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Officials discuss economic realities of climate change at Coastal Policy Conference

  • Coastal Change and Adaptation.
    Coastal Change and Adaptation.  Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam gave the opening keynote address and then answered questions from the audience.  Photo by David Morrill
  • Coastal Change and Adaptation.
    Coastal Change and Adaptation.  Gina McCarthy, the United States Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, not only made a powerful lunchtime speech, but took questions from the audience and conference director Roy Hoagland.  Photo by David Morrill
  • Coastal Change and Adaptation.
    Coastal Change and Adaptation.  A panel chaired by Stephanie Hamlett '88, executive director of the Virginia Resources Authority, discussed "Financing Coastal Change and Adaptation."  Photo by David Morrill
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On Nov. 13, a number of elected officials made keynote speeches at William & Mary Law School Virginia Coastal Policy Center’s third annual climate change conference, “Show Me the Money: The Economic Realities of Responding to Coastal Change and Adaptation in Virginia.”

Among those addressing important coastal policy issues were Gina McCarthy, administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam; and  US Congressman Rob Wittman.

To watch the entire conference, please click below. Lieutenant Governor Northam’s talk begins at 41:30; Administrator McCarthy’s at 4:08:20; and Congressman Wittman’s at 7:50:10.


The conference focused on the ways in which coastal change and adaptation actions pose fiscal challenges, and the available, implementable solutions that must be considered to address those challenges.

As with the Coastal Policy Center’s first two conferences, held in 2013 and 2014, the event was booked to capacity, and was held at William & Mary’s School of Education. Attendees were treated to a full day of panels and guest speakers.

McCarthy of the EPA made an energetic impression as the conference’s luncheon speaker. McCarthy has placed “Addressing Climate Change and Improving Air Quality” as well as “Making a Visible Difference in Communities across the Country” as priority initiatives for her term as administrator. Both of these priorities are directly related to EPA actions being taken in Virginia and, in particular, Hampton Roads.

“We’ve got to stay vigilant about the effects of climate change on the [Chesapeake] Bay,” McCarthy told attendees. “And to do that, we’ve got to keep supporting the incredible work that’s happening at the state and local level. That’s where the rubber meets the road.”

Lieutenant Governor Northam has noted that his concerns for the environment, and the Chesapeake Bay in particular, were a significant part of his decision to get involved in politics. Congressman Wittman has co-sponsored several bills related to the environment, such as the Clean and Green Renewable Energy Tax Credit Act of 2007, and the Generating Renewable Energy and Encouraging Novel Technologies Act of 2007.

The conference also featured a series of panels on various topics, including local governments’ economic policy responses to resiliency challenges and the roles of social justice and environmental justice in the economics of resiliency decisions.

Participants included, among others, The Honorable Lynwood Lewis, Virginia state senator (6th District); Jim Gephardt, newly appointed senior advisor to Administrator McCarthy and director of the EPA’s new Water Infrastructure and Resiliency Finance Center; Stephanie Hamlett ’88, executive director of the Virginia Resources Authority; Jalonne White-Newsome of WE ACT; Tina Johnson of US Climate Action Network; and Vernice Miller-Travis of Skeo Solutions.

As the day-long conference drew to a close, Roy A. Hoagland, director of the Virginia Coastal Policy Center, thanked the moderators and many panelists, and announced that the event had garnered 46,000 Twitter views.

“What a great day full of expertise, ideas, opinions, questions, and opportunities,” Hoagland said.

Funding for the conference was made possible by the Virginia Environmental Environment, Virginia Sea Grant, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, the Southern Environmental Law Center, Old Dominion University, the World Resources Institute, Williams Mullen, and Middle Peninsula PDC.