Youngkin administration to move forward with plan to withdraw from greenhouse gas initiative

Published: Aug. 31, 2022 at 7:00 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The administration of Governor Glenn Youngkin says it is moving forward with plans to remove Virginia from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

But supporters of the effort to address climate change are saying not so fast.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) requires utilities that generate power from fossil fuels to purchase allowances for their emissions of Carbon Dioxide.

Supporters of RGGI rallied in Roanoke and five other Virginia cities Wednesday.

Though Virginia has been participating for about a year, they say the program has already provided millions of dollars for flood protection and energy efficiency programs in the Commonwealth.

Emily Piontek is a field coordinator with the group Appalachian Voices.

“I think it’s really important for Youngkin to get the message that rural people, people in southwest Virginia, people who are outside the major metropolitan areas, support climate action,” Piontek told reporters.

Later during a meeting of the State Air Pollution Control Board in the Richmond area, the state’s Acting Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources said RGGI hasn’t accomplished the goal of reducing CO2 emissions, and is a bad deal for Virginians.

“The way RGGI has been implemented in Virginia has directly placed the burden on everyday Virginians as a regressive energy tax without incentivizing any change of behavior by the utility,” Travis Voyles said.

He said the Youngkin administration will move to end Virginia’s participation by the end of 2023. But supporters of RGGI said the governor doesn’t have the authority to do it on his own.

Nate Benforado is a Senior Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

“It actually doesn’t matter what I think about RGGI. It doesn’t matter what this board thinks about RGGI. It doesn’t even matter what the governor thinks about RGGI,” Benforado said. “The General Assembly decided this policy for us. In 2020, they wrote a law that mandated we participate in RGGI.”

So it appears we’re headed for a political and legal battle over this program

There was no decision Wednesday. The next step will come soon when the Youngkin administration proposes a formal action on Virginia’s participation in the program.