Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin pledges to use executive action to pull Virginia out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a carbon market involving 10 other Mid-Atlantic and New England states.
“The RGGI describes itself as a regional carbon market, but it is actually a carbon tax that is fully passed on to taxpayers. It’s a bad deal for Virginians. It’s a bad deal for Virginia businesses, ”Youngkin told the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce Wednesday. “I promised to lower the cost of living in Virginia and this is just the start.”
A transition assistant for Youngkin said that since Virginia’s participation in RGGI is governed by a contractual agreement signed by the Department of Environmental Quality, the governor can remove Virginia from that agreement by executive action.
However, Cale Jaffe, director of the Environmental Law and Community Engagement Clinic at the University of Virginia Law School, said Youngkin couldn’t do it by executive order due to the way state laws authorizing participation are drafted.
“The (Air Pollution Control) Council has promulgated a bylaw to join RGGI,” Jaffe said. “No governor can issue an executive order simply to overturn a duly promulgated regulation.”
Youngkin’s pledge comes less than a week after Virginia completed its first full cycle of quarterly carbon auctions, from which he grossed 228 million dollars assigned by law to flood protection and energy efficiency programs for low-income people.
Earlier this week, Dominion Energy filed a request to update the fees it will pass on to customers for participating in RGGI, which is expected to increase the average residential customer’s monthly bill by $ 4.37 as of September 1. 2022.
Dominion spokesman Rayhan Daudani said the public service perspective on RGGI “is unchanged from the comments we made to DEQ in 2018: as the company is engaged in its continued transition to cleaner resources and emitting less carbon, we fear that the Commonwealth’s link with the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) program through Virginia’s carbon proposal would place a financial burden on its customers without real mitigating [greenhouse gas] regional broadcasts.
Participation in RGGI was one of the signature successes of the Virginia Democrats after taking control of all branches of state government in 2020, and lawmakers incorporated the action into two separate statutes.
The Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act authorized the Department of Environmental Quality “to establish, implement and manage an auction program to sell allowances under a trading program based on the market and compliant with the RGGI program ”.
At the same time, the Virginia Clean Economy Act demanded that Virginia’s electricity grid decarbonize by 2050 and ordered the Air Pollution Control Board to pass regulations to reduce carbon emissions from any power generator in the city. more than 25 megawatts.
Jaffe described the decision to ditch RGGI and its earnings as “cutting Youngkin” [his] nose to spite [his] face.”
“The mandate of the code is to reach zero carbon by 2050,” he said. “Harnessing the advantages of a multi-state commercial marketplace helps us find the most cost effective way to achieve this goal.”
In a statement, however, House Speaker-designate Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, applauded Youngkin’s decision, saying “Public policy must get results. If not, it is not a good policy.
“Virginia’s participation in RGGI was based on her showing ‘leadership’ in the fight against climate change. The cost of RGGI to families and businesses in Virginia is very real, while RGGI’s impact on climate change is negligible at best – a fact that was documented long before incumbent Governor Northam joined the Commonwealth. to the pact, ”said Gilbert. “In fact, Virginia was reducing carbon emissions from power plants at a rate comparable to RGGI states before joining the cap and trade group.”
Of the. Will Morefield, R-Tazewell, who tabled a bill on Tuesday proposing to set aside 5% of RGGI proceeds to set up a flood relief fund for major disasters like the one that devastated the town of Hurley in Buchanan County in August, Youngkin’s said the proposed withdrawal “will send a message to my colleagues in the House and Senate that it is highly unlikely that Virginia will join RGGI under a Youngkin administration.”
Morefield’s bill includes a provision that if Virginia pulls out of RGGI, $ 50 million of the state’s uncommitted revenue from auctions will be reallocated to its relief fund, which would also offer loans and grants to communities in economic difficulty for the prevention and protection of floods in the event of no disaster.
“I couldn’t think of a more appropriate use for RGGI’s product,” said Morefield.
Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, and Senate Democratic Caucus Chair, Mamie Locke, D-Hampton, said Youngkin’s decision “would be incredibly damaging to the health of Virginians, to the protection of our natural spaces and the preparation of a clean energy economy.
“Governor-elect Youngkin’s proposal to remove Virginia from the RGGI would be catastrophic for the efforts of our Commonwealth, our region and our nation to ensure a habitable world for future generations,” they said. “We have only one world: With Hampton Roads perpetually inundation, the future of Chesapeake Bay in jeopardy and the health of Virginians in decline, there is no more time for politics with Mother. Nature. “
This is breaking news. It will be updated as more information becomes available.