement of storm water management features in all new development. The County must look to expand its use of low impact development technologies to manage our stormwater runoff issues. For example, we should broaden our use of permeable pavers, as opposed to asphalt, and incorporate vegetation into projects whenever possible. I support the expansion of capture systems at runoff points, as well as mandating runoff control measures with all new development, and improvement projects. Ideally, we should always be able to measure a net improvement in storm water runoff at the conclusion of all development projects in Fairfax County.
MIGLIACCIO: For the past decade as Lee District Planning Commissioner, I have fought to protect our green spaces and streams from unencumbered growth. While serving as the Parks Committee chair of the Planning Commission, I shepherded through the Urban Parks Framework language that protected and promoted green space in the county as we intensify development in designated areas. More recently, I voted to remove plans for potentially damaging multi-modal trails that could negatively impact Huntley Meadows Park. The best predictor of my future actions are my past actions. My extensive voting record as planning commissioner demonstrates my commitment to protecting our natural environment.
How can the Board of Supervisors take the lead in reducing the immortal plastic pollution that threatens green spaces and streams in the county?
KAUTZ: It’s been clearly established by scientists that plastics biodegrade slowly, if at all, and pose serious threats to wildlife through entanglement and consumption, through the absorption of toxic chemicals in our water, and by plastic odors that mimic some species’ natural food. We need to incentivize and facilitate recycling with bottle deposit and bag tax ordinances. We also need to build the necessary institutions and systems, and fully fund initiatives to address problems with the recycling process, which is still far too burdensome and lacks the proper incentives to make it work well.
We should also focus beyond the consumers on increased producer responsibility for reuse and recycling and incentivize our local businesses to use only sustainable packaging materials. We should actively support business that are incorporating “cradle-to-cradle” (i.e., circular economic) design into their products. We should also encourage adopt “opt-in” policies on single-use items like plastic straws (i.e., those items would not be available or only upon request). It’s a small change but studies have shown that, by making wastefulness an active choice rather than the status quo, we can have a large impact on consumer behavior.
LUSK: As Lee District Supervisor I would support legislation that incentivized a decrease in the use of plastics and other non-organic materials. I’m also open to a discussion on the prospect of banning those materials within our jurisdiction. If we are creating less non-biodegradable waste in this county, then there will be less to deal with. That’s why its important that we are keep up with emerging technology trends that provide plastic alternatives, that could even be potentially less expensive.
MIGLIACCIO: The county can do a few items from the relatively easy to the more difficult. One easy item is to reduce its use of plastic at county facilities from the use of plastic straws to continually monitoring our recycling program to the more difficult task of lobbying and passing at the state level a ban on single use plastic bags.
What have you done as a consumer, in your work/career, and in your public life to address climate change?
KAUTZ: Under my oversight, 4 years ago, Melwood developed and installed a solar photovoltaic (PV) array (rooftop and on a new carport) in Maryland at no cost that covers 100% of its energy needs. We must partner with various stakeholders from universities, nonprofits and the state government to provide dedicated training and loan options to expand solar rooftop installations and solar water heaters County-wide. Renewable deployment in coordination with regional and state levels of government will result not only in financial savings and reduced GHG emissions but also create significant new skilled jobs.
Also, I have worked with GSA at the federal level to modernize their Operations & Management contracts to include smart building technology and systems processes as part of building management systems to pre-emptively and/or automatically adjust lighting, heating and cooling to save on energy use. I would love to see the Fairfax County Board take a similar forward-thinking and cutting-edge approach to run our county’s buildings more efficiently and include many more energy-saving measures. This will allow us to make more substantial progress towards reducing energy consumption and increasing high performance energy efficient buildings.
LUSK: As Lee District Planning Commissioner I led the effort to ensure that all new office applications met or exceeded LEED Silver certification, and am proud to say through that effort we were able to support some of the projects under my jurisdiction in reaching LEED Platinum status.
I’m also proud to say that as Lee District Planning Commissioner, I approved the first mixed use development on the Historic Richmond Highway Corridor—the Beacon at Groveton. By implementing both building and parking modifications, we were able to transform the project into a terrific example of transit-oriented development, a move that was strongly supported by the environmental advocacy community.
MIGLIACCIO: Throughout my life, I have worked to create a better world to live in for all. I have devoted part of my life to work in the public sector, either on Capitol Hill or in local government, where I advocated for policies that bettered the environment. As Planning Commissioner, I worked on and voted for the award winning Embark Richmond Highway Plan that will protect our natural environment in southeast Fairfax County and help to reduce our carbon footprint while allowing for increased density along a newly developed mass transit route. As a citizen, I have done my small part by trying to recycle, walk rather than drive, buy items with less packaging and even to participate in multiple marches such as the last two Marches for Science in Washington, DC.