Governor Glenn Youngkin has renewed efforts to remove Virginia from an interstate compact intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Within an hour of taking office in January, Youngkin issued several executive orders including one seeking departure from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
However, the Republican governor was unable to leave without the General Assembly’s approval as party control is split across both Houses. Now, however, Youngkin’s appointees now have the edge on the seven-member State Air Pollution Control Board and he sent acting Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Travis Boyles to outline the new plan to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
“RGGI is a bad deal for Virginia,” Voyles said. “Whether you agree with the framework and principles of a cap-and-trade system, the way RGGI has been implemented in Virginia does not work as an effective means for greenhouse gas reductions,” Voyles said.
The Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission is working on an update of the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan, which is intended to help coordinate public response to natural disasters. There’s a section on extreme heat that may be useful to know at a time when heat records are being surpassed across Europe.
“Extreme heat can be defined as temperatures that hover 10°F or more above the average high temperature for the region, last for prolonged periods of time, and are often accompanied by high humidity,” reads page H-25 of the plan. “Under normal conditions, the human body’s internal thermostat produces perspiration that evaporates and cools the body. However, in extreme heat and high humidity, evaporation is slowed, and the body must work much harder to maintain a normal temperature.”
One item on tomorrow’s agenda for the Albemarle Board of Supervisors is a 176-page document that identifies how the county and its residents will be affected by shifting weather patterns. The Climate Vulnerability and Risk Assessment looks ahead to how extreme heat, drought, wildfires, and flooding may affect the area. There’s also the threat a changing climate will bring new pests that will affect crops. (read the document)
The assessment is a step toward developing a climate resilience plan.
“Some of the changes are unavoidable and even while we try to mitigate and reduce the severity of climate change, we also need to prepare for some of those impacts,” said Gabe Dayley, Albemarle’s climate protection coordinator.
Virginia has now participated in six auctions brokered by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, an interstate compact that seeks to incentivize investment in new sources of power generation that produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The Commonwealth joined the program in 2020 and legacy generators of electricity must purchase credits to exceed caps authorized by the General Assembly that year.
The latest auction was held earlier this month, and Virginia will receive $76,418,182.90. By the terms of the state code, Virginia will direct 45 percent to the Community Flood Preparedness Fund and 50 percent to support energy efficiency programs for low-income households.
In a one-sentence order issued last night, the United States Supreme Court has cleared the way for the federal government to study the “social cost” of greenhouse gas emissions.
“It is essential that agencies capture the full costs of greenhouse gas emissions as accurately as possible, including by taking global damages into account,” reads Section 5 of an executive order issued by President Joe Biden on January 20, 2021.
The Albemarle Board of Supervisors adopted a Climate Action Plan in October 2020 to help guide the county’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent of a baseline by the year 2030. That’s the first step before a second goal to be carbon neutral by 2050 and the baseline is derived from the year 2008.
Albemarle Climate Program Coordinator Gabe Dayley began his journey through the county advisory panels by asking the Crozet Community Advisory Committee what their first thoughts are when thinking about climate action and what he might have as an update. (review Dayley’s presentation)
“I’ll jump in because I hope that I will hear some real substantive things that we’re going to do and not just talk about them,” said Supervisor Ann Mallek.
Last May, the Community Climate Collaborative formed the Green Business Alliance to encourage sixteen companies to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The goal is to reduce their collective emissions by 45 percent by 2025, five years ahead of when both Albemarle County and Charlottesville pledged to meet the same objective.
This morning the nonprofit entity reports the group has a collective 28 percent reduction in the first year since a baseline was established.
“Comparing 2021 emissions to the baseline year, which varies by member, the [Green Business Alliance] Boffset a total of 4,800 metric tons of CO2-equivalent,” reads their press release.
Last November, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which included $238 million in funding for programs to reduce pollution that makes its way into the Chesapeake Bay.
This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that $40 million will be made available through two separate programs.
“I am pleased to announce the new funding that will help support ready-to-go projects throughout the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed,” said EPA Deputy Administrator Janet McCabe in a news release. “This unprecedented funding can go straight into projects that will protect public health, improve water quality and help restore lands, rivers and streams that impact the Chesapeake Bay – from farm fields to suburban neighborhoods to city streets.”
More state funding is on the way to help localities make the transition from diesel-powered school buses to electric ones. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality announced Wednesday that the Clean School Bus Program will award more than $14 million across Virginia, and that includes Albemarle County.
The funding comes from Volkswagen, a company that lied to its customers about the fuel efficiency of some vehicles. Virginia received $93.6 million from the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust.
“DEQ has also committed funds for innovative clean transportation projects including electric transit buses, medium and heavy duty trucks, electric equipment at the Port of Virginia and development of a statewide charging network for electric vehicles,” reads a press release.
In six years, the amount of electricity generated by solar panels in increased by 12,150 percent. That’s according to data cited in the first ever survey of Virginia localities on their policies related to permitting large utility-scale installations as well as rooftop panels.
The survey was conducted by the Virginia Department of Energy and the Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia and asked a series of questions to officials in Virginia’s 133 localities.
“In Virginia, the permitting and siting of solar energy and energy storage facilities is heavily informed by local governments,” reads the report. “Therefore, to realize the full potential of solar energy development in Virginia, it is important to understand and support the solar experience, concerns and priorities of local governments.”