City Council votes to support lawsuit to stop Virginia from leaving carbon trading program

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed suit in late summer against the Virginia Air Pollution Control Board and the Department of Environmental Quality to stop the Commonwealth from leaving the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. (read my story)

Leaving the interstate compact is a key centerpiece of the administration of Governor Glenn Youngkin. He signed an executive order to do so on his Inauguration Day. After legislation in the General Assembly to complete the move failed in both 2021 and 2022, Youngkin laid out a pathway to exit RGGI administratively. The Air Pollution Control Board voted 4-3 this past June to make the withdrawal.

The SELC suit in Fairfax Circuit Court argues that only the General Assembly has the power to end participation. SELC filed on behalf of several other conservation organizations, including the Association of Energy Conservation Professionals.

Oral arguments were held on October 27 as Charlie Paullin writes in the Virginia Mercury.

On November 3, the court transferred the case to the Floyd County Circuit Court based on a ruling that Fairfax County was not a proper venue because none of conservation organizations had demonstrated they would be harmed by an exit from RGGI. AECP has a claim because it is based in Floyd County. (read the opinion for the details)

On November 6, Charlottesville City Council voted to support a “friend of the court” brief in support of SELC. 

“Virginia joined RGGI through legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2020,” said Kristel Riddervold, the city’s environmental sustainability manager. “RGGI is a cooperative market-based initiative among 11 mid-Atlantic and northeastern states designed to reduce [carbon dioxide] emissions from the power sector through the sale of pollution allowances.” 

Virginia has received hundreds of millions in dollars from a portion of the proceeds, with 45 percent required to go to the Community Flood Preparedness Fund. Charlottesville has received several grants for its work. 

“In recognition of the negative effects on local communities should Virginia withdraw from RGGI, several Virginia localities are working together to file a joint amicus brief in support of SELC’s lawsuit,” Riddervold said. 

Council’s vote was unanimous. 

Before you go: 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 November 13, 2023 edition.

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