2023 Virginia General Assembly Legislative Priorities

Note: A big thank you to Nature Forward volunteers Anne DeNovo and Christine Powell who worked with me to select and then track these bills each week starting when session started in January 2023!

2023 General Assembly overview

Starting with the 2021 election, both the Virginia’s Governor and the House majority are Republican, while the Senate remained a Democratic majority.

Governor Youngkin has continued his attacks on Virginia’s environmental sustainability progress, seeking to undo the progress seen under Governor Northam’s administration such as joining Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and enacting the Virginia Clean Economy Act. Thankfully, some of those attacks have already been stopped early in this new General Assembly session: in an early victory, all seven bills seeking to roll back Virginia’s clean car standards have been defeated!

2023 Virginia General Assembly
Legislative Priorities

(Updated as of 7/21/23 @ 10am)

It took just a quick 45 days – this year’s session is over. But now we await next steps from the Governor – he’ll have to take action on bills before March 27! Nature Forward, with help from several partners (such as VCN’s bill tracker), continues to track several key environmental bills this session. We’ve listed our top bills below, and are updating this page as we learn more about each bill. 

If you need help getting up to speed on all of the terms used during legislative sessions, check out this helpful page from UVA of frequently used state-government terms.


Climate bills that made it into law

  • Climate resilience planning for local governments  (SB1187)

    We supported companion bills
    HB1634 and SB1187 which “Support Strategic planning and Climate resilience; requires local governments to develop a plan” (View talking points)

Climate bills that did not pass

  • Consideration of community health outcomes in siting polluting developments (SB1322) 
    We supported SB1322 which would’ve been enabling legislation to encourage localities to consider community health outcomes by identifying siting of air, water and other pollution sources, encourage feedback from impacted communities, and improve planning processes. This bill was “Laid on the table” (bad; we would’ve rather the bill passed)  (View talking points)

  • Prevent Virginia from moving away from fossil fuels (H1783) 
    We had opposed HB1783  which would’ve prevented Virginia from moving away from fossil fuels as it means public entities would not be able to prohibit natural gas. (View talking points)
    • Thank the SENATORS on the Commerce and Labor Committee who voted on 2/13 to  “pass by indefinitely” HB1783 – that means the bill is dead for now.


Green-space-related bills that made it into law

  • State agencies to prioritize the use of native plants (HB1998)
    We supported
    HB1998 which asks state agencies (not VDOT though) to prioritize the use of native plant species on state properties. (View talking points)


  • Commercial landscapers to label invasive plants (HB2096)
    We supported
    HB2096 which helps to further define and educate the public on noxious weeds and invasive plant species. (View talking points)


  • Allow locales to incentivize green space (HB1510)
    We supported HB1510 which would provide local incentives to support urban green space. (View talking points)

Green-space-related bills that did not pass

  • Allow tree loss with no environmental protections (HB2282)
    We opposed HB2282 which would have been a giveaway to developers by stripping environmental protections and paving the way for massive tree loss (View talking points). Virginia DEQ leadership had horrifyingly supported this bill as “economic development”. We are thrilled that this is a victory, as it failed in the Senate in a vote of 16-24.


  • Study to consider Data Center environmental impacts (SJ240) 
    We had supported SJ240 which would’ve studied the data center issues (View talking points).  While the Senate passed this bill, on 2/13/23, the House Committee on Rules Subcommittee Studies recommended “laying on the table” (3-Y 2-N). The House had also previously defeated companion bill HJR522 before crossover.
  • Do not allow siting of Data Center with 1 mile of natural or history sites (SB1078)
    We supported SB1078 which would’ve disallowed siting of data centers within 1 mile of national or state park or other historically significant site and required a site assessment. (View talking points)
    • On 2/3, the Rules Committee disappointingly voted against moving this bill forward despite an amendment to limit this bill to only state and federal sites (which the state should have purview over). There was strong pushback by legislators, as data centers are seen as an important industry for the state. 


Equity-related bills that made it into law

  • Dominion Energy related bills that could’ve been far worse
    While we had opposed both HB1770 and SB1265, (Dominion supported bills that were bad for the Virginia Clean Economy Act and bad for rate-payers; View talking points), the Governor intervened in negotiations and removed or altered almost everything Dominion wanted (a win!) and the worst attributes were stripped away! The Senate Democrats also deleted language from House Republicans’ bill that would have relaxed the power plant retirement schedule laid out in the Virginia Clean Economy Act. This may have been the best outcome we could’ve hoped for in this political climate.

Equity-related bills that did not pass

  • Direct clean energy funding to low income communities (SB1333)
    We supported SB1333 which would’ve created the Commonwealth Solar and Economic Development Program, which would’ve directed clean energy funding to low income communities. However, it got “Tabled” in the Appropriations Committee (House 2/17 with a 12-9 vote) – we would’ve like to see this passed.  (View talking points)

Let your legislator know how you feel about their votes on any of the bills above. Thank them if the supported an important bill, or let them know you wished they had voted a different way (and why).
Email them using the form below!