SELC files suit to stop Virginia’s exit from RGGI

The Southern Environmental Law Center has filed suit in Fairfax Circuit Court to stop the Youngkin administration from following through with its plans to remove Virginia from an interstate compact intended to ultimately reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (view the petition)

In June, the State Air Pollution Control Board voted 4-3 to exit the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative administratively. States that participate in RGGI require power plant owners to purchase allowances for each ton of carbon dioxide emitted. 

“The fact is that the General Assembly made a specific legislative decision to require Virginia to participate in RGGI, and only the General Assembly may revisit that choice,” reads paragraph 7 of the petition filed Monday. (read the petition

Paragraph 3 of the petition filed Monday in Fairfax Circuit Court (read the petition)

Governor Glenn Youngkin signaled within hours of being sworn in in January 2022 that he wanted to leave RGGI by signing Executive Order #9. Legislation to withdraw did not pass the General Assembly that year, so Youngkin opted to so administratively

The SELC’s petition argues that the administration has exceeded its authority and violated the Virginia Constitution and maintains that the Air Pollution Control Board cannot use higher utility bills as a rationale to repeal a regulation required by law. 

In a statement, the Virginia Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources said the body acted appropriately. 

“Our State Air Pollution Control Board has acted and believes that Virginia is not required to be in RGGI and that the citizens of Virginia should not be subjected to this unnecessary tax,” said Travis Voyles. 

The SELC’s petition argues that Virginians have benefited from joining the interstate compact. 

“Carbon dioxide emissions from Virginia power plants have declined by 16.8 percent in the first two years of participation,” reads paragraph 4 of the petition. “The RGGI auctions have also generated over $650 million for Virginians, which have flowed to important flood resiliency and energy efficiency programs, as required by the 2020 RGGI Act.”

SELC’s petition is on behalf of several groups including the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals, Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, Appalachian Voices, and Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions. 

RGGI itself is run by a nonprofit organization that exists to run the auctions. Today the group released a report on the secondary market for Carbon Dioxide allowances. That may be of interest to one or two of you who want to better understand how this process works. (read the report)

A note before you click somewhere else: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the August 22, 2023 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.
There have not been any significant updates between the original release of this newsletter and its posting on the archive.

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